Would the real Bears offensive line please stand up? Maybe the one we’ve seen the past two weeks is not only standing up, but stepping up, and in a big way.
Would the real Bears offensive line please stand up?
Maybe the one we’ve seen the past two weeks is not only standing up, but stepping up, and in a big way.
A large portion of the blame for the Bears’ horrid slide last month was the bullfighter’s mentality on the offensive line. (You know: “Ole.”) Injuries to now-guards Roberto Garza and Chris Williams, depleting an already thin unit, were devastating. At times this year, the O-line wasn’t good even when healthy. But with a couple of hamstring pulls and tweaked ankles thrown into the mix, it got real ugly.
The Bears still lead the league in sacks allowed, giving up 33. They surrendered 23 in four games last month, including three straight weeks of four or more, topped off by a nine-sack effort against the Giants on Oct. 3.
“It’s been a rough stretch,” quarterback Jay Cutler said on Oct. 27. “I’m taking some hits; we’ve got to figure something out.”
Cutler was taking a beating, and it showed in his play — and not just in his physical ability to move around on the field, but in his decision-making and poise in the pocket.
He quickly developed happy feet on dropbacks, and it wasn’t helping his game. Cutler was more mistake-prone than ever when he began to get used to large defensive linemen in his face.
Last year’s interception leader was climbing back up the charts this year. The second-year QB threw four picks in a 17-14 loss to the Redskins, the last one coming shortly after he was hauled down in the backfield for the 19th time in his past three games.
Turn the page to the past two weeks: Cutler has been sacked just twice in two games, has thrown only two interceptions and the Bears are back on top of the NFC North with back-to-back wins.
“It feels good. The guys are out there fighting their butts off,” Williams said. “Everybody is starting to get a good feel for this offense. We’re figuring it out, and it’s all about confidence.”
Eight different players have played the line for the Bears’ offense, and three of them have started in multiple spots up front. They have gone with five different lineups in nine games.
On Sunday, they went with the same line for the second straight week; only the second time it’s happened this year. And it appeared to pay off quickly as the Bears allowed only one sack to a Vikings defense that had posted six sacks in an OT win over Arizona on Nov. 7.
With 13-year veteran Olin Kreutz at center, 10th-year player Garza at right guard, rookie J’Marcus Webb at right tackle, third-year lineman Williams at left guard and sixth-year NFL vet Frank Omiyale at left tackle, the Bears’ offense is in a bit of a groove.
Two weeks ago, first-year Bear Edwin Williams took his old seat on the bench and gave way to a healthy — and somewhat rejuvenated — Garza, and ever since the line has rolled.
“We’re believing in each other now, that’s the most important thing. Once we get that confidence built up, we know we can continue to get better,” Garza said. “It’s the confidence you start to build. When you get in that situation, you know players are going to make the big plays.
“Last week we had a good start; this week we looked a little better. Now we have to build on that.”
Chicago also has become a more balanced team since the line has started to jell; or has it been the other way around? Head coach Lovie Smith and offensive coordinator Mike Martz have put aside their egos for the team, and have utilized the running game more, going with 69 passing plays and 67 rushes during their two-game win streak.
The line has helped open holes for tailbacks Matt Forte, who had 21 carries for 69 yards Sunday, and Chester Taylor (11-33).
With a road trip to Miami Thursday and a home game Nov. 28 against the Eagles, two teams in the top-11 in the league in sacks, the line will have to continue to step up. If it does, then it can really stand up and take credit for a surging offense.
Jay Taft covers the Chicago Bears. He can be reached at 815-987-1384 or email@example.com.