Balance the Key to Improved Offense

Ever since he took over as head coach of the Bears, Lovie Smith has professed he prefers to "get off the bus running the football." But this past Sunday, the pass-to-run ratio was a staggering 4-to-1.

When a team is 26th in the NFL in rushing attempts and rushing yards per game, the first step is admitting it has a problem.

Bears coach Lovie Smith did that Monday.

"We realize we have to have more balance on the offensive side of the football, and we plan on doing that," Smith said. "I know we've taken too many sacks. We haven't established the run the way we'd like to. We realize all of those things."

Those two problems are often related. If the defense doesn't have any reason to respect the run, it's a lot easier to go after the quarterback with extra rushers when they're not needed in run support.

Take away Jay Cutler's two scrambles Sunday, and the Bears ran the ball by design just 12 times. So it was easy for the Seahawks to ignore the threat of a run. The result was six more sacks of Cutler, who's been hit like a rented mule all season. Of the Seahawks' six sacks, 2 1/2 came from safeties Jordan Babineaux and Lawyer Milloy, who didn't have to worry much about run support.

Asked if the Bears needed to run the ball more, Cutler was noncommittal.

"You get in a situation where you're down. You've got to catch up," he said "You've got to get some big yards and big chunks. Sometimes, that's how it goes."

But the Bears were never down by more than seven points until the fourth quarter.

Two weeks earlier, while Cutler was being sacked nine times in the first half against the Giants, the Bears ran just seven times before the break and just 16 times for the entire game.

In between those two games, backup quarterbacks Todd Collins and Caleb Hanie were sacked three times by the Panthers, which still isn't much to brag about. But the pass rush was slowed by 42 running plays for 218 yards, which gave the Carolina defense some conflict of assignment.

"It's just not as simple as what happened the week before and you say, 'Well, you just do that every time,'" Smith said. "It's a little more than that. We didn't get a lot done with the running game [Sunday]. Last week, we got something going early with the running game, which allows you to do it a little more. After getting beat like that [by the Seahawks], we wish we had run it a little more and maybe we would have gotten a little bit more production from it."

Offensive coordinator Mike Martz is in charge of play-calling when the Bears have the ball, but Smith has some say.

"During the game, as head football coach, I'd like to think I have input on everything that's going on, and I do," Smith said. "We all went in with that game plan feeling good about it, Mike and everybody else. We didn't execute the game plan the way we wanted to. But I'm behind everything that we've done offensively and am excited about the direction we're going to continue to go from there."

Smith was asked if the plan going into Sunday's game was to have a 4-to-1 pass-to-run ratio – Cutler's 39 passes, the six sacks and two scrambles compared to 12 runs by Matt Forte and Chester Taylor.

"That's what we did, so we're going to stay with that plan," Smith said. "Sometimes the plan changes during the course of a game. We're not happy with what happened, but we're not going to sit here now ... It's pretty easy in hindsight to say, 'We wish we would have done this a little bit better.' As I started off early on, I said, 'We need to have balance, more balance,' and that's what we'll do."

That's the second step.


RB Chester Taylor
Geoff Burke/Getty

PERSONNEL NOTES
Cutler's 43.3 completion percentage (17 of 39) Sunday was by far his worst of the season, and he was sacked six more times, partly because of his own failure to get rid of the ball or find the hot receiver in blitz situations. His passer rating of 69.4 dropped his season rating to 93.2. ...

Forte's average per carry for the season dipped to 3.9 yards after he was held to 11 yards on eight carries against the Seahawks. But his three catches for 40 yards boosted his season totals to a team-best 21 receptions for 271 yards and three touchdowns. He had six of the Bears' nine offensive touchdowns. ...

Taylor picked up 24 yards on a fourth-and-1 play in the fourth quarter, solidifying his role as the Bears' short-yardage specialist, but he had a total of just four carries for 31 yards. ...

TE Greg Olsen was shut out for the second straight week. He was targeted four times and dropped one catchable ball. ...

WR Devin Hester has become less of a factor in the base offense. He had two catches for 26 yards last week, but he tied the all-time NFL record with his 13th kick-return touchdown when he scored on an 89-yard punt return. ...

WR Johnny Knox accumulated a career-best 120 receiving yards on five catches. He leads the Bears with 392 receiving yards and a 21.8-yard average per catch, but he has yet to score. ...

WR Devin Aromashodu caught two passes for 40 yards, his first receptions since the season opener. ...

WR Earl Bennett caught three passes for 55 yards, including a season-long 36-yarder that increased his average per catch to 8.4 yards (16 catches for 135 yards). ...

LB Lance Briggs is expected back this week after missing last week's game with a sprained ankle. It was only the fourth game he's missed in his eight-year career. ...

DE Julius Peppers was held without a sack and still has just two, although he leads the Bears with nine QB pressures. ...

CB Zack Bowman left last week's game with a foot injury, and he probably will be questionable this week. Bowman started the first three games this season, but he has played behind Tim Jennings for the past three games. ...

DE Barry Turner was promoted from the Bears' practice squad to the active roster. He is an undrafted rookie out of Nebraska. ...

DE Charles Grant, who signed with the Bears two weeks ago but didn't get into a game, was released.


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