Breaking down Jay Cutler’s interceptions, part 2

| January 30th, 2015

Jay Cutler threw 18 interceptions in only 15 games in 2014, the 2nd most he’s thrown in his 6 year Bears career.  Of course, due to his high number of pass attempts (561, most in his Chicago career), Cutler’s interception rate of 3.2% was actually the 2nd lowest he’s had in Chicago, but he still turned it over too much, especially when you factor in his 9 fumbles.

Like I did for the first half of the season, I’m going to go through all 10 of Cutler’s interceptions after the bye and see what went wrong. Last time, I had three categories for the interceptions, and I will be re-using those three while also adding a fourth:

  1. Poor decision. This is when Cutler makes a poor decision to force a ball into traffic.
  2. Poor throw. This is when the decision to throw is not necessarily a bad one, but the throw is inaccurate.
  3. Miscommunication. This is when Cutler and the intended target are not on the same page, leading to a ball going to nowhere and a turnover.
  4. Receiver error: This is when Cutler makes the right read and delivers a good throw, but it bounces off the receiver’s hands and is intercepted.

Let’s get right down to it.

Interception 1

Cutler’s 1st interception of the season’s 2nd half came early in the blowout loss to Green Bay.  The Bears were already trailing 7-0 when he tried to get a pass to Martellus Bennett on 2nd and 10.  Bennett was open, but Cutler failed to lead him enough, allowing safety Micah Hyde to jump in front of the ball and grab the interception.

Note: At one point, all of these gifs worked. But alas, they are now just pictures of the first frame of the gif. Sorry. 

cutler 1

Verdict: poor throw

Interception 2

Cutler’s next interception came later in the same game against Green Bay.  Down 48-7 in the fourth quarter, Cutler stepped up under pressure and tried to force a ball in to Matt Forte.  A Green Bay linebacker tipped it, and cornerback Casey Hayward grabbed the ball for an easy touchdown.  This was 3rd down, but the Bears were in field goal range, so Cutler should have just taken the sack and let Robbie Gould kick.

Verdict: poor decision

Interception 3

Cutler’s next interception came against Minnesota the following week.  The Bears had the ball near midfield with 15 seconds left in the 1st half.  Trying to make something happen, Cutler forced a pass deep to Alshon Jeffery that fell well short and was intercepted by cornerback Xavier Rhodes.  I’m almost tempted to call this a Hail Mary of sorts, due to the game situation, but it was still an awful throw by Cutler.

Verdict: poor throw

Interception 4

With the Bears up 14-10 and on the edge of field goal range midway through the 3rd quarter, Minnesota brought a blitz on 3rd and 9.  Cutler tried to make a play by getting the ball to Brandon Marshall, but safety Harrison Smith was there for the easy interception.  This was just a whole bunch of wrong.  Cutler lofted the ball into traffic off his back foot, which is both a poor throw and a poor decision, while Marshall failed to make the correct blitz read and adjust his route accordingly.

Verdict: 0.5 poor decision, 0.5 miscommunication

Interception 5

After avoiding any interceptions in a win against Tampa Bay, Cutler got back in the act against Detroit on Thanksgiving.  He was able to avoid turnovers until the Bears were down big in the 4th quarter, when he threw two.  The first came on 2nd and 3 with almost 10 minutes left, when a scoring drive would have gotten the Bears back in it.  Cutler tried to force a pass deep to Brandon Marshall, but underthrew him a bit.  The Detroit cornerback was able to tip it, and safety Glover Quin came diving in to grab the interception.  Cutler probably shouldn’t have throw that ball, as Marshall was well covered, but a better delivery might have resulted in a big play.

Verdict: 0.5 poor throw, 0.5 poor decision

Interception 6

Cutler’s 2nd interception against Detroit came on the final play of the game, when the outcome had already been decided.  He tried to get a pass in to Marquess Wilson in the end zone, but it went straight to Detroit safety James Ihedigbo.  It’s hard to fault Cutler too much for this one, given the game situation, but it was a poor decision to force a ball to a covered man (though it’s possible nobody was open).

Verdict: poor decision

Interception 7

Cutler’s lone interception against Dallas came late in the 4th quarter with the Bears down 2 scores.  With 1st and goal at the 10 yard line, Cutler tried to loft a pass in to Josh Morgan in the back of the end zone.  Unfortunately, Cutler left it well short, and cornerback Orlando Scandrick was able to snag the ball out of the air and seal the victory for the Cowboys.

Verdict: poor throw

Interception 8

Cutler’s worst game of the year came against New Orleans, when he threw three interceptions, starting on the first drive of the game.  On 3rd and 8, Cutler found an open Martellus Bennett sitting in a hole in the New Orleans zone, but the pass bounced off Bennett’s hands and was caught by Patrick Robinson.  Cutler did absolutely nothing wrong on this play, though I guess you could argue that his throw could have been a smidge better.

Verdict: receiver error

Interception 9

Cutler’s next interception came at the end of the first half.  The ball was snapped near midfield with 12 seconds left, and he tried to force a deep pass to Marquess Wilson.  Wilson made his break and ran upfield, while Cutler expected him to cut towards the sidelines, but either way this was probably getting intercepted, or at least falling incomplete, as Wilson was double covered.  I’m tempted to call this a Hail Mary, but the Bears did have a chance to make something happen shorter and kick a field goal here.

Verdict: 0.5 miscommunication, 0.5 poor decision

Interception 10

Cutler’s final interception of the season came late in the 3rd quarter against the Saints.  With the Bears trailing by 21, Cutler decided to go deep to Alshon Jeffery on 3rd and 3.  He had Jeffery kind of open, but the safety got there before the ball and grabbed an easy interception after Cutler overthrew his intended target.

Verdict: 0.5 poor decision, 0.5 poor throw

Final tally

Over the 2nd half of the season, here’s how I have the tally for Cutler’s 10 interceptions:

  • Poor decision: 4
  • Poor throw: 4
  • Miscommunication: 1
  • Receiver error: 1

You’ll note that 3 of those 10 interceptions (numbers 3, 6, and 9) came in situations where Cutler was forced to try and make a play due to severe time limitations.  If you remove those, the numbers change to 2.5 poor decision, 3 poor throw, 0.5 miscommunication, and 1 receiver error.

Combining these totals with the first half of the season (when he had 7 non-Hail Mary interceptions) gives the following final count:

  • Poor decision: 7.5
  • Poor throw: 4.5
  • Miscommunication: 4
  • Receiver error: 1

I find it interesting that interceptions in the first half of the season were mostly due to poor decisions and miscommunications, while the 2nd half of the year saw poor throws and poor decisions as the main culprits.  This suggests that the Bears’ offense at least got on the same page a bit more as the season progressed, which is encouraging, but Cutler’s deep accuracy problems did not go away, nor did his tendency to force balls into traffic.

I don’t think Cutler’s ever going to stop making poor decisions that lead to risky throws and some interceptions, but having one of those every two games or so is not the end of the world.  What new coaches Adam Gase and Dowell Logains need to focus on will be improving Cutler’s mechanics and miscommunications among the offense.  Nearly half of Cutler’s interceptions in 2014 came from those areas, and reducing them would go a long way towards improving the offense.

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