Chicago Bears: Quiet Confidence Gives Rise To Offensive Line Hopes
No one will ever accuse guard Roberto Garza of being a moth: a pro athlete who seeks out the lights of television cameras.
He rarely says a lot, but what he did say after Sunday's 27-13 Bears victory over the Minnesota Vikings at Soldier Field communicated a great deal about the possibility of a positive finish to the regular season for his team.
"I think every time we got on the field and created big plays our confidence is building, and we started that last week and we kept building on that," Garza said.
By far the greatest problem facing the Bears over the past few years has been their offensive line.
It hasn't been the offensive coordinator, even though they fired one.
It hasn't been the running backs, although Matt Forte took a bunch of unwarranted criticism last year when he tried playing almost the entire season on a bad knee.
It hasn't been quarterback Jay Cutler, although he certainly has thrown more than his share of stupid interceptions.
Most of Cutler's mistakes, the poor running game, and about any other ill besetting the team came down to the offensive line's struggles to provide time to pass or holes to run.
They didn't have the right group together from the start, then injuries hit and offensive line coach Mike Tice searched for the right combination. It appears they have it.
How many wins will it take for the Bears to win the NFC North over Green Bay?
So much of offensive line play comes from repetition, communication and confidence, mainly confidence. It's hard to be confident when all hell is breaking loose and the quarterback is getting sacked nine times by the New York Giants in one half.
However, two straight games with the same group, with the five players they deem their best five offensive linemen, and the Bears' offense worked like it hasn't against a decent opponent all season.
This wasn't the Buffalo Bills defense that ranked last against the run. It wasn't the Carolina Panthers, who fell all over themselves. Admittedly it was a fast-fading Vikings defense, but one that still had four Pro Bowl players among the front seven. The Bears line handled them just fine.
"They felt like they did a great job of keeping the guys in front of them," Cutler said of his line. "We didn't see as much blitzing today as we expected, but with those front four that they have they didn't really need to.
"We've got to take a look at it, but those guys are finally coming together. It's a new group. We've been shipping guys in there left and right and finally have got a group that has a little bit of consistency and have got a few games under their belt."
Two straight games of 58 percent conversions on third downs—11-of-19 on Sunday—have made some possession time possible and longer drives, too.
"We’ve played the same group (of linemen) two weeks in a row, too," Smith said. "That may have a little bit to do with it.
"But this is the crew we want to go with. They should get better, just like our football team.
"We just passed the halfway point of the season. So much football is left to go. We haven’t peaked yet by any means.”
In the past, some Bears, and even Smit, had a tendency to gloat about proving the critics, the media and nay-saying fans wrong. Beating Dallas, Carolina, Buffalo and Detroit had earned the Bears little respect.
Yet, beating Green Bay and Minnesota at home certainly counts for something.
Beating the Vikings by completely dominating the second half means even more.
And beating the Vikings with an offensive line that more than held its own but said little more than that they have to go out and keep getting better meant a lot about the future.
"For us it’s just going out there and competing and getting the job done," Garza said. "The past two weeks we’ve done that and we’ve been able to buildon that from the Buffalo game and now we’ll build on it from this week.
"It’s just the confidence of continuing to play together and building on that."
When an offensive line gains confidence, it can be dangerous. The Bears went eight games without much confidence in the line and still went 5-3.
It could be something special if that missing ingredient continues to build.
Gene Chamberlain is a rapid reporter for CBS Sports.com and his posts can be found at CBSsports.com/NFL/
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