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Bears need Jay Cutler now more than ever

EversGriffen Jay Cutler

Everson Griffen, Jay Cutler

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STILL STANDING

Jay Cutler has been sacked 31 times in 12 games this season. But the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers also has taken a beating — 42 sacks in 13 games. The top 10 quarterbacks who’ve been sacked the most:

Still resolute as he staggers to the finish line, quarterback Jay Cutler is the face of the Bears more than ever this week.

Though still feeling the effects of a neck injury that forced him to miss the last 3:50 of the Bears’ 21-14 loss Sunday to the Vikings at the Metrodome, Cutler said he expects to play against the Packers this Sunday at Soldier Field.

‘‘It’s a little tight,’’ Cutler said Monday during his weekly appearance on WMVP-AM (1000). ‘‘I got some treatment [Monday] morning. I should be able to go later in the week.’’

Cutler suffered a concussion Nov. 11 against the Texans and missed the second half of that game and the next game against the 49ers. But he said his head was not injured on the helmet-to-helmet hit from Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen midway through the fourth quarter.

‘‘No, it was neck-related,’’ he said. ‘‘It was the one shot that snapped my neck back, and that was it.’’

The Bears likely will need Cutler at his best for the last three games of the season.

After losing for the fourth time in five games, the Bears (8-5) have a perilous grip on their playoff fate.

A loss to the Packers not only would clinch the NFC North title for Green Bay, but it likely will put the Bears at risk of missing out on the postseason even if they win their last two games to finish 10-6.

But it remains to be seen if Cutler will make it to the finish. The Bears’ franchise quarterback suffered an injury for the third time this season and sixth time in his four seasons with the Bears.

The physical punishment of four years with the Bears — not only 141 sacks but his own penchant for putting himself at risk when he leaves the pocket — might be catching up to Cutler.

He is in a five-way tie for fifth in the NFL with 31 sacks behind the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers (42), the Chargers’ Philip Rivers (37), the Bengals’ Andy Dalton (32) and the Colts’ Andrew Luck (32). But of the top-10 quarterbacks in sacks, Cutler is the only one who has missed any snaps because of injury. Of the 32 quarterbacks who started in Week 1, 23 have not missed a start this season.

Like a lot of NFL players, Cutler is hurting all over at this point.

‘‘It’s a lot of things,’’ Cutler said. ‘‘I don’t know if it’s because I’m getting old, but it gets harder and harder.’’



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