The Chicago Bears' often-sacked quarterback dropped back to pass 32 times without being sacked in Monday night's win at Philadelphia. It was the first time Cutler had gone without being sacked in 30 games, and just the second time since he became a Bear in 2009.
Cutler and the team think this kind of pass protection is just what's needed to upgrade the offense.
"It's nice," Cutler said. "I was thinking about halfway through the game, I was like, 'Let's not jinx this yet.' I didn't want to say anything, but it was looking pretty good."
Cutler said his offensive line is getting better and is playing more relaxed. He also credited offensive coordinator Mike Martz with calling plays "and helping them out," praise that hasn't always been there between quarterback and coach.
"It's so much more fun, just going out there and playing with those guys and being able to execute the offense and have some fun and be creative," he said. "That's what it's all about."
The line came together out of necessity late in the second half of the Bears' loss to Detroit earlier this season. They benched right tackle Frank Omiyale, who had been starting for injured starter Gabe Carimi. Then right guard Lance Louis went to right tackle, and backup center Chris Spencer moved in at right guard.
In the three games since, the line has given up just three sacks with Cutler dropping back to throw 98 times.
The other big move came before the season when the team decided to put veteran guard Roberto Garza at center to replace Olin Kreutz. No one knew how effective Garza would be, but he's done well enough that the team gave him a two-year contract extension this week.
Martz's switch to shorter, five-step pass drops and an emphasis on running back Matt Forte in the running and passing game have helped open up the offense even more. As a result, the Bears have risen to 17th in total yards -- they haven't finished higher than that since they were 15th when they reached the Super Bowl after the 2006 season.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press