The Chicago Bears are on a five-game winning streak, but the way local sports radio hosts are sounding makes you think that the team was disappointing. The main reason is that expectations have been raised and while the defense certainly has risen to the challenge, the offense hasn't quite lived up to its billing.
This Sunday the team travels to Nashville to face a Titans defense that has given up more points than any team in the NFL. For Jay Cutler and the Bears offense, this may just be exactly what the doctor ordered.
When Phil Emery traded for All-Pro wideout Brandon Marshall this summer, the offense was suddenly thrust into the spotlight. It was as if the defense, long the kingpin in this city, had ceased to exist.
Adding a powerful backup running back in Michael Bush and drafting a talented receiver in Alshon Jeffery only served to stoke the hype for an offense that was supposed to carry a team with an aging defense.
Yet so far, it has been quite the opposite. The defense seemingly has to make a big play to wake up the offense.
This past Sunday, the Bears had negative yards on offense until all-world cornerback Tim Jennings intercepted a pass in the third quarter, and then it was as if an alarm clock went off in Jay Cutler's head. Suddenly, the Bears were able to actually move the ball and put points on the board.
In fact, they were able to put exactly one more point on the scoreboard than Carolina. Call it an ugly win if you must, but it's time to prepare for the Titans. It's time to move on.
Just because time marches on, though, it does not mean all of the team's problems are magically solved. The offense went 23 drives scoring only one touchdown prior to their score early in the fourth quarter of the Panthers game.
Yes, before the defense helped wake up Cutler and the offense, Jay had been playing poorly. It was not all his fault, mind you. The offensive line struggled to give him time to throw and receivers dropped passes.
Yet make no mistake, Jay was not at his best and the offense certainly was not clicking on all cylinders. Well, it's time to get healthy against Tennessee and here's how.
- Commit to the run: I sound like a broken record, but the Bears usually win the game when they commit to the run and stick to it. Fifteen carries by Matt Forte and just three for Michael Bush won't cut it vs. the Titans.
- Find Earl Bennett: Much was made of the fact that Bennett was coming back, and the chemistry between he and Cutler would lead to great things. Then the Bears went out and failed to throw him a pass for almost three quarters. That has to change.
- Throw to the tight ends: Again, it's as if the Bears forgot that Kellen Davis was suited up until Cutler hit him with an X-throw. He may not be the weapon he should be, but he should be able to catch more than one pass in the Titans game.
- Take what the defense gives: Cutler needs to do what he did on that final drive—quick slants to Bennett, Marshall and Forte, exposing the soft underbelly of a defense trying to stop the long ball.
- Throw the occasional deep ball: In order to get the middle of the field opened up, the Bears need to take some shots downfield early in the game so the Titans defense plays quarters (cover 4) anticipating the deep ball. They need to put the fear of the long pass into the minds of Tennessee and then take advantage of that when it opens up.
- Throw it away: Cutler needs to recognize pressure and throw the ball away instead of hanging onto it too long and taking the sack.
- Roll out: I'd like to see more plays designed to allow Cutler to roll out and use his mobility.
- Find a way to get more yards on first down. Second-and-eight or more just isn't cutting it. Forcing Cutler into an obvious pass play on third down is hurting the offense.
No matter what the Bears do this weekend, they should have a better game offensively just based on their opponent. Last week was also the best of all wake-up calls for the team, as they played poorly yet still won, so they shouldn't be taking the Titans lightly this week.
Hopefully, the offense uses this opportunity to rebound.