In the interest of better overall execution and keeping quarterback Jay Cutler upright and in one piece for the remainder of the season, the Bears' offense might be more basic Sunday against the Cardinals at Soldier Field in a battle of 4-3 teams.
Asked about the execution of the Bears' offense shortly after Sunday's sloppy victory over the Browns, frustrated coordinator Ron Turner seemed on the verge of borrowing a line from former Buccaneers coach John McKay and saying, "I'm in favor of it."
But instead, Turner hinted that it might be time to focus on running fewer plays with better precision, as opposed to more plays with shoddy execution.
The offensive shortcomings were most noticeable in two areas. Pass protection was lax, as Cutler was battered by a Browns defense that came into the game ranked 27th in sack percentage, and in the red zone, the Bears scored just two touchdowns in seven opportunities.
Although coach Lovie Smith is much more involved with the defense than the offense, he didn't disagree with the idea of scaling back the attack.
"As a general rule, if we're making mistakes – offensively, defensively special teams – you take back," Smith said. "That's the first step, to just be perfect in that area and give ourselves a chance to be successful. That is what stopped us a little bit [against the Browns]. We, of course, will consider that."
Critics of the Bears' offense, including many of the fans Sunday at Soldier Field, have lamented the underutilization of deep threats Devin Hester, Johnny Knox and tight end Greg Olsen. But it's risky to call for long passes that require time to develop when the offensive line can't keep the rush off Cutler on intermediate routes. He was sacked four times against the Browns and used as a human trampoline on a couple other plays by 350-pound Shaun Rogers.
"I'm not pleased with the amount of sacks," Smith said. "Whenever you have your quarterback sacked four times, it isn't good. And then our red-zone production, we have to do a better job of getting touchdowns once we get down there. Instead of settling for field goals from time to time, we need to get touchdowns."
Cutler has now been sacked 15 times while throwing 239 passes in seven games. He was sacked just 11 times all of last year in Denver while throwing 616 passes. But Smith said he's not overly concerned about the 6-3, 233-pound Cutler getting roughed up.
WR Johnny Knox
AP Images: Charles Rex Arbogast
"I think each game you have about 22 guys that get roughed up," Smith said. "That's a part of football as I see it. The quarterback is a part of that. Jay is a tough player. Some games it will be that way. That's why you need big, strong, tough guys playing quarterback for you to be able to handle those things. But again, that's not an ideal world for us to be in, for our guy to get hit like that. That's how it goes sometimes."
Substituting Josh Beekman for Frank Omiyale at left guard didn't pay any immediate dividends for the Bears' beleaguered offensive line. But in Beekman's defense, he drew a tough opponent in Rogers. Smith didn't seem to indicate that additional changes were imminent.
"We're still having some struggles," he said, "and each week we evaluate what we've done, look at it hard, which we're doing, and then make decisions from there. I don't see any major shakeups or anything like that this week. We're just going to stay with what we believe in, and we'll have more and more success with some of the areas we're not satisfied with right now."
NOTES AND QUOTES
As bad as the 1-6 Browns are offensively and defensively, they are one of the NFL's better special-teams units. But the Bears clearly were better in that phase, too, last week.
Cleveland's Josh Cribbs entered the game as the NFL leader with a punt-return average of 16.4 yards, but he did not have a single yard against the Bears.
Despite a 12-yard shank, Brad Maynard placed three of his five punts out of bounds, had another downed at the 1-yard line and forced Cribbs to fair catch another. Three of Maynard's punts were downed inside the Browns' 20-yard line.
Cribbs, who was among the league leaders with a 28.9-yard kickoff return average, averaged just 22.8 yards against the Bears on six tries, with a long of only 25 yards.
"I thought our coverage units on the special teams did a great job of holding down a great player throughout the day," Smith said. "We wanted to slow him down a little bit but never thought we would be able to shut him out like that. It starts with the kicks, and the coverage units [take it] from there." ...
Assistant defensive backs coach Gill Byrd's son, Jairus, is a rookie safety with the Buffalo Bills, and he leads the NFL with seven interceptions, including two in each of the last three games.
"Seven!" the coach said on his way out of the locker room Sunday evening. "That's unbelievable."
Gill Byrd was a two-time Pro Bowl player who had an 11-year career with the Chargers and led all NFL cornerbacks in interceptions for three straight seasons (1989-91). He is the Chargers' all-time leading interceptor with 42, but the most he ever had in a season was seven, although he did it three times. ...
In the interest of keeping all of Cutler's body parts in working order, Turner said the Bears may consider using more moving pockets in the future to avoid the pass rush.
"It just keeps the defense off balance a little bit," Turner said. "They don't know where he's going to be every time. Jay's very good when he gets outside the pocket. Some of that he does on his own. We call a drop-back, and he scrambles and makes things happen. It's something we can mix in a little bit. We're not going to go crazy with it. But it might be something we look at a little. We've done it some, and we'll probably continue to do it a little bit." ...
Browns linebacker Kamerion Wimbley was fined $7,500 for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Cutler, which also drew a 15-yard penalty.
"It doesn't help me out any," Cutler said. "He might lose a little bit of money, but that's how it goes."
That was just one of several hits Cutler took last Sunday, but he wasn't complaining on Wednesday.
"I'm a little sore," he said. "It's nothing I can't work through. I'll be ready on Sunday."
QUOTE TO NOTE
"Kurt is a lifetime friend. It was great being with him in St. Louis. He's a competitor, of course, a great player and all that, great guy. After the game, I'm looking forward to seeing him then, and I cheer for him whenever they're not playing us. But this, week it'll be a little bit different. But he's a lifetime friend." – Coach Lovie Smith on Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner
Agree? Disagree? Let your voice be heard on our message board RIGHT HERE
Bear Report: The only publication exclusively dedicated to your Chicago Bears.