|08-15-2007, 03:22 AM||#1|
Join Date: Apr 2006
Neighborly Number One
Neighborly Number One
By Christopher Smith
SAN FRANCISCO -- One was not such a lonely number after all for Jay Cutler Monday night.
One drive. One completion. One rushing attempt. One touchdown drive.
One full year as the starting quarterback of the Denver Broncos ahead of him, and it started well for Cutler and the offensive starters.
Despite being removed from the game after four minutes and six seconds, Cutler had plenty of company with him to enjoy the rest of the game, including Javon Walker, Daniel Graham, Travis Henry and Tom Nalen.
Several Broncos contributed to Cutler's touchdown drive against San Francisco's starting defense. Henry carried the ball five times and scored on a one-yard plunge. The offensive line blocked well. Even the Broncos' secondary chipped in, providing Cutler with two Pro Bowl cornerbacks to practice against.
"I have been saying all off-season that having Jay (Cutler) practice against Champ Bailey and I all training camp, and having to complete balls, is going to have him ready to play on Sundays," Dre' Bly said. "If he can complete passes against us, then he is going to be able to complete passes against anyone and he will be very successful in this league."
Cutler proved Bly's statement correct, heaving a pass deep down the left side to Walker for a 24-yard gain on the third play of the ball game.
That was his only completion on two passes, but he caused a few cheerful groans among Broncos personnel with the offense inside the red zone, tucking the ball and scampering to the 1-yard line instead of forcing a pass into coverage. His run was the longest of any Bronco Monday night.
Other than calming his coaches' pulses after slipping out of bounds, his biggest worry after the game was distributing the ball fairly.
"We have a lot of weapons. We're going to have trouble getting the ball to all these guys," Cutler said. "We've got so many guys that make big plays. Travis, I've been singing his praises all of training camp, and we've got to be real patient about what we can do out there."
The running backs certainly proved to be an explosive force, pounding away with a 5.2-yard average over 35 carries. After Walker's catch, the Broncos did not complete another pass until Patrick Ramsey connected with Troy Fleming for a three-yard touchdown 31 seconds into the second quarter.
"It always makes your job a lot easier when you can run the ball effectively," Ramsey said.
Before you discount Cutler's efforts in the face of a dominating ground game, Quincy Morgan would tell you it's a symbiotic relationship. The running game may make Cutler look good, but Morgan thinks Cutler is a better quarterback than he was a year ago. For perspective, Cutler completed 16 of 22 passes for 192 yards and a touchdown in the first preseason game last year.
"I've seen Cutler get better every day since the end of last season. He really works at it. He's going to be a hell of a quarterback," Morgan said. "It doesn't matter that it's a preseason game. That's our first offense against their first-team defense. If we can put the ball down their throat on the first drive, that's always a good thing."
Cutler certainly didn't seem like a quarterback with five starts under his belt or a player that never started a game in a month other than December. He finished the game with a 93.8 quarterback rating and seemed like one of the most comfortable guys on the team, joking with a reporter in the locker room and interacting with his teammates confidently. Perhaps part of his confidence came from finally being able to fully participate.
For the quarterbacks, Monday's 17-13 victory gave them their first taste of physical contact that their teammates have been feasting on for some time now.
"You get hit for the first time, us as quarterbacks do," Ramsey said. "I don't love it, but it kind of gets your clock rolling a little bit."
But for Cutler, the clock is working -- in perfect time.