SAN FRANCISCO--Folks, it might be time for some people to offer up an apology of sorts to KC Joyner, who runs the Web site TheFootballScientist.com.
Joyner was flamed thoroughly on here back in the spring for some of his observations when it came to Jay Cutler. I haven't seen Joyner do an I-told-you-so, but his articles and statistics on Cutler and risk taking look to have proven quite accurate now through nine games. His five-interception performance Thursday night at Candlestick Park was a stunner. He leads the NFL now with 17 interceptions. Let's put that in perspective--Kyle Orton and Rex Grossman combined for 14 last season. The Bears had 21 interceptions as a team in 2007. When Grossman cemented his risk-taker image in 2006, he threw 20 interceptions. As it stands, Cutler is on pace for 30 picks. The franchise record is 31 set by good ol' Sid Luckman back in 1947. Bill Wade tossed 24 in 1962 and George Blanda had 24 in 1953. Johnny Lujack threw 22 in 1949.
"I don't,'' Cutler said when asked to explain the turnovers. "I have to go back and look at it.''
Yes, Cutler supporters are going to rush to his defense, as they did after the four-pick performance at Green Bay, and claim they were not his fault. Hold on a minute on that. Cutler two red-zone interceptions now give him five for the season and nine in the last 25 games dating back to last season. That's throwing away a minimum of three points (chip shot field goal) every time.
Pick 1. His first pick, snared by nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin at the one-yard line, ended an 88-yard, 18-play drive that took up more than nine minutes in the first half. Talk about a momentum killer. Offensive coordinator Ron Turner said he could have made a better call on third-and-goal at the one. Fine. Don't throw the ball into intense coverage of tight end Kellen Davis, though. The blame goes to Cutler.
Pick 2. The second pick came after Devin Hester fell down coming out of his break on a deep comeback. It looked like Hester's fault but the ball never should have been thrown to him. Tarell Brown was playing way off of Hester. The wide receiver tried to beat him with a little stutter-and-go move but Brown was playing so far off, nothing of the sort was going to work. He was sitting all over the route.
"The corner sat,'' Hester said. "I was trying to come out of the break because he was anticipating the route. So he was going to get there before me. By the time I got close to him he was getting ready to jump the route, so I tried to hurry up and come out and beat him to it.''
Hester stumbled to the turf, Brown intercepted and returned the ball 51 yards to the 49ers' 14-yard line. Frank Gore scored on a run on the next play, the game's only touchdown. Here's the bottom line: The ball never should have been thrown to Hester. Brown was all over the route and Cutler should have recognized that.
Pick 3. Pressured in the pocket, Cutler tried to push the ball to Hester, who was crossing the field. I haven't seen all the TV replays but it appeared he was impeded by the umpire on the play and Dashon Goldson made the pick. This was a result of Cutler trying to make a play, not a bad decision if the replays hold up.
Pick 4. Mark Roman beat Davis to a ball over the middle of the field for an interception. The big tight end needs to find a way to win this battle here, but it's what happens when a quarterback tries to fit a pass into a tight spot. The play was doomed from the start though as the snap to Cutler in the shotgun was on the ground.
Pick 5. Cutler stepped up in the pocket and threw for Greg Olsen in the back of the end zone but the Niners knew he'd be looking to his favorite target and this play had no chance with Michael Lewis easily intercepting.