The bus is either in the junk yard to be sold for parts, or it’s on the side of the Interstate somewhere, stripped down by a band of thieves.
The bus I am writing about is the one that Lovie Smith used to announce the Bears got off of running.
Thankfully, we haven’t heard that refrain of late because, you know what, it’s not accurate anymore. The Bears don’t get off the bus running. They get off the bus throwing the ball. The Bears rank 30th in the league rushing with only Arizona (which has a promising rookie in Beanie Wells) and San Diego (which has a future Hall of Famer in LaDainian Tomlinson) below them. The difference is those teams have passing attacks that are winning for them.
But Smith, for some reason, still insists the Bears are a running team. Matt Forte has shown flashes at times this season, but the combination of Forte and the offensive line simply have not gotten the job done. Smith was asked about Jay Cutler’s career-high five interceptions on Thursday at San Francisco and whether or not the lack of a running game contributed to the flurry of turnovers. Hey, you could say they get off the bus throwing interceptions, often in the red zone.
“Jay’s our quarterback,” Smith responded. “A lot goes into when you turn the ball over with an interception. Of course the quarterback will get blamed for it all. All of those weren’t his fault. The running game will help that a lot. We need to get our running game going. We’ve said that all along. When you’re a running team, the run will set up the pass. That hasn’t happened for us yet but we’ll stay committed to it. We’ll try to run this week. Hopefully, some of that can change.”
Maybe that is one of the fundamental problems for the Bears this season. They don’t have an identity. Has Smith miscast them as a running team? Are his expectations something that is unrealistic? Should the Bears look at themselves as a passing team and work to find ways to improve in that area? Just look at the numbers. The Bears have run the ball 201 times. They’ve passed it 340 times, putting them on pace for 604 attempts. That would be the second-most in franchise history behind only the razzle dazzle Gary Crowton brought to the offense in 1999.
The Bears are averaging only 85.2 yards rushing per game. That has them on pace for 1,363 yards rushing, which is just about what they produced during 2007, another post-Super Bowl XLI disaster.
If the Bears truly are a running team, well, they’re worse off than anyone imagined.