Why is Jay Cutler so bad against the Packers?
Micah Hyde didn't want to stir up headlines midweek. Surely he knew the history. Like no other mismatch in professional sports, his secondary owns Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler.
Shhh. Days before their final meeting this season, Hyde wasn't going there.
At his locker, Cutler's dubious streak was mentioned. Entering Sunday night's rivalry matchup on NBC, the Bears quarterback had thrown at least one interception in each of his 10 games against the Packers. Quickly, Hyde shook his head.
"I think we should stop talking about it so we don't jinx him," he said.
Inside, Hyde had to know better.
In the first quarter, he was ready. Before the Packers turned their arch nemesis into a national joke on primetime television, Cutler floated an out-route pass to tight end Martellus Bennett. Hyde timed the route perfectly, returning his first career interception 9 yards to Chicago's 23-yard line.
One flick of the wrist, one poor decision from Cutler, and Green Bay's 55-14 drubbing had ignition. On this night, the Packers would've beaten the Bears even if they weren't gifted a short field on the game's second possession.
"I think we had momentum before that," Hyde said.
Still, Cutler's pick gave breath to the blowout.
Sunday night once again highlighted the quarterback disparity between Green Bay and Chicago, maybe starker than ever. While Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers set multiple NFL records – including his six touchdown passes in the first half, tied for the most ever – Cutler fizzled and floundered.
Cutler's 22-of-37 for 272 passing yards, one touchdown and two interceptions were misleading. Most of the positives came after the Packers replaced their defensive starters with backups. At halftime, Cutler was 12-for-23 with 145 yards and a 53.7 passer rating.
In context, those numbers only worsen when juxtaposed against Rodgers' career night.
Before being yanked with the score out of hand midway through the third quarter, the Packers quarterback completed 18-of-27 passes for 315 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions. He had three touchdown passes of more than 40 yards, which hadn't happened in a game since 1942.
At the podium, Packers coach Mike McCarthy gushed. Was this the best night of Rodgers' football life? It's been a familiar question this season.
"I'll tell you, I like the fact that I have to stand up here and answer that question a lot," McCarthy said. "I'm going to have to wait till I'm sitting on that porch thinking back, but he was right on tonight. His statistics at halftime, I don't know if I've ever seen anything like that. He played a great game."
For the Bears, they've seen plenty of this Cutler against the Packers.
Since arriving in Chicago in 2009, Cutler has thrown 13 touchdowns and 22 interceptions in 11 games against Green Bay. He's exceeded 280 passing yards only once. Seven times, he's had multiple interceptions in a game.
Not the kind of numbers you'd expect from a quarterback making $54 million guaranteed.
In the same period, Rodgers – also making $54 million guaranteed – has thrown 27 touchdowns and only six interceptions against the Bears. He's exceeded 280 passing yards seven times, including three straight 300-yard games. Five times, he's thrown at least three touchdown passes.
This season, Rodgers has thrown 10 touchdowns with no interceptions against the Bears. He's the first quarterback in NFL history to do that against one opponent in a single season, and it took him fewer than seven full quarters.
Hammer, meet nail.
"To play like that is pretty much embarrassing," Cutler said, wrapping up his night bluntly enough.
If the Packers know Cutler's secret, they aren't sharing.
Inside Green Bay's locker room late Sunday night, cornerback Tramon Williams searched for answers. Why is the Packers' secondary so dominant against Cutler each time they meet? Where does that kind of consistency come from?
"I don't know, man," Williams said. "Ya'll ask me that all the time, but ya'll need to ask him that. I don't know."
It's not like Cutler is void of talent.
Since 2009, he's completed 61 percent of his passes for 15,006 yards, 106 touchdowns and 63 interceptions against teams not located in Green Bay. He went to the Pro Bowl in 2008. Multiple times, he's finished among the league's top 10 passers in several categories.
Against the Packers, his skills fade. In Green Bay or Chicago, Cutler has crumbled over and over.
"I feel like we just play fundamental defense," Hyde said. "Like I said earlier in the week, he tries to make those pinpoint throws, and we kind of just make plays on them. He's a good quarterback, but we execute well against him."
It was only the fourth time Hyde has played Cutler. Williams has a few more meetings under his belt.
Over the years, Green Bay's eighth-season cornerback has had his share of Cutler interceptions. Still, he claims there's no defining reason the Packers have the Bears quarterback's number.
The numbers highlight Cutler's troubles well enough. On Sunday night, he fell to 1-10 against the Packers as the Bears starting quarterback, including a 2010 NFC Championship Game loss at Soldier Field. In that same period, Cutler is 41-24 against every other NFL team in the regular season.
"Obviously, everything kind of adds up," Williams said. "I don't know what it is, you know. We just come out, and we just play. We just tend to play well against these guys.
"I don't know if it's just matchup – if we match up well against him, or not. Sometimes, that's just what it comes down to, but historically we've played well against him. Hopefully, it continues."