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updated: 8/22/2011 11:15 PM

Bears' offense still lacking identity

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  • New York Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw gets past the Bears' Brian Urlacher (54) and Ricky Henry (69) during Monday's first quarter at the Meadowlands.

    New York Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw gets past the Bears' Brian Urlacher (54) and Ricky Henry (69) during Monday's first quarter at the Meadowlands.


One big difference right now between the Bears and the Giants was on display Monday night, especially in the first half when the real players were in the game.

The Giants were more physical from offense to defense to special teams, which never is supposed to happen to the Bears.

It could be that the Giants are bigger and stronger. Or it could be that they have a better idea who they are, especially on offense.

Win, lose or, in the old days, tie the result didn't matter as much as whether the Bears and Giants beat up and bloodied opponents.

The Giants won this one 41-13, but that was about as important as anything the Cubs do on the field these days.

More important was how the Giants did it to the Bears.

"We've got some new parts in there, some new players and new offensive linemen," quarterback Jay Cutler tried to explain. "Everyone is working through it, so overall we're working through it and we made some steps."

If so, the Bears still made more mistakes and not enough plays. The red zone was more the stink zone.

The Bears' attack still looks out of sync in offensive coordinator Mike Martz's second season, and it might be because the players don't know what they're supposed to be.

Are the Bears a traditional running team? Didn't look like it. Or are they itching to be the latest version of Martz's greatest show on any surface? Didn't look like that either.

Obviously the Bears want to balance running and passing. But a team still needs to have an identity, and if the coaches know what the Bears' is they should let the players.

The Giants pound opponents. They run 264-pound Brandon Jacobs and a couple of other backs right at defenders and dare tacklers to do something about it.

Everything about the Giants screams power football. Even when they pass, it isn't exactly pretty.

That's also how the Bears historically wanted to play. They ran with a purpose and threw grudgingly.

Fans liked that the Bears were physical but longed for an offense that finally could throw deep and often.

Hopes increased when Martz arrived. At last, the Bears were going to enter the Space Age.

Instead at midseason the Bears reined in Martz, became more basic and advanced to the NFC championship game.

Martz had no choice. He didn't have the linemen or wide receivers to do what his bones ache to do.

Does Martz have the necessary tools this season? Who knows at this point? Will we know by the regular-season opener Sept. 11? Again, who knows?

Meanwhile, the Bears indicate that they want to feature a fancier passing game this year but with the option to return to a mundane attack.

Maybe this is just the way it looks, but the lack of a distinct personality puts the Bears' offense in that nether land where confidence and commitment can waver.

"We've got to get better and better," Cutler said. "There is room for improvement always, but overall I've got a good feeling about where we are going."

Players still refer to the offense as a work in progress. Toward what, though? Toward Martz's finesse passing game or a traditional power running game?

Until the Bears' offense is certain how it wants to get where it wants to go it'll have trouble getting there.