CHICAGO -- Technically, given Jay Cutler's uncertain future, there remains a chance the quarterback's final throw Sunday -- a desperation heave into the end zone of a galling 33-28 loss to the Packers -- was his final pass toward favorite target Brandon Marshall.
It was, alas, intercepted with Marshall unable to get back to the ball past Sam Shields. And there, once again, a promising season ended with heartbreak for one of the NFL's most productive yet ill-fated quarterback-receiver tandems.
During five seasons together in both Denver and Chicago, Cutler and Marshall have developed quite a connection, piling up eye-catching numbers. But again Sunday, they exited the NFL stage with pits in their stomachs, again left outside the league's playoff party.
"It's tough to swallow," Cutler said. "We were right there at the door."
Marshall laid face down after the final interception -- for a few seconds. But then he told himself to get up, not wanting to show his heartbreak.
"I knew that wasn't a good look," the receiver explained.
Soon after, Marshall assured the media Cutler will be back in 2014 and beyond with the Bears.
"That's my quarterback," Marshall said. "We're attached at the hip.
"Jay will be back. Jay will be back. So all the stories for the offseason, just put that (one) at the bottom. Whatever you have to write, say that Brandon said Jay will be back."
Marshall won't have the final say general manager Phil Emery will have in negotiating a Cutler re-signing. But the receiver's endorsement isn't worthless either.
Once again Sunday, Cutler and Marshall showed the magic they can create, connecting six times for 74 yards, most notably on an ad-libbed 5-yard touchdown pass on the fourth quarter's first play.
The Packers attempted to disguise coverage, showing blitz and initially bluffing double coverage on Marshall as they'd used often near the end zone.
Eventually, recognizing Marshall one-on-one against Tramon Williams, Cutler wiggled out of the run play he'd locked in, and instead lobbed a ball into the right corner of the end zone.
Even with the line run blocking and Marshall readying to do the same, the receiver saw the ball, spun in a circle and made a diving catch.
"It was the look to throw that," Marshall said. "But he had called the run play. I just came off and made a play on the ball."
Added Cutler: "He did what he does best, and that's make a play for us."
That score gave the Bears a 28-20 lead.
"Wish it was the game-winner," Marshall said.
By evening's end Marshall had reached 100 catches for the fifth season in his career, four of those playing with Cutler. Both players, however, couldn't erase the sting of another painful ending to a season.
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