Jermon Bushrod just can’t figure it out.
“We work hard every day,” the Bears’ starting left tackle said after Thursday night’s 41-28 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. “We put in meeting time. I’ve never met as much as we meet with this team.
“We’re getting it. We’re getting it in the classroom. We’re practicing great. But we’re not starting like we want. The last few games, we’ve been a second-half team. But we’ve got to put it together, because it’s four quarters.”
The Bears’ offense added another frustrating chapter to a disappointing season Thursday night. They struggled in the first half against a Cowboys defense that seemed to be ready for everything they were doing. The Bears gained 104 total yards — including four rushing yards on seven carries. Matt Forte gained five yards on six carries.
It wasn’t until after they fell behind 35-7 late in the third quarter that the offense got into a groove. The Bears outgained the Cowboys 198-61 and outscored them 21-6 in the fourth quarter.
“We have to do a better job of executing [from the start],” Bushrod said. “I always point the finger at me first. We all have to continue to get better. We all have to find a way to get better. That’s it. Slow starts put you in bad positions in the second half. If we had another quarter it might be a different story, but you only get four.”
Execution again was the culprit against the Cowboys. The Bears tried to establish the run. But after Matt Forte gained two yards on the Bears’ first offensive play of the game, he was tackled in the backfield for losses on two of his next three rushes.
“Lack of execution,” Forte said. “We either miss a block here or [we’re] blocking the wrong person there.”
“Technique stuff,” center Roberto Garza said. “Not getting on the right [blocking] targets on people. They had a good plan for us. We had to make some adjustments. But by that time, the game was taking on a different life.”
Is the run game just out of sync?
“There’s no way to explain it,” said Forte, who finished with 26 yards on 13 carries. “I don’t have an answer to that question.”
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The Bears were at a loss to explain a lot of things Thursday night — like how they can play better earlier in the game.
“The stuff we did in the second half — do it in the first half. It’s as easy as that,” Forte said. “The mistakes you make in the first half that kill drives — don’t make ‘em.”
If only the solution to the Bears’ offensive woes was that easy, they wouldn’t be in the position they are in today — 5-8 and all but out of the playoff picture.
Even Forte contributed to the Bears’ demise in the second half when he fumbled at the Bears 31-yard line after a 21-gain on a short pass from Jay Cutler. Three plays later, Tony Romo threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to Cole Beasley to give the Cowboys a 21-7 lead with 12:32 left in the third quarter.
“We were in it, it was 14-7 [at halftime],” Garza said. “[We] came out at half and do what we’ve done all year — just shoot ourselves in the foot.
“That’s a play that doesn’t happen to Matt Forte. He’s a heluva running back. A guy that sets the tempo for us. It’s something we wish we could have back. But it’s the way our season has gone this year unfortunately.”
The Bears’ fourth-quarter rally was mostly garbage-time points. After Dante Rosario recovered an onside kick, they got within 10 points at 38-28 after Cutler scrambled for a 10-yard touchdown run with 6:09 left. But the Cowboys recovered the next onside kick and kicked a field goal to put it out of reach.
Still, the late surge had more of a fool’s-gold feeling to it than something to actually build on. But the Bears didn’t quite see it that way.
“You can call it garbage all you want,” Bushrod said. “They’re still rushing hard. You’re one-dimensional. You’re making offensive line’s job tougher. Quarterback’s job is tougher. Receivers’ job is tougher. So you can call it garbage. But for a quarter and a half, we were pass protecting and we fought to keep guys off of Jay to the best of our ability. But we were down. If we would have helped us out in the beginning more, we wouldn’t be in these situations.”
It gave the Bears hope — perhaps false hope — that they can execute their offense.
“We have to play like we did [from] the middle of the third quarter on,” Cutler said when asked about his expectations for the offense in the final three games. “We’ve got to play up-tempo. We’ve got to have some energy out there. We’ve got to have guys making plays. Obviously we want to run the ball better. We’ve got to [eliminate] the penalties.
“The guys in that locker room, especially offensively, we know we haven’t lived up to expectations and we’ve got a chance these next three games to play better. We’re obviously not going to fix the season by any means. Trying to end on a better note would help.”