Even in an era where 'swag' is considered a virtue and a certain level of bravado feels like a prerequisite for doing anything of substance, professional athletes are still privy to repeating the same pre- and post-game comments their forebears have been using for decades. Cliche-thick athlete-speak still runs rampant when microphones and cameras are running, even if this same breed of modern jock routinely gets itself in trouble for being a little too enlightening across their own social media feeds. That's why it was so bizarre to see Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler give the Green Bay Packers a substantial amount of bulletin board material before the two storied rivals met under the bright lights of Lambeau Field and a national TV audience on Thursday night. After the Bears made short work of the Colts in Week 1, Cutler's brashness knew no bounds. When asked about the physical style of the Packers' secondary, Cutler said "we invite press coverage" just after wishing the Green Bay's defense "good luck".
Perhaps that's why the aftermath of the Packers' 23-10 dismantling of our beloved Bears has given us some of the most illuminating football quotes in a great while. This rivalry is alive and well, and the shit-talking has never been stronger.
After Cutler's four interception performance, Green Bay cornerback Charles Woodson said: "It's the same old Jay. We just need to be in position. Jay will throw us the ball."
Sam Shields, another member of the Packers' secondary, added: "There was definitely words out there. You could tell Cutler was getting frustrated. We know what Cutler does."
Not to be outdone, Cutler added his own signature sarcastic eulogy to the disheartening loss: "Yeah, I dream of throwing four picks and getting sacked seven times."
It takes one hell of a game to trigger such reactions, and Thursday night's contest certainly qualified as such. It was distinct by its full-fledged frustration for all involved, from Cutler to the coaches to the fans. No one likes losing to the Packers, especially not after optimism was running so high after the Week 1 victory over Indianapolis. What transpired was another tooth-and-nail, blue collar football game, just when everyone was expecting a high scoring shootout.
A loss is a loss, of course, but these wounds wouldn't sting as much if the Bears fell, say, 42-29. It was the complete no-show from the offense that has Chicago singing the blues, a popular refrain every breathing member of this vivacious football community thought could be buried dead this season.
A week ago, Brandon Marshall, Cutler's shiny new target sent from heaven to fix all that troubles us, caught nine balls and two touchdowns. On Thursday, Marshall wasn't even targeted in the first half before finishing with two catches for 24 yards. The Packers' secondary deserves plenty of credit, sure, but it was Marshall who made the game's biggest mistake, dropping a wide-open touchdown in the third quarter that some high school receivers would have been able to haul in.
The drop wasn't so much a turning point, but it felt like a moment from which the Bears could not recover. With the Green Bay defense pinning their ears back and bringing mad heat on Cutler and the Chicago offensive line all night, points were obviously at a premium. This is the type of thing that was supposed to change for the Bears this season. Instead, the game felt the same way every Bears-Packers contest does: one long, drawn-out slugfest that refuses to yield style points.
For all of the talk surrounding Chicago's offseason acquisitions of Marshall, Michael Bush and backup quarterback Jason Campbell, it's the one area the front office ignored that again proved to be the Bears' downfall. The offensive line was atrocious on Thursday night. Cutler was constantly hurried, drilled on countless instances and brought to the dirt for a sack seven times. It was pathetic, and even a little scary for Cutler: criticize the QB all you want, but never question his toughness. Dude has been getting pummeled for four years now, and there seems to be no end is sight.
Cutler, of course, isn't devoid of blame. Far from it. Even when the line was holding steady, the Bears quarterback was sensing pressure that wasn't there. He was in full-on Grossman mode: happy feet, back-foot tosses, making throws that never stood a chance. It was a worst case scenario for the Chicago offense, and the sort of effort that brings our Super Bowl delusions back down to reality. It's a long season filled with many worthy opponents. Beating the Colts is fine and well, but you don't get a trophy for defeating an opponent so woeful.
Now the Bears have 10 days to think about what went wrong. Hopefully it's enough to avoid a third straight dreadful start when the Rams come to town, a team the Bears should beat but one with a sneaky-good pass rush. There's no shame in losing to a team as potent as these Packers, but if the Bears are going to talk the talk, we need not make excuses for them. Chicago was outclassed from start to finish on Thursday, and it's a wound that will sting until the two teams meet again at Soldier Field in Week 15.