Bears' run game fuels play-action passes

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice explained Thursday exactly how the team’s running game makes the passing game go, stressing the club’s play-action passing game is virtually non-existent without the legitimate threat of the run.

“Play-actions don’t work when you can’t run the ball,” Tice said. “Typically throughout the league, if you look at it, most of the big shots are coming off play-action because you’re not getting that really quick pass rush where you’re emptying out the backfield and then (the defense is thinking), ‘O.K., they’re not running it. There’s no running back there. So here we come.’ When you go play-action, you get an opportunity to make them start and restart. When you do that, you can get some of those big shots down the field.”

Chicago’s passing numbers on play-action attempts indicate as much. Through the first five games, quarterback Jay Cutler has completed 65.4 percent of play-action attempts, according to ESPN Stats & Information, for 372 yards and three touchdowns to go with only one interception and a passer rating of 122.8. On play-action attempts, Cutler averages 10.5 yards per completion.

So it’s clear opponents respect the team’s ability to run.

Adding further evidence to that is the difference in Cutler’s success rate throwing the ball out of formations featuring three or more receivers versus what the quarterback does when passing out of two-receiver sets. With three or more wideouts in the formation, Cutler completes 55.8 percent of his passes. When the team executes out of two-receiver sets -- which is what the team typically uses on play-action passes -- Cutler has completed 60 percent of his throws with six completions for gains of 30 yards or more.

“We have to look at what we’re trying to do offensively, and there are a number of different types of plays that have to be thrown out,” Tice said. “Anything where Jay is holding onto the football, we have to be careful how much of those types of things we have in (the playbook). You have to be rhythmic.”

Running the ball consistently and throwing off play-action establishes that.