Forced throws, dropped balls and inconsistent blocking tripped up Chicago’s offense early on, but the Bears still seized a 10-3 lead over the St. Louis Rams on the strength of Robbie Gould’s 54-yard field goal in the first quarter and a Michael Bush touchdown run at the end of the opening half.
Defensively, the Bears continued their stingy ways with a front four that registered three sacks of Rams quarterback Sam Bradford in the first two quarters.
So if there are any adjustments to be made, they fall solely on the offense. Here are a few suggestions:
Run the ball more: The Bears don’t seem to have fully committed themselves to running the ball despite Bush, Kahlil Bell and Devin Hester combining in the first half for respectable numbers. By what the Bears have done so far with the ground attack, they’ve been able to dominate time of possession. In fact with 1:56 left in the first half, the Bears were leading time of possession 19:19 to 8:45. We’ve said it here over and over again: the Bears can run all the play action passes they want. But if they haven’t shown any type of commitment to the run, the play fakes aren’t believable to the defense.
Through the first two quarters, Bush has been a pounder. The Bears should continue to let him pound, which will enable them later to hit big off playaction.
The Bears ran the ball 19 times for 77 yards in the first two quarters, but the attempts need to increase even more.
Eliminate the mistakes: Whether it’s false starts, errant throws or dropped passes, the Bears have hurt themselves too much already, and it’s somewhat surprising that St. Louis hasn’t been able to capitalize. Brandon Marshall has dropped at least two passes so far, as has Alshon Jeffery. But the receivers aren’t the only problem here. Cutler hasn’t been exactly accurate thus far. Perhaps that explains his passer rating of 44.8 and the fact he’s already thrown an interception.
The Bears need to pick up where they left off in the second quarter, when they moved the ball efficiently on the way to extending their lead. During that drive, Cutler completed 5 of 6 for 46 yards and offensive coordinator Mike Tice called a nice mix of runs and passes, which kept the Rams off balance on a scoring drive capped by Bush’s 3-yard run.
Win matchups up front: The Bears operated out of the one-back, double tight end formation for several plays in the first half. But when they do that they’re using maximum protection, which means the Bears get just two receivers out on the route. Well, it’s much easier for the Rams to cover just two receivers as opposed to four or five. But the Bears can run multiple receivers out on routes because they need them blocking for Cutler.
So if the Bears want to start using more three- and four-receiver sets, the offensive linemen need to win their individual battles so Tice won’t continue to give them help from running backs and tight ends on passing plays. The Bears can’t execute the full play book until they can adequately protect Cutler. The offensive line hasn’t shown that capability consistently enough just yet. But it definitely needs to.