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Sunday, September 19

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Bears Wed Sep 28 2011

No Easy Solution for Struggling Bears Offense

Thumbnail image for bears.gifThe Bears didn't look great Sunday afternoon, but after last week's charade in New Orleans, they met my minimum standard of competence, hanging with the defending Super Bowl champions for most of a 27-17 loss.

We all knew the Packers were the superior team; is there much to bemoan in the confirmation of that fact? References to last year's NFC Championship Game, as if the Bears were truly playing on a level field with their rivals from Cheese Country, always rang a bit hollow, and they sounded even worse as Jay Cutler once again sprayed the ball all over the yard and the Chicago running game disappeared entirely.

Ah yes, the running game. The Internet, at least the local tubes, is up in figurative arms about the running game.

The Bears, our beloved Monsters of the Midway, run less than any other team in the NFL and are among the worst in the league when they do. They throw more passes per game than all but seven teams ... and have been sacked as much as anyone.

This is not working; Football Outsiders ranks Chicago's offense 28th among 32 teams.

And even worse, Mike Martz's pass-happy scheme is unpalatable for generations of Bears fans raised on smashmouth football. At the first sign of failure, confusion and anxiousness turn to anger and frustration -- and we are well past the first signs.

What's the solution? I don't have a philosophical problem with throwing the ball most of the time, not in this era of legislated defensive patty-cake, and not even for a cold-weather team. Wind and snow haven't stopped Tom Brady in recent years.

The problem, though, is Jay Cutler is no Tom Brady. He has his moments, but he is a weekly reminder that accuracy and decision-making beat arm strength any day in today's NFL. Cutler usually is on the losing end of that equation.

How long will Martz beat his head against the wall, trying to turn Cutler into Kurt Warner? That experiment won't work -- at least not at a championship level.

But even with a dynamic running back in Matt Forte, it might not be as easy as calling more running plays. I'll trust Lovie Smith, Martz and Mike Tice to assess the specific talents of this present crop of offensive linemen, but nothing I've seen so far indicates the problems with Chicago's woeful offense can be solved with a simple change in tactics.

On the bright side, the Bears did pull off one of the greatest trick plays I've ever seen.

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