Giants Knock Out Another Quarterback

Really, this is getting silly. Monday , after the Lions’ Shaun Hill, the Panthers’ Matt Moore and the double Bears knockout of Jay Cutler and Todd Collins. This is all well and good for Giants fans, who , are now cheering for one of the toughest teams in the league, but not so much for the league as a whole. Hard to pull in many casual fans flipping around the dial and landing on a game quarterbacked by Jon Kitna, although hilariously Dallas receiver after Monday night’s game that Kitna was every bit as good as Romo. He also has a bridge to sell you.

The quarterbacks get a breather this week with the Giants’ bye, making Seattle’s Matt Hasselbeck the next to walk this gantlet. He will start sleeping poorly in about a week.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Monday night’s game was the line that formed afterward to declare the Cowboys’ season over. Never mind that everyone declared it over last week when they dropped to 1-4. Suddenly, though, 1-4 looked darned good and 1-5 became the new tipping point for , , and The .

Dallas now moves into a special place of N.F.L. misery with the Vikings, who are now pondering whether , breaking his starting streak and installing Tarvaris Jackson under center, and New Orleans, whose meltdown to Cleveland prompted that the Super Bowl champions appear to have affixed a stamp to their season and are stuffing it in a mail slot. All over the league, coaching moves are making scratch his head in befuddlement, with Minnesota’s Brad Childress leading his list of boneheadedness.

Before moving on to other news, we pause in memory of Paul the octopus, the multiple-legged oracle of the World Cup, who in Germany at the ripe old octopus age of 2 ½. They were even mourning his death .

Baseball’s oracles have moved on to predicting a completely charming (read: low television ratings) World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Texas Rangers. Not only do we get a wonderful clash of cultures between the two cities, as but we get to watch one franchise pull itself out of a history of sad sackery, . is savoring a series minus the Northeast’s usual powerhouses and said all those people who say they are sick of the Yankees and the Red Sox get to prove it now.

For the Giants, Tim Lincecum will move on to center stage as the Game 1 starter, but , the really crazy pitcher you should all be getting to know is closer Brian Wilson. Texas, of course, is fixated on Cliff Lee, whose impending free agency adds another layer to his story. , Yankees fans did not make a terribly good impression on his wife during the American League Championship Series.

Until the World Series starts, you can temporarily occupy yourself with the , almost all of which revolve around LeBron James. He officially started his image rehab with the release of a Monday, but that the only thing that will work is if the Heat wins.

In more sigh-inducing news, for the radical, establishment-shaking move of wearing pink whistles to raise breast cancer awareness.

On a cheerier note, the rescued against their rescuers and government officials, including President Sebastián Piñera. Fortunately, no one celebrated a goal by climbing in a car that was parked alongside the field, as .

That car, by the way, might come in handy at Giants games for quick quarterback getaways.

Follow Leading Off on Twitter:

Bears QB Jay Cutler Gaining Confidence

LAKE FOREST, Ill. Jay Cutler just needed some time.

By winning two straight heading into Thursday night’s game at Miami, the Chicago Bears have shown what can happen when Cutler has time to throw — and his teammates have more time in coordinator ‘s offense.

“Guys are protecting up front,” Cutler said Tuesday. “They’re giving me some time back there. Some lanes are opening up. If no one is open, I’m probably going to take off and try to make something happen, either through the ground or by moving the pocket and throwing it.”

Cutler has been sacked only once in each of the last two games after the offensive line gave up 31 sacks in the first seven games. With Cutler standing upright, the Bears have converted 58 percent of their third downs in two straight games, going 7 of 12 on Nov. 7 against Buffalo and 11 of 19 on Sunday against Minnesota. The first seven games, they converted just 18 percent (15 of 84).

“It makes a difference having the same guy out there, knowing what each other is going to do,” center Olin Kreutz said. “And we’re just further along in this offense now. We’ve put a whole bunch of obvious mistakes on film and we’ve learned from them. And we’ll keep learning from our mistakes.”

It hasn’t hurt having the same five offensive linemen — left tackle Frank Omiyale, left guard Chris Williams, Kreutz, right guard Roberto Garza and rookie right tackle J’Marcus Webb — together for a couple of games. This week will mark the first time all season that the Bears have gone more than two straight games with the same offensive line.

Garza missed two games and bye-week practices because of arthroscopic knee surgery, and when he returned, line coach Mike Tice put him next to Webb, at right guard. Garza played left guard to start the season, but had been a right guard from 2006-09.

“You can’t really put into words how Roberto helps,” Kreutz said. “With me playing next to him, I know exactly what he’s going to do. I don’t have to make a million calls for him. And then he helps out J’Marcus a lot.”

Cutler’s confidence appeared to wane at times earlier in the season, especially after returning from a concussion he sustained when sacked nine times in the first half Oct. 3 by the .

“I’ll be very confident if we keep protecting like this and giving me time to move around and make some plays,” he said. “That’s all the difference in the world.”

While Cutler has appreciated his linemen blocking better, they’re appreciating the habit he has had the last few games of buying time with his feet or even just running for a few yards. He had a 25-yard scramble against Minnesota and rushed for 39 yards against Buffalo.

“He’s doing a great job of getting rid of the ball, moving in the pocket when we kind of break down a little bit, and he’s creating those big plays,” Garza said.

Cutler said it wouldn’t have been possible to find receivers on the run if he hadn’t been playing with the team a season and a half, and in Martz’s offense for half a season.

“That’s just got to come with experience with the same guys in game situations,” he said. “We’re starting to kind of build that and being together more and more after last year. And this year they’re starting to get more of a feel for what I’m going to do and I’m getting a feel for what they’re going to do.”

Cutler, Bears Beat Vikings 27-13

CHICAGO Brett Favre understood there were no guarantees, that the storybook ending he was seeking might not come, when he decided to play this season.

He’s still clinging to hope, though, no matter how little is left.

Chicago just about knocked the Minnesota Vikings out of playoff contention, with Jay Cutler throwing for 237 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Bears to a 27-13 win that put them in a tie with Green Bay for the NFC North lead on Sunday.

It was a devastating blow for the Vikings (3-6), who needed to win this game and beat the Packers next week to get back in the race. Can they make the playoffs anyway?

“I have no idea,” Favre said. “If I had to gauge today, I would say no. I’m not writing us off, but guys are in that locker room after the game saying, ‘We’ve got to find a way to turn it around’ and all the other cliches you might expect. … Can this team make the playoffs? I say yes to that. Will we make the playoffs? I have no idea.”

Favre threw for just 170 yards after going for a career-best 446 the previous week against Arizona, when Minnesota wiped out a late 14-point deficit and beat the Cardinals in overtime.

This time, there were no late rallies. And with the Vikings well back in the playoff chase after Sunday’s loss, Favre was asked if he would keep playing this season if they’re mathematically eliminated.

“Let’s not worry about that,” he said. “Don’t push it. … I think there’s still a little hope left. I can’t speak for the rest of the team, but I do know the consensus seemed to be afterward that there is life still left.”

The loss also could prompt more calls for coach Brad Childress to be fired.

“You deal with it,” he said. “It’s not something you’re happy to deal with. … My name is behind the Vikings team. It all starts with me.”

Asked if he’ll be coaching next week, Childress said, “Until I get any word differently, yeah.”

It didn’t help that Favre threw three interceptions in the second half — two late in the game — that wiped out whatever chance the Vikings had at a comeback.

Chicago (6-3) also held Adrian Peterson to 51 yards rushing. Making matters worse was that receiver Bernard Berrian sat out after aggravating his groin in warmups and center John Sullivan left with a calf injury on the Vikings’ first possession.

Percy Harvin, who was questionable with a migraine headache, limped off the field late in the game after aggravating an ankle problem.

“Honestly, it’s a gut-check time,” Jared Allen said. “It’s getting old. Same song and dance, different game. We’re just inconsistent.”

As for the Bears?

“It was a big game for the whole team,” Cutler said.

Cutler completed 22 of 35 passes and got picked off twice, but his 19-yard TD to Kellen Davis on play action made it 27-13 in the fourth quarter.

“He was in a groove,” tight end Greg Olsen said. “After we settled those first couple drives I think the whole offense got in a pretty good groove where we had a lot of confidence. It’s easy when you’re standing on the sidelines and our defense is shutting them down with the guys they have on that side of the ball and we had the big returns.”

Devin Hester had a 68-yard kickoff return to set up a third-quarter field goal by Robbie Gould that made it 20-13 after being used solely on punts through the first eight games. Hester wasn’t bad in that area, either, running a punt back 42 yards.

For the Vikings, it was another bad afternoon in a tumultuous season that looked promising at the start. Instead there’s been nonstop drama, with the acquired-and-departed Randy Moss, Childress and Favre all playing starring roles at various points.

“As I said when I came here last year, my first press conference — if it ended then, if it ended today, if it ends at the end of this year, if it ended before the start of this year, it’s been a wonderful career,” Favre said.