Jay Cutler still has “some hoops to jump through” as he returns from the concussion that knocked him out of the Houston game two weeks ago. Nothing against Mr. Cutler personally but Viking fans should be hoping those hoops prove too difficult to navigate, forcing him to sit out for a second straight game. Cause Cutler has totally owned Minnesota the last couple years and I’d just as soon not face him this Sunday.
How much damage has Cutler done against the Vikes the last few years? You don’t even need to review the stats. Just say “Devin Aromashodu vs. Antoine Winfield” and you’ve said it all. In case you don’t recall, let’s go back to 2009. The Vikes at Chicago late in the year. Brett Favre stymied in the first half thanks to Brad Childress’ terrible playcalling (everyone believes). Cutler totally lighting up the Vikes. Then in the second half, Chilly lets Favre go (at least that’s how the legend goes). Favre leads the Vikes on an epic comeback. The Vikes tie it in regulation. But in overtime, Aromashodu burns Winfield and Cutler delivers the strike for the winning TD.
That has thus far been Cutler’s most dramatic single play against the Vikings. Certain other Vikings-Bears games during the Cutler era haven’t been close enough to contain so much drama. In fact, the last three games Cutler has started against the Vikings have been blowouts. The first game in 2010, the second-to-last game of Brad Childress’ coaching tenure, was a 3 TD performance by Cutler. Bears won that one 27-13. The second game – the infamous TCF/Favre swan song game – was an even bigger wipeout. The Bears beat the Vikes 40-14 on a frozen surface, with Cutler again throwing 3 TD passes.
Things didn’t go a lot better for the Vikings against Cutler in 2011. They faced the Bears in week 6 and once again got owned. All the talk going in was about how bad the Bears’ offensive line was and how the Vikings’ front four was going to tear it apart. But that proved a false prognostication. The Bears dominated the Vikes in the trenches. Cutler was on his game too, going 21-of-31 for 267 yards, 2 TD and no picks. The Bears won 39-10 and launched themselves on a streak that might have carried them right to the Super Bowl had Cutler not broken his thumb.
The absence of Cutler didn’t help the Vikings against the Bears the last week of the 2011 season. Despite Jared Allen racking up sack after sack against the hapless J’Marcus Webb, the Bears were able to grind out a victory. That was with the terrible Caleb Hanie at quarterback. It was the only game Hanie would win in place of Cutler. In the offseason the Bears picked up Jason Campbell in hopes he would give them a better chance of surviving another Cutler injury. Unfortunately for the Bears, Campbell played woefully in his first relief start last week vs. San Francisco. The Bears’ O-line had no shot against San Francisco’s front and Campbell had no shot period.
In the wake of the San Francisco game, the great engine of conventional wisdom is once again spewing out stuff about the Vikings’ front dominating the Bears’ line. Where have I heard that before? Oh right, before last year’s first game. The one where the Bears pushed the Vikings around for four quarters, prompting Leslie Frazier to question his team’s physicality. Goes to show you how shaky our assumptions can be. Sure, on paper Jared Allen and the boys should be able to rip up the Bears’ line. But now they have to actually do it.
Of course Campbell’s presence in place of Cutler would make the whole thing easier. Campbell is not as sure in that offense as Cutler. He holds onto the ball too long, which compounds the blocking issues. Cutler makes mistakes but he also makes up for his mistakes by making big plays. That big play ability is not to be sneezed at. Campbell just doesn’t bring it at this point. With Campbell in there, the Bears become a dink-and-dunk offense, much easier to handle. And with Cutler out, Brandon Marshall becomes a less potent weapon.
But we don’t need to break down the match-ups to know the Vikings would be much happier facing Jason Campbell than Jay Cutler. History tells us that. Cutler went toe-to-toe with Brett Favre 4 times in two years and beat him 3 times. Cutler has beaten the Vikings four straight times, and was impressive in all four games. I would just as soon see Jason Campbell in there. So Jay Cutler, if you’re listening, don’t hurry back. Let that head heal. You’ve got a little baby to think about now. This is no time for heroism.
Like The Viking Age on Facebook.
Follow Dan Zinski on Twitter.
Get the all-new FanSided iPhone app.
Want to blog about the Vikings? Fill out the blogger application and join the team. Serious homers, negative types, tape wonks and general wack-jobs all welcome.