The offensive line was a mess, the defense was nearly as bad, and many of the 14 penalties were drive-killers.

The offensive line was a mess, the defense was nearly as bad, and many of the 14 penalties were drive-killers.

So quarterback Jay Cutler darted for daylight, and ducked away from would-be, headhunters. He threw passes with his left hand, underhand and over his shoulder, and when he found lanes to peek through, he threw strikes. He even pleaded with his teammates to play smarter, which we know didn’t work real well in the Bears’ 24-13 loss to Detroit on Monday night.

But in the process, Cutler may have answered a few of those questions that have swirled around him since he came to Chicago. The biggest one being about his toughness.

After battling through the first four games with happy feet that seemed to continue to dance around in the pocket even when there wasn’t pressure, Cutler hung in there Monday like he was invincible.

We all know he’s not, but his toughness was on display for all to see.

And it finally showed through when he was under as much distress as a QB can be under.

“In this ballgame, if that does happen, you’re not going to be very successful,” Cutler told reporters after the game. “Nine false starts. We put ourselves in a lot of holes out there, and against a team like that, the way they’re playing, it’s going to be difficult.”

It sure was difficult, and his coaches and teammates were just as hard on him as the Lions. And that’s saying a lot when you are sacked three times, hit on 10 occasions and blasted hard on two of them.

Offensive lineman Frank Omiyale was given another starting shot at right tackle, and he failed miserably. Again. He was benched in the third quarter, again, when someone on the coaching staff finally realized: “Enough is enough.”

Cutler was the one who paid the most for it. But he was also the one who made the most of it. He was 11-of-14 for 103 yards and a touchdown while on the run much of the time in the first half, earning a 121.1 passer rating. He finished 28-of-38 for 249 yards and a 99.6 rating, but was hit constantly in the third and fourth quarters.

He proved another thing Monday night: He is more accurate on the run than he is standing in the pocket. And it’s a good thing, since he was on the run all night. His nine-yard touchdown pass to tight end Kellen Davis was a perfect example.

“At the end of the day, those guys on defense did a great job of putting pressure on Jay,” Devin Hester said. Also at the beginning, and in the middle of the day, too.

Before kickoff, the team’s general manager Jerry Angelo told Bears’ reporters that Cutler is just the quarterback he thought he would be when he traded for him in 2008.

“He is, and I would do it all over again,” he told them. “You can’t play in this league without one. ... When you make a decision, you want to base it on soundness. The decision was sound.”

For the first time in awhile, it looked and sounded like a sound decision Monday. Even when the sound of Cutler getting crunched could be heard, the sixth-year QB was hanging tough.

Not once did he throw the ball away too early. He seemed to have that sixth sense that told him when the pressure was closing in, and it never caused him to hit the panic button. Instead, he escaped from some pretty scary situations, and often turned it into a positive.

Whether it was when he was ducking under an onslaught of Lions rushers to buy more time early, or when he was calmly jogging out of the pocket at just the right time before finding Hester on a key third-down conversion in the second half, Cutler left the nation with a little different impression of him than the last time he was scrutinized by the masses. (That would be a reference to the Maurice Jones-Drew-led backlash that followed last season’s NFC championship game.)

Now it’s back to: If Angelo could only get him a little help. A star wide receiver in his prime, or another lineman who has done it, and is still doing it. With a little bit more around him, he may be able to keep it up, and get this team out of the 2-3 hole they’ve now dug for themselves.

Brighter minds would say it’s too late for this season, though.

Bears reporter Jay Taft can be reached at 815-987-1384 or jtaft@rrstar.com.