Lovie: Time to go back to work

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith expressed disappointment in the entire team Monday after its 27-17 loss to the Green Bay Packers, stressing that it’s “time to go back to the practice field, not the drawing board.”

For the second consecutive outing, the Bears struggled to crank up the rushing attack, in part because of play-calling tilted more toward the pass, as quarterback Jay Cutler missed the mark on several throws and the team, overall, committed several needless penalties “that we have to eliminate.”

“I’m disappointed in what I -- what we -- have done right now,” Smith said. “Believe me, we’re not patting each other on the back. We split our season up into quarters and of course, the plan wasn’t to lose a couple of games. To end this first quarter, we have an opportunity to go 2-2. You have to kind of look at the big picture because if you just look at the game yesterday, a lot of disappointment. We didn’t start out fast, got ourselves in a hole right away. When you play a great football team, the Super Bowl champs, you can’t do that. We’re going to all, of course, take blame for it.”

But the team can’t afford to spend too much time beating itself up over missed opportunities. At 1-2, the Bears appear to be at somewhat of a crossroads heading into Sunday’s game against the Carolina Panthers.

The Bears started off with a 1-3 record just three times in Smith’s tenure, with the club recovering from the slow start only once (2005). The other two times they started 1-3, the Bears finished 7-9 (2007) and 5-11 (2005).

“We have to start making some improvements to correct some of these things and get back on a winning track,” Smith said.

Smith said he sees signs that provide an optimistic outlook about the road ahead for the Bears. They face the Panthers on Sunday before back-to-back NFC North matchups at Detroit and at home against the Minnesota Vikings. The Bears are third in the division, but a win over the 3-0 Lions on Oct. 10 could mark the first step in the right direction toward getting back into the hunt in the divisional race.

“We didn’t play well, but I just see signs,” Smith said. “We’re going to get some injured guys back. It’s not like we’re getting blown out of games or anything like that. It’s a long football season. We’ll go back to the practice field, clean up some things and be ready to go.”

One deficiency worth tidying up is the lopsided pass-run ratio called over the past two weeks by offensive coordinator Mike Martz. The Bears have thrown the ball 82 times against the Saints and Packers, while tallying just 12 rushing attempts over the same span.

Smith didn’t take issue with the pass-run balance against the Packers because the ground game wasn’t churning out yardage.

Running back Matt Forte ran six times for 2 yards in the first half, and despite the team only trailing by 7 going into the second half, the team resorted to passing again instead of trying to re-establish the run. The tactic dug the Bears deeper into an already chaotic situation, and through Chicago’s first three drives of the second half, the offense generated minus-19 yards on nine plays, with the running back taking just two handoffs for minus-3 yards.

“Of course we didn’t have a lot of balance,” Smith said. “I thought [the Saints game] was a totally different situation, and we needed to run the football more. I can’t say that [about Sunday]. We did what we needed to do on a day like that, when the run’s not working, start throwing the football. When you get behind, you’re going to do whatever you need to do to win the game. We had a couple of drops. We missed a couple of throws. But that’s how that game went.”

Obviously, it can’t continue.

Smith discussed the Bears finishing the game injury free as one of the few “bright spots” from Sunday’s loss. The club anticipates the potential return of backup running back Marion Barber, improved health from receiver Roy Williams, who couldn’t come up with any of the four passes thrown his way against the Packers.

Right guard Lance Louis, who was active, but didn’t play against the Packers, might be in the fold as well against the Panthers, along with safeties Chris Harris and Major Wright.

Smith dismissed the notion that as a defensive coach he might not be as involved in every phase of the team’s game planning, which might explain the skewed pass-run ratio. Smith vowed that he’d devote more time in all phases to create somewhat of a trickle-down effect.

“I spend time in all three phases; guess I need to spend more,” he said. “The head coach does a better job, [and] it kind of trickles down a little bit. Believe me, I’ll be trying to do that this week.”