Bears offense counts too much on Alshon Jeffery, his jump balls
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Throw the ball up and let receiver Alshon Jeffery do the rest.
That just about sums up Bears quarterback Jay Cutler’s thought process when the opportunity arises.
And, with two lackluster games as evidence, it’s all the Bears’ offense apparently has that works.
After the Eagles walloped the Bears 29-14 before a national-TV audience on ‘‘Monday Night Football,’’ it became more evident the Bears’ offense will go only as far as Cutler’s connection with Jeffery can take it, especially while it figures things out in the early going.
All of that comes with a caveat, of course: Both players must stay healthy. That didn’t happen against the Eagles. Cutler had a cast on his right (throwing) hand after injuring his thumb and leaving the game late in the third quarter. Backup Brian Hoyer finished up.
The offense looks like a mess after two games. It has been an inauspicious start for offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains. His offense has been responsible for only 21 points in losses to the Texans and Eagles.
‘‘[The offense] is not where it should be,’’ said Cutler, who completed
12 of 17 passes for 157 yards with an interception. ‘‘Everyone is a little taken aback by what happened during that game.
‘‘We had a good game plan. I know Dowell and the coaches are putting together good games plans. They’re calling good games. It’s kind of one thing after another that kills drives. We’ve got to figure it out.’’
Receiver Kevin White requires more time and practice. So does the offensive line.
The protection issues continued from the season opener last week against the Texans. The Eagles hit Cutler six times and had three sacks.
Cutler was jarred early by safety Malcolm Jenkins on a blitz. Rookie defensive tackle Destiny Vaeao forced a fumble while sacking Cutler in the third quarter, and defensive end Brandon Graham beat right tackle Bobby Massie in the second.
But nothing is more damning for the Bears’ offense than when a defense is able to take Jeffery out of the game. It has happened in consecutive weeks, and Loggains and Cutler have had no answers for it.
Against the Eagles, Jeffery beat rookie cornerback Jalen Mills on a stutter step early on a go route in the second quarter. He made a 49-yard catch down to the Eagles’ 5-yard line.
Two plays later, Jeffery drew a pass-interference penalty in the end zone on cornerback Nolan Carroll. Shortly thereafter, running back Jeremy Langford scored on a one-yard run to give the Bears a 7-3 lead.
Jeffery had three catches for 73 yards in the first half, then was shut out in the third quarter. He had 11- and 12-yard receptions in the fourth quarter with Hoyer in for Cutler, but the damage already had been done.
Against the Texans, Jeffery had four catches for 105 yards, including a 54-yarder to set the stage for veteran Eddie Royal’s 19-yard touchdown reception. But all of his production came in the first half. The Bears were shut out in the second half in Houston essentially because Jeffery was.
It’s the story of the Bears’ offense so far this season. Royal (four catches, 52 yards) remains Cutler’s second-best option, but he’s not enough. The power running game the Bears want has yet to find a spark.
In an offense filled with question marks, Jeffery is an exclamation point. But opponents are finding answers for him.
‘‘Like you’d expect, they rolled to him probably more than anybody else,’’ coach John Fox said. ‘‘That’s going to happen. We still have to execute with the guys around him better.’’