With half the season in the rearview mirror, the Bears’ offense still plays like it’s not quite sure of itself at times.
It is ranked 25th in the league in yards per game — that is actually one slot below where it was ranked at the end of last season, shortly before offensive coordinator Mike Martz (who also occasionally functioned as Jay Cutler’s whipping boy) was dismissed and Mike Tice was promoted to replace him.
Through the first eight games with Tice calling the plays, the Bears’ offense has had some very slow starts, and then it also has had days where good starts and finishes sandwich an empty middle portion of the game when it falls into one of those prolonged funks Tice has bemoaned but not really figured out how to prevent, as far as we can tell.
The offensive ups and downs have not kept the team from getting off to a 7-1 start — thanks in large part to an historically impressive scoring effort from the league’s most opportunistic defense — but Sunday night the Bears will host the 7-1 Texans.
Houston will be the best team the Bears have played since losing to the Packers in Week Two, and for the first time in a while, a complete game from the offense might be needed for the Bears to get a win.
Tice took heat for his game plan that Thursday night at Lambeau Field in Week Two, when Cutler threw four interceptions and was sacked seven times. OLT J’Marcus Webb was put in too many one-on-one matchups against one of the league’s elite pass rushers, OLB Clay Matthews, and Cutler paid the price. This is Tice’s first season as an offensive coordinator, and Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers, who has been around the block more than a few times, won his battle against a first-year offensive coordinator who admitted later that he was overconfident heading into that game.
Tice has not totally alleviated concerns since then, and those skeptical of his play-calling acumen are going to get much louder if one of the story lines coming out Sunday night’s contest is that Tice was schooled by wise Wade Phillips, another of the league’s most veteran and highly respected defensive coordinators.
There is not much shame in losing, even at home, to a team as talented as this season's Texans. However, losing because they were outcoached on offense — that would be a different and much more concerning matter for the Bears.
On the other hand, a strong and well-coached performance by the Bears’ offense against Houston’s third-ranked defense will give the unit the momentum and confidence it could certainly use heading into another tough test against an even stingier defense — the 49ers’ — in Week 11.