So, what gets trashed first?
Offensive coordinator Ron Turner said he’s ready to start paring back the playbook with the Bears clearly struggling seven games into the Jay Cutler era. At this point, following Sunday’s 30-6 victory over the Cleveland Browns at Soldier Field, it’s fair to say the Bears aren’t doing much of anything very well with the possible exception of the fact that Cutler is doing a decent job of getting the ball to Devin Hester on a regular basis.
Matt Forte, who rushed for the two offensive touchdowns, showed some signs yesterday and looked good on a 28-yard reception to pick up the game’s first first down. He got in some open space and took advantage of the room to run. But on the very next play Forte’s assignment was to pick up blitzing linebacker Eric Barton and he completely whiffed. Barton pressured Cutler and had it not been for a replay challenge by Lovie Smith that ruled the quarterback’s arm was moving forward when he lost the ball, the play would have gone for a 25-yard loss.
At the end of the day, too, Forte (and the offense as a whole) is going to be judged by 3.5 yards per carry (90 yards on 26 carries). The Browns entered allowing 171 yards per game and the Bears hit 170 with a 36-yard run by Garrett Wolfe down the sideline with 60 seconds remaining in the game.
Turner talked about players executing afterward and he’s right. Surely, his call accounted for Browns linebacker Kamerion Wimbley on third-and-goal from the Cleveland three-yard line early in the second quarter. With an empty backfield after Forte motioned out wide to the left, Wimbley came free off the left side. Tight end Greg Olsen released into the flat and left tackle Orlando Pace blocked down on right end Robaire Smith. I’m not going to venture a guess as to whose responsibility Wimbley was, but when you leave him unblocked what happens is an 11-yard sack and no shot at the end zone.
The Bears, who entered the game 19th in the league in red zone efficiency (10-for-20) were 2-for-7. Now, you can wipe out the last red zone trip because that occurred after Wolfe’s run in the final minute. Fine. But 2-for-6 isn’t any more acceptable. Not against the worst defense in the league.
“I’ll look at it, see what we need to do to give us a chance to get better, and if we’re doing too much, we’ll cut back,” Turner said. “Obviously, we are because we’re making too many mistakes. Just have to figure out what we do well, and that’s what we’ll do.”
1. Might not have gotten enough play coming out of the game, but the Bears did a terrific job corralling Pro Bowl return man Joshua Cribbs. His ability on special teams has been about the only offense for this moribund Browns team, and Dave Toub’s units really shut him down. Corey Graham was moved to an inside position on kickoff coverage, a spot that allowed him to make more plays. Press box statistics credited him with two tackles. We’ll see what Toub comes up with when he’s done reviewing film with his lieutenant Chris Tabor.
2. But how does Devin Hester get tackled on a a 32-yard return by punter Dave Zastudil? How much you wanna bet Hester hears about that one, in a playful way, for a while? Credit Zastudil with making a football play. A lot of players will tell you punters can’t make football plays.
3. Danieal Manning’s diving interception of a ball headed, well I’m not sure what Derek Anderson was thinking, was one of the most athletic picks you’ll see in a long time. Lovie Smith has long said he’s the most athletic defensive back on the roster. It’s good he showed up with some big plays, including the strip and fumble recovery later on. Now, if Al Afalava can show up making some plays.
4. I think we probably established that the Josh Beekman switch at left guard wasn’t the cure all for the offensive line. By no means am I writing Beekman off, but the troubles the team had previously along the line were at least as magnified with him replacing Frank Omiyale. Cutler was sacked a season-high four times. Not only were the Bears beat inside, they had the miscommunications on the outside that might have been the responsibilities of tight ends/backs and Cutler himself.
5. I’m just wondering … if the Browns and coach Eric Mangini waited until the final possession of the game to turn to pull Derek Anderson, well, how bad do they believe Brady Quinn really is? Got a message from one person who said it’s a financial decision, the Browns don’t want big-time bonus money to kick in next season for Quinn. Nonsense. They’re reeling right now. Mangini and general manager George Kokinis would do anything for a spark right now. It’s not a money decision, it’s a football decision. Quinn is too happy to check the ball down. Anderson gives them a downfield presence, but we sure didn’t see any evidence of it. With owner Randy Lerner saying after the game he wants a higher authority added to the organization, the Browns have a bigger mess on their hands than they did with Tim Couch as a No. 1 overall pick.
6. Just another solid day of work by right end Alex Brown, who beat Joe Thomas for a sack of Anderson,
and who pressured Anderson into the interception that Charles Tillman made and returned for a touchdown. Brown has 3 1/2 sacks on the season now. (Thanks to those who pointed out correctly it was Mark Anderson who rushed Derek Anderson into throwing the pick six).
7. I thought the false start belonged to fullback Jason McKie when the Bears had second-and-four at the Browns’ nine-yard line. Rewatching tape of the game, it appears right tackle Chris Williams jumped early. If so, that would be his fifth false start of the season. Williams didn’t have a great game. He lost leverage right away with Kenyon Coleman in being driven back into the backfield in the first quarter when he allowed a sack.
8. Raise your hand if you’ve seen enough of the Wildcat in the red zone. That five-yard loss for Hester, on another play made by the Browns’ Coleman, followed the Williams’ false start. The Bears have never run the wildcat real well. Why not get the ball to Hester in space?
9. The good news is if Tommie Harris has an idea about his schedule this week, he’ll be practicing all three days in preparation for the Arizona game. Harris certainly didn’t dominate but he seemed happy after the game. With Kurt Warner coming to town Sunday, the Bears are going to have to generate a pass rush to disrupt him. Harris called it Week 1 for him, and I don’t buy that, but whatever it takes to get him going, right?
10. Browns running back Jamal Lewis said after the game he will likely retire after the season. Who doesn’t want off the Browns’ ship right now?
And, finally, Cutler on the roughing the passer penalty on Wimbley that jump-started the team’s first touchdown drive:
“You can’t depend on roughing the passer penalties to always be your momentum. You’re not always going to get those,” he said. “We’ve got to get some big runs, we’ve got to get some big passes, and get the wheels going a little bit.
“If we’re going to bank on a pass interference or roughing the passer we’re going to be in trouble.”
For now, Turner might want to keep that roughing the passer play call in the playbook. That one is working.