by Carlos Nazario
In last week’s game against the New Orleans Saints, the Bears abandoned the running game and it nearly cost Jay Cutler’s health. This week, Cutler came away with his body parts intact but the Bears’ running game was left battered and bruised.
The Bears rushed only 12 times and came away with 13 yards. Matt Forte was held to a career-low 2 yards on 9 carries. Cutler was the leading rusher with a grand total of 11 yards (9 gained on the second-to-last play of the game).
The 13 yards gained were the lowest yards by a Bears team since 1960. It comes on the heels of offensive coordinator Mike Martz taking the blame for the Saints debacle. It seems his words ring hollow now.
This week the offensive line performed better. They allowed 3 sacks, after giving up 5 and 6 the last 2 weeks. It seems, however, they go through moments where they have troubles. For the second consecutive week, they gave up no sacks in the first half, but then give up some in the second half.
Head coach Lovie Smith remarked on the line’s improved play. “I thought we had adequate protection today to be able to make some plays,” Smith said. “It’s not like all was lost today. We saw some improvement. Whenever you’re playing a couple new guys, you wonder going in. But I thought they held us for the most part with the passing game.”
The problem with the Bears offense was not limited to the running game. The wide receivers had a tough time holding onto the ball in critical situations. Several drives stalled because of dropped balls.
Some blame could be spread around to the defense as well. I said in my matchup article that the Bears would need to shut down the Packers running game and force Rodgers to make throws he would not want to make. The Bears did not.
Ryan Grant ran for 92 yards on 17 carries (5.4 average). More importantly, he was able to do what Forte was unable to do. He had some key runs for first downs that kept drives going that resulted in scores. The Packers owned a 37:21 to 22:39 time of possession edge over the Bears.
The Bears also had trouble stopping Jermichael Finley and Greg Jennings. Finley had 85 receiving yards and crossed the end zone for 3 touchdowns, while Jennings garnered 119 receiving yards.
The two Bears players who deserved accolades this week were Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher. They worked hard to keep the Bears in the game. Briggs had 18 tackles and a forced fumble, while Urlacher had 8 tackles and another diving interception.
Midway through last season, Lovie Smith went to Mike Martz and had him make adjustments to his offense. It resulted in a more balanced attack and took the Bears to the NFC Conference title game. This season, Smith will have to have another conversation with Martz, only earlier.
There are already some rumbles about the unbalanced offense. Comcast Sports Net Chicago’s John Mullin has said that Bears linemen have told him they need to convince Martz they are good enough to run block. If Smith does not reign in Martz and his pass-happy ways, the season can go down in flames and explode at Halas Hall.