No Running Game Means More Sacks
RB Matt Forte (Jim Luzzi/Getty)
RB Matt Forte (Jim Luzzi/Getty)
Special to BearReport.com
Posted Oct 6, 2010


If Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz would have made any attempt to run the ball in the first four games, then perhaps Jay Cutler wouldn't have been subjected to so much pressure.

Two of the most basic rules of coaching are: 1) Don't ask players to do something they're not capable of, and 2) Don't put players in a position to fail.

Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz broke both rules Sunday night. He continued to call for pass plays that the offensive line had no chance of supporting with adequate protection, thereby giving quarterback Jay Cutler no chance of success.

You don't enter the Bears' team bus in the Indy 500, even if Mike Ditka is driving, and you don't subject your franchise quarterback to a defensive line that resembled a piranha tank at feeding time.

In the previous two games, Martz made brilliant adjustments when the offense started slowly. But those adjustments were nowhere to be seen against the Giants. Sometimes, in the face of an aggressive pass rush, teams can continue to throw the ball, as the Bears did against the Cowboys with great success. Other times, you have to admit that your guys can't block their guys in pass protection.

Maybe the Bears couldn't have blocked the Giants any better on run plays, but it's difficult to tell because they never had much of a chance. On Chicago's first 20 plays of the game, Cutler was sacked seven times, fumbling on three of them, and he was intercepted once.

But even after watching all that, when the Bears got the ball back after Julius Peppers stripped it from Eli Manning and Brian Urlacher recovered, what did Martz call for?

Another pass, which resulted in the eighth sack of Cutler.

That's when a running game would have come in handy. But if the running game has been buried in a corner of the closet and you've never used it, it's unrealistic to expect it to function smoothly right out of the box.

It was only a matter of time until the Bears' refusal to develop a running game came back to haunt them, and the bill came due during Sunday's nationally-televised nightmare. In a game in which it was clear the Bears could not keep the Giants' linemen off Cutler, they still only ran the ball 16 times. And it wasn't as if they had to abandon the ground attack because they had fallen hopelessly behind. The Bears were never more than one touchdown away from taking the lead or tying the game until less than five minutes remained.

It makes you wonder why they spent $12.5 million on running back Chester Taylor in the offseason to complement starter Matt Forte if they're not going to use either one of them to run the ball. Taylor picked up 22 yards on just three carries vs. the Giants, which isn't enough attempts to make a recommendation, but it's clearly superior to the minus-13 passing yards the Bears accumulated in the first half.

Only two of 32 NFL teams have run the ball less frequently per game than the Bears, who average 21 carries per game. They've attempted to throw an average of 34 times per game, although a total of 18 of those have resulted in sacks – by far the most in the league.

An increased emphasis on the run game will only benefit the air attack.

"Unless there's a threat of the run, they're not really going to take (play-action fakes) seriously," Forte said. "The play-action only works when you're running the ball effectively."

Defensive linemen that only have to worry about rushing the passer are a lot more dangerous, as the Bears and especially Cutler found out Sunday night.


RB Chester Taylor
Scott Boehm/Getty

PERSONNEL NOTES
Cutler's concussion Sunday night leaves him questionable at best for this week, but after his worst performance of the season, a week off to regroup might not be such a bad thing. He looked shell-shocked long before halftime. He was sacked nine times for minus-55 yards. Cutler completed eight of 11 passes for just 42 yards, an interception and a passer rating of 40.7. ...

Forte has 50 carries for 134 yards, a 2.7-yard average, and his longest run is 17 yards. He has not averaged more than 2.9 yards per carry in any game this season. ...

Taylor picked up 22 yards on three carries in Week 4, but he has just 19 carries for 66 yards all season (3.5-yard average). ...

TE Greg Olsen led the Bears with five catches in Week 4, and he was targeted a team-high eight times. However, he managed just 39 yards for a 7.8-yard average after coming into the game averaging 14.0 yards per catch. ...

WR Devin Hester caught three passes Sunday night for just 16 yards, and on at least one of those receptions he failed to elude a single tackler in the open field for what could have been a much bigger gain. He now has nine catches for 126 yards on the year. ...

WR Johnny Knox had the Bears' only play of 20 yards or more against the Giants, a 26-yard reception, but that was his only catch of the game. He was targeted just twice. He is averaging a team-best 21.5 yards per catch on 12 receptions. ...

WR Devin Aromashodu was active but not involved in the passing game at all. He has not caught a pass since his five-catch, 71-yard effort in the opener. ...

OT Chris Williams is making progress from the hamstring injury he suffered in Week 2, but he might not be ready for this week's game. ...

WR Earl Bennett caught four passes for 26 yards Sunday. He has 12 catches in the past three games, but they have totaled just 76 yards, a 6.3-yard average. His longest reception is for only 9 yards. ...

QB Todd Collins played tentatively and looked rusty when he replaced a concussed Cutler in the second half Sunday. Collins, who may get the start this week, completed just four of 11 passes for 36 yards and was intercepted once, leaving him with a passer rating of 8.1 before he was sidelined with a neck stinger, which he says shouldn't keep him out this week. ...

QB Caleb Hanie completed three of his four passes after taking over for Collins late Sunday night, and he had the Bears' only completion of more than 19 yards, a 26-yarder to Knox.


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