Clearly the Bears are trying to run the ball -- they just aren't getting very far when they do.
"Running game-wise, there is a commitment to the run, and that's good," said Bears coach Lovie Smith. "But we still need to get more production from our running game."
Contact information ( * required )
The Bears are a respectable 16th in rushing yards, and they're running an average of 29.5 times per game, while they've averaged 32.5 pass plays per game, including sacks. The league average is 26.4 rushes and 37.1 pass plays per game.
The Bears' problem is a team average of just 3.4 yards per carry, which ranks 28th in the 32-team league. Only Matt Forte, at 4.5 is averaging more than 3.3 yards per carry.
During the short week following Monday night's win in Dallas, offensive coordinator Mike Tice prioritized running the ball more effectively, especially on first downs. Having a healthy Forte should help against a Jacksonville defense that is 30th in rushing yards allowed.
"We have to do our part to keep the amount of carries up there, and from there, we just want to be productive," Smith said. "If it's third-and-1 and we run the football, we want to have success with that. If it's first down, we want to get ourselves in a favorable second-down position."
The Bears remain last in the NFL, averaging just 4.0 yards on first-down plays, but they improved from the previous week when they were averaging just 3.33 yards.
Free safety Chris Conte and strong safety Major Wright will start their fifth straight game together Sunday, which may not seem like a big deal -- except in Chicago.
There have been a combined 50 changes at those two positions since Lovie Smith became head coach in 2004.
"Not that I read an awful lot that you all write," Smith said, "but I know that the safety position has been discussed so much on the amount of different combinations that we've had around here."
Conte, a third-round pick in 2011, has a team-best 28 tackles and got his first interception last week. Wright, the 2010 third-rounder, is fourth with 23 tackles and picked off his second and third passes of the season vs. Dallas.
"We like the two that we have right now," Smith said. "Hopefully we can keep these two same guys out on the field for a while."
Long road back:
Wide receiver Johnny Knox, who has been on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list since before training camp, has a three-week window, starting Monday, when he can begin practicing with the team.
After that, Knox can be activated to the 53-man roster, placed on injured reserve or released. If he doesn't practice by the day after the ninth week of the season, he would return to the PUP list.
Knox, who underwent spinal fusion surgery after taking a brutal hit vs. the Seahawks last Dec. 18, appears to be a long way from playing. But he hasn't given up on getting back on the field at some point.
"From the day of the surgery, the doctor told me that I would be able to play again," Knox said. "That's still in my mind that I will play."
Feeling the heat:
The predicted high in Jacksonville for Sunday is 87, but coach Lovie Smith said the Bears aren't complaining.
"I think we're pretty excited about going down there, as you can see with this stocking cap on," Smith said, as he came off the practice field at Halas Hall Friday afternoon in damp 49-degree weather. "I think the guys will be excited about going down there. Most guys don't like playing in cold weather. Wherever we play, they're going to be playing under the same conditions, so we'll be OK."
Running back Matt Forte (ankle) went through a full practice Friday and is probably for Sunday, as is defensive end Julius Peppers (ankle), who was limited. Wide receiver Earl Bennett (hand) was also limited and is questionable. Tight end-fullback Evan Rodriguez (knee) is out. Linebacker Brian Urlacher was not listed on Friday's injury report.
The Jaguars will be missing two starters, wide receiver Laurent Robinson (concussion) and linebacker Daryl Smith (groin).