LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Add offensive line play to the reasons the Chicago Bears might be willing to open up the playbook even further this week.
The somewhat conservative game plan Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals was not just because the Bears are still learning a new playbook under new coach Marc Trestman. With four new offensive linemen, two of them rookies, it was no time to get fancy.
The fact that the line was relatively in sync and didn't give up a sack against a formidable defensive front from the Bengals eased a major Week 1 concern.
"I think at the end of the day we want to make sure we protect and we're able to get rid of the ball," quarterback Jay Cutler said. "We don't want to take sacks. We want to keep the front five confident, keep myself confident and believing in those guys, but at the same time we have to play football. We have to take advantage of things defenses are giving us. If that requires us taking a shot or getting five out, that's what we have to do."
Of course looming on the other side of the ball this week will be Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen, not to mention defensive tackle Kevin Williams. The responsibility for keeping Allen in check Sunday will fall to Bears left tackle Jermon Bushrod.
"I thought we did well (last week)," Bushrod said. "I thought we had a lot of ups and we had some downs, but as a line, as a unit, we corrected them for the most part. We tried to minimize our individual mistakes and our playmakers made plays. That's what it's all about."
Of course, none of those positives happen if rookies Kyle Long and Jordan Mills don't step up and play like experienced linemen. Long graded out slightly lower than Mills, but was effective nonetheless.
"They're coming along really well," Bushrod said of the rookies. "First NFL game those guys played the way they played against a defense like that, a front seven like that, it's pretty good. If they can continue to build off that, the sky's the limit for those two."
Long, who missed a few blocking assignments early, was hard on himself. That seems to be as much about self-motivation as much as it was a true analysis of the game tape.
"The way I look at it, we did give up zero sacks, but at the same time I thought I played terrible," Long said. "Looking at the film I wish I could have had a lot of those snaps back. There were certain things I wish I could have done better so I think the pressure's on every week. I'm my biggest critic. I know there are dozens of (media) microphones here, but I'm the one who writes my own negative news stories about myself, in my head, trying to keep me on my toes."
If Long's motivation ploys keep working and the entire line continues to get better, the Bears' playbook figures to get dog-eared fairly quickly.
"We had two new guys on the right side and four new guys in general, and as we progressed in the game I think I got more comfortable," Cutler said. "Marc got more comfortable in calling plays and being able to trust them. Even looking at the film on Monday, there were times when I was moving around that I could have stepped up and I didn't. That's just gaining trust in those guys, not only in a game but during a season, and I will have more and more trust with them."
As far as Long being hard on himself, Cutler laughed saying, "Kyle doesn't know what kind of game he had."
Cutler isn't laughing at Long's play, but the reality is that the rookie still has at least a little catching up to do, not only with the level of play in the NFL, but because he only became an offensive lineman during his junior year in college.
"He's doing a good job," Cutler said. "I think his mistakes are magnified because those other four guys are doing a great job and they don't make a lot of mistakes. When somebody does it's usually him because he's so young and doesn't have as much experience as everybody else. We're just trying to get him up to speed with the rest of those guys but if he keeps playing the way he's playing and gets better and better, we're not going to have any problems."