OK, after starting off strong against the Atlanta Falcons, the Bears have regressed versus the last two Super Bowl champs (the Saints and the Packers). Most evident in those two losses are the same offensive inadequacies that plagued the team the past two seasons: Offensive line deficiencies, poor receiving core, and an inconsistent running game. The Bears have a franchise QB in Jay Cutler and a dual threat RB in Matt Forte, but they have an offensive line that is…offensive. Cutler has already been sacked 14 times in three games and is on pace to be sacked 75 times this year (vs. 52 times last year). You know it’s a bad sign when you’re celebrating the fact that Cutler was only sacked three times against the Packers.
Add to that the fact that the Bears only have 46 rushing attempts by running backs (vs. 114 passing attempts) and you can see that this is a recipe for failure. When you can’t pass block, then passing more than running isn’t exactly playing to your strengths. But then, the Bears can’t really run block any better than they pass block (3.1 yards per attempt), so perhaps the few rushing attempts is indicative of this. The offensive line wasn’t very good coming out of training camp and the injuries to rookie RT Gabe Carimi and RG Lance Louis haven’t helped matters.
That being said, the Bears need to try to strike some play calling balance. The running game can’t be abandoned early due to lack of success. Most rushing yards are gained as the game goes on and the defense gets tired. The threat of running the ball needs to be there to keep the defense honest.
So hopefully the Bears can get back on track against Carolina. Carolina ranks 25th in the league against the run and 14th against the pass. This might be a golden opportunity to unleash the running game. With Forte and Barber (who is listed as probably for today’s game) the Bears can pound the ball on both the outside and between the tackles. A robust running game should take some of the pressure off of Cutler and give him more time to find receivers downfield. Now only if they would actually catch the ball…