Allen Park — The Chicago Bears are two weeks away from ending what's been a calamitous season that, reportedly, will likely end with the dismissal of coach Marc Trestman. At the center of the disaster is the recent admission of offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer that he was an anonymous source for an NFL.com story and expressed frustration with how Jay Cutler has played in 2014.
Yet, even amid reports of the Bears having buyer's remorse on Cutler, the Lions this week said they have nothing but respect for the strong-armed quarterback who is the final hurdle for them to clinch their first playoff berth since 2011.
"Obviously, Jay Cutler is an elite quarterback and one that I think at any moment in time can very much hurt you," Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh said Wednesday.
The Bears (5-9) are in the midst of a three-game losing streak, and Cutler has thrown six interceptions the past three games. The first of those three losses came against the Lions, who won on Thanksgiving, 34-17, after holding Chicago to just three points in the final three quarters.
So after watching Cutler's recent play and knowing his offensive coordinator publicly threw him under the bus before apologizing to the players, why does Suh think he's elite?
"I don't know much about that situation," Suh said. "I didn't read about it, so I can't really answer that question. But I think him, as an elite quarterback, he's done it in the past, he's hurt us, I respect him, understand the good things that he can do and things that he likes to do that can hamper him. And we look forward to exploiting those and limiting what he can do to try and hurt us."
The Lions (10-4) can clinch a postseason berth with a win Sunday at Soldier Field or if the Eagles (9-5) lose in Washington. They have plenty of reasons to be confident after winning three in a row and having the NFL's No. 2 overall defense, a unit that held the Bears to just 269 yards, including just 13 rushing.
But as they have all year, the Lions are approaching this game like any other, so they're praising their opponents publicly. Cutler is 7-5 in starts against the Lions.
"Despite what people say about him, he's still a great quarterback in this league," strong safety James Ihedigbo said. "When the guy's on and he's hot, he can make every single throw. I mean, he has a cannon.
"You've still got to give respect where respect's due. When you're paying a guy that much money, it's not like he didn't deserve it. He's performed at a high level in this league to get that contract."
In January, the Bears signed Cutler to a seven-year, $126.7 million deal, and he has performed reasonably well this season statistically, ranking in the top nine in the NFL in yards, touchdowns and completion percentage. But Chicago has had deficits of 28 and 24 points, respectively, in their last two losses to the Cowboys and Saints, both at home.
The Lions, though, don't plan to take their conference rival lightly despite all of the problems in Chicago.
"We've got our own problems," Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. "We don't worry about anybody else and their issues. We've got our own to worry about."