To Bears fans who are worried about Thursday night’s poor offensive showing: Don’t be too alarmed. It will get better … and then probably worse. And then better again … and probably … OK, you get the point.
Despite all of the shiny new toys the Bears’ front office brought in this past offseason for QB Jay Cutler, the combination of poor pass protection and Cutler’s easily ruffled feathers will make Chicago’s offense the streakiest in the league.
There’s no doubt Cutler and Co. will explode for troves of points, as they did when they scored 41 against the Colts in Week One. Cutler and WR Brandon Marshall will give defenses fits — the pair connected 206 times for 2,590 yards and 13 TDs in their two full seasons in Denver — and rookie WR Alshon Jeffery should exploit single coverage for TDs early and often. And with a two-headed monster at running back and solid depth at wide receiver, the Bears’ offense might be unstoppable at times.
But, as we saw in Green Bay Thursday night, its low points could rival the worst in football. While Packers OLB Clay Matthews was literally trying to count his sack total on his fingers — he tallied 3½ of Green Bay’s seven sacks — Bears fans were painfully reminded of the team’s awful offensive line. For the second consecutive game, Cutler was sacked on the offense’s first play for a loss of more than 10 yards. The Packers hit Cutler on more than a third of his dropbacks (12 of 35) and forced him to scramble on several more. And it wasn’t just OLT J’Marcus Webb getting burned; Green Bay overwhelmed every part of the line, with eight different players getting QB hits and five collecting at least a piece of a sack.
Complicating the O-line woes further, Cutler’s patience and resolve routinely evaporate when he faces pressure, leading to forced throws that end in interceptions, like the four he threw Thursday night. As Packers DB Charles Woodson put it after the game, “We just need to be in position; Jay will throw us the ball.” Equally worrisome are the profanity-laced tirades and disgusted body gestures Cutler directs at his teammates when things aren’t going well.
Cutler’s antics seem to rub off on Marshall at times, whose lack of patience as a receiver is well documented. Marshall appeared to lose focus while blanketed in double coverage all night, dropping the first pass in his direction (a potential 27-yard TD catch) and turning late to come back for a pass in the endzone in the fourth quarter.
Obviously, the Bears will work to try to fix the O-line issues in the future. Establishing a run game and calling for more quick passes and screens will slow down opposing pass rushers, while more players will stay in to block on longer-developing plays. So, the offense should rebound, playing with the lead and racking up points like there were never any issues.
Just look at Week One: After completing just one of his first 10 passes with a pick-six against the Colts, Cutler completed 20 of his final 25 passes for 320 yards. Marshall caught nine balls for 119 yards and a TD, both running backs scored, and the Bears eclipsed 40 points for the first time since December of 2010.
But issues on the line will surface eventually. Improvement during Week One came largely after Colts’ OLB Dwight Freeney left with an ankle injury, allowing Chicago to double-team OLB Robert Mathis. With the dangerous pass rushes of the Rams, Lions (twice), Texans, 49ers, Vikings (twice), Seahawks and Packers (again) waiting on the schedule, how often will the Bears’ offense slip into its funk? And with the erratic and pouting Cutler at quarterback, how deep will that funk go?