Keep playing like this and the Bears should make the playoffs, right? Chicago is 2-1 against what was supposed to be the toughest stretch of its schedule and could easily be 3-0. All of that would be immensely encouraging if there were such a thing as the Bears playing like this. The Bears don’t have anything close to an identity so far.
Keep playing like this and the Bears should make the playoffs, right?
Chicago is 2-1 against what was supposed to be the toughest stretch of its schedule and could easily be 3-0.
All of that would be immensely encouraging if there were such a thing as the Bears playing like this. The Bears don’t have anything close to an identity so far.
The Bears love having the ball in Jay Cutler’s hands at the end of close games. He’s 7-for-7 for 103 yards in late game-winning drives against Pittsburgh and Seattle the last two weeks.
“This is Jay’s background,” coach Lovie Smith said after Cutler’s game-winning 36-yard pass to Devin Hester Sunday in Seattle, according to quote transcripts e-mailed to Bears beat writers. “He’s been in situations like that. You judge good quarterbacks based on what they can do late in the game.”
Too bad Lovie didn’t think that way in the opener. Cutler completed 4 of 5 passes for 51 yards to move Chicago to the Green Bay 15 in the final six minutes. Matt Forte then ran five times in a row before Cutler threw incomplete on third-and-goal from the 3 and the Bears kicked a field goal to go ahead by 1, instead of a touchdown. There is a huge difference between needing a field goal to win and needing a touchdown, as the Bears showed in stopping Seattle — and losing to Green Bay.
The run remains the Bears first love, but it doesn’t seem to love them back.
If good quarterbacks are so trustworthy in the final five minutes, why not trust them in the first 55? The Bears don’t lean on Cutler enough early. The Bears are tied for last in the NFL in rushing average (2.8 yards) and 30th in rushing first downs (nine), but have split their run-pass plays almost 50-50 in two of three games. Chicago’s first 25 runs Sunday gained a single first down. That makes Cutler play with one (or two) downs tied behind his back.
“You have to take what they are giving you,” Lovie Smith said. “I want to see plays that find a way to win the football game.”
Then don’t run Garrett Wolfe on third-and-1 and Matt Forte five times in a row from inside the 15.
The Bears love turnovers too much. Seattle scored its first touchdown on a 39-yard screen pass to Julius Jones on third-and-19 because Charles Tillman missed an easy tackle that would have forced a long field goal attempt because he tried to strip the ball loose. Chicago leads the NFL with 175 takeaways since Lovie Smith took over as coach in 2004, but turnovers aren’t everything. The Bears are 2-1 despite being minus-2 in turnovers.
The Bears love to force things on defense. “They’re the Bears,” Seattle quarterback Seneca Wallace said of Chicago’s frequent blitzing. “They’re going to cause a lot of ruckus and try to get you to make mistakes.”
But sometimes they are needlessly reckless. Why blitz on third-and-19? That gave Seattle its first touchdown as much as Tillman’s missed tackle. “Anytime they run a blitz into a screen, you should get a lot of yards,” Julius Jones said.
Worse, often the Bears coupled an aggressive blitz with passive secondary play, giving Seattle easy 10-yard gains over the middle. What’s the point of blitzing if you don’t back it up with tight man-to-man coverage?
The Bears got that right at the end of the fourth quarter. They’ve gotten a lot right in the fourth quarter this year. Now they just have to find out who they are in the first three quarters.
Matt Trowbridge is the Chicago Bears beat writer for the Rockford Register Star. He can be reached at (815) 987-1383 or firstname.lastname@example.org.