So far, so good for quarterback Jay Cutler and the 3-0 Bears. Under new offensive coordinator Mike Martz, Cutler has thrown six touchdown passes and only two interceptions while posting a gaudy 65.9 completion percentage and 109.7 QB rating.
Cutler's passing arm is unquestioned, as he showed with 27 touchdown passes last season, but questions remain about his judgment after nearly matching that number with 26 interceptions. The improvement Cutler has shown so far this season is masked by the fact that he threw two picks that were wiped out by defensive penalties in Chicago's Monday night win over Green Bay.
In that game, Cutler showed that he's still not afraid to throw off his back foot a la Bret Favre, and Martz's offense often has him taking a deep drop and taking time in the pocket to allow deeper pass routes to develop. Cutler already has been sacked eight times in three games, and the Giants' defense is focused on pressuring him and creating more turnovers.
The unexpected loss of defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka, who was discovered to have a bulging cervical disk in his neck after Friday's practice, certainly could slow down the Giants' pass rush, but Osi Umenyiora is expected to play despite swelling in his right knee that caused him to miss practice and rookie Jason Pierre-Paul might have the opportunity to show what he can do.
Forcing turnovers, said defensive tackle Barry Cofield, "is the key to the game. It's something we did extremely well in the game we won [against Carolina] this year, so, we're looking to replicate that success.
"Cutler has a lot of confidence. He feels like he can make every throw. So, sometimes, there will be some balls you have an opportunity to intercept, and he holds the ball because he likes to make big plays, so, you have an opportunity to strip the ball from time to time. They go for the big play, and that allows you to have a chance to have a chance to make the big play."
The Bears have a pair of burners at wide receiver in Devin Hester and Johnny Knox and definitely will look for the big play. But Cutler's leading receiver this season is running back Matt Forte, and he also likes to rely upon tight end Greg Olsen.
"He's a great tight end, very elusive, very athletic," Giants safety Antrel Rolle said of Olsen. "You have to understand what you're going to get from him. He's a deep threat as well as an underneath threat. You just have to play him physical."
Linebacker Michael Boley, who remains on the field in most coverage packages because of his speed, most likely will find himself tracking Forte out of the backfield much of the game. He said the Giants defense definitely is focused on the opportunity to create turnovers against Cutler.
"Oh yeah," Boley said, "we think that going against a guy like Jay, he's a very talented quarterback, but if we get pressure on him and get hands in his face, we can force him into making some bad decisions and throwing some bad balls. Hopefully, it could turn in our favor."
Cornerback Corey Webster has to be conscious of the deep threat posed by Hester, who is averaging 18.3 yards per catch, but he's anticipating some chances for interceptions. "Sometimes, [Cutler] tries to fit the ball in certain windows, and we have to get our hands on the balls, make the catch and not hurt ourselves by getting a penalty while an interception or a turnover is going on," Webster said. "It's a big challenge for us to go out there against a good quarterback, and I think we're going to be up for that challenge. I think we're going to have a special Sunday."