Newspaper article International New York Times

With $22.5 Million Quarterback on Bench, Bears Fall Again ; Chicago Faces Huge Hit Financially If It Parts Ways with Cutler in Off-Season

Newspaper article International New York Times

With $22.5 Million Quarterback on Bench, Bears Fall Again ; Chicago Faces Huge Hit Financially If It Parts Ways with Cutler in Off-Season

Article excerpt

Chicago lost to the Lions despite a shake-up at quarterback that left Jay Cutler, who signed a big contract extension less than a year ago, watching from the sideline.

Bears quarterback Jay Cutler jogged onto the field through a haze of pyrotechnics. He tossed a few warm-up passes and then headed toward the bench, where he donned a hat -- blue and white with a pompom on top -- and a long parka.

Over the course of the 20-14 loss to the division rival Detroit Lions that followed, Cutler huddled with coaches and teammates during timeouts Sunday. He occasionally flashed a smile from his sideline perch. Mostly, though, he watched.

He watched a team he was supposed to lead to the playoffs sputter to its fourth straight defeat. He watched a quarterback who had not started a game since 2010 take his job. And, perhaps, he watched his last home game as a member of the Chicago Bears.

Less than a year after signing a $126 million contract extension, Cutler, the N.F.L. leader in turnovers, was benched in favor of Jimmy Clausen, who entered Sunday with three touchdown passes and nine interceptions over his five-year career. Clausen offered some relief, but not enough, as the Bears (5-10) limped one step closer to the end of a forgettable season.

In an attempt to save his job or jolt his team -- or some combination of the two -- Bears Coach Marc Trestman turned to Clausen, a former Notre Dame star. Clausen was competent against the Lions, throwing for two touchdowns and 181 yards on 23-for-39 passing. The Bears moved the ball near midfield late in the fourth quarter with a chance to take the lead, but the drive -- and effectively the game -- ended on a Clausen interception.

The Lions (11-4), once the doormats of the N.F.C. North, will face the Green Bay Packers next week with the division title on the line.

After Trestman made the quarterback switch last week, Cutler stayed late for quarterback meetings with Clausen to go over the game plan. On the Soldier Field sideline, they compared notes on Detroit's defense and the reads they saw.

"He helped me a lot," Clausen said.

After last week's 31-15 loss to the New Orleans Saints, Bears tight end Martellus Bennett questioned the passion of some of his teammates, whom he did not name. …

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