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CHICAGO — Jay Cutler had several competitors in the pageant of ugliness that broke out at Soldier Field on Sunday in a game between two NFC teams that would like to be considered playoff contenders.
There were eight fumbles — six by the Redskins — including one on the opening kickoff, which set the tone for a game that was worthy of tears induced by laughter or sadness, depending on how invested one was in the outcome. There also were six interceptions.
It didn't look like a professional football game for long stretches.
Cutler refused to let others outdo him, though. He had five turnovers in the second half, including four interceptions, all of which were made by Redskins CB DeAngelo Hall in Washington's 17-14 win. Hall returned one 92 yards for a touchdown, and Cutler lost a fumble on a sneak at Washington's one-yard line.
Cutler didn't take the bait when he was asked whether any of his receivers were at fault on the plays that resulted in interceptions.
"I'll take (responsibility for) them all," he said of the picks. "We'll look at the film. Obviously it's very discouraging right now. We let a game get away from us. The defense has every right to be mad at us with the way we played that game offensively. Most of that falls on my shoulders."
Chicago's defense gave up only one touchdown, forced three turnovers and produced a TD of its own when CB D.J. Moore returned an interception 54 yards in the first quarter. While Cutler gave them an opening to vent the frustration that could be building as he sputters, Moore and the rest of the defenders passed on the opportunity.
"I love Jay," Moore said. "If I was a girl, I'd go with him. He's my dude. He's going to be the greatest quarterback in Chicago Bears history. He's got the stuff. It's just going to take some time. He's got it."
Moore's rosy outlook aside, Cutler isn't doing much to endear himself to a fan base that was hoping to never again see shades of his play in 2009, when he threw a league-high 26 interceptions. This is the kind of loss that reminded some of a past they wanted to forget, and the bad feeling could linger well into Chicago's upcoming bye week.
"We played well today, the defense," DE Julius Peppers said. "That's obvious. Everybody can see that. Offense, not so well, but there (are going to be) times when we're not going to play well and they are going to play well and carry us. It's that type of league."
But is this that type of team?
The Bears are 4-3 — right where they were one year ago before they went 3-6 and missed the playoffs — and their next game is against the winless Bills.
Chicago should be able to get things in order and beat Buffalo in a couple of weeks. That won't be nearly enough to put to rest the doubts about Cutler and the Bears that have been renewed in back-to-back home losses to Seattle and Washington.
"You go through some tough times and you just keep working to get back out of it," Lovie Smith said. "Jay will come out of it like our football team will."
Cutler will have to if the Bears are going to stop recent history from repeating itself.
This column was first published in the Oct. 31 print edition of Pro Football Weekly, which will be on sale at retail outlets this week and can also be purchased at PFWstore.com. The print edition contains a cover story on the Jets' potent ground game and their equally stifling run defense, our all-time NFL All-Rookie team, previews of all Week Eight games and the first in a series of position-by-position previews of the top prospects in the 2011 NFL draft, beginning with quarterbacks.