Until Chicago Bears head coach Marc Trestman named Jay Cutler the starting quarterback for Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium on Thursday, Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton had spent his time preparing to face one of two quarterbacks.
Although Trestman and the Bears elected to go with Cutler over Josh McCown, who engineered eight straight scoring drives in a 45-28 win over the Dallas Cowboys on Monday Night Football, Horton said he noticed a lot of similarities between the two signal-callers during his film review sessions Monday and Tuesday.
“We’ve looked at every game, and we have to prepare for both,” Horton said. “That being said, both of their quarterbacks are playing at a high level. McCown, statistically, has actually played better. They seem to be in-sync. It seems to be a really good relationship with the wide receivers as far as timing of the routes and stuff.”
McCown has completed 147 of 220 attempts (66.8 percent) for 1,809 yards and 13 touchdowns against one interception, while Cutler has completed 167 of 265 throws (63 percent) for 1,908 yards and 13 touchdowns with eight interceptions.
“They have a little bit of an advantage as we don’t know which quarterback, but the good thing for us is they’re both running the same system,” Horton said. “Looking throughout their season, they really haven’t changed their mode of operation due to their quarterbacks. They just keep operating at a high level.”
In his career, Cutler has completed 1,201 of 2,000 pass attempts for 14,200 yards and 95 touchdowns against 71 interceptions. He is the Bears’ franchise leader in pass attempts (2,000), passer rating (82.8), completions (1,201), passing yards per game (221.9), and is tied for first with nine 300-yard passing games.
“Playing him the last couple years, to me, it’s his feet,” Horton said of what makes Cutler difficult to defend. “You know how strong his arm is and he’s a smart quarterback, but when you watch his feet and the ability to throw off the wrong foot to get the ball out quickly, I’ve been impressed. He’s smart, strong-armed. Everybody knows that, but to me, it’s his ability to move in the pocket and get the ball off, sometimes on the wrong foot.”
Although preparing for two quarterbacks comes with a unique set of challenges, Horton said that regardless of who is taking snaps under center for the Bears, he will have a host of weapons to throw to, including wide receiver Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, running back Matt Forte and tight end Martellus Bennett.
“This team is a lot like Detroit in that they have weapons at every position,” Horton said. “Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery have the most catches in the league. I think they have the most combined yards in the league, and they are both, in our minds, No. 1 receivers.
“You put it with Matt Forte coming out of the backfield and quarterbacks playing hot, they present a challenge that you can’t double everybody. You can’t roll up to one guy because the other guy’s open. What we plan to do is roll things through, mix them up, jam them at the line, get off the ball, blitz them, play some soft zone and make the quarterback try to beat you because the wide receivers, the back, the tight end are all pretty good.”