Too late for Bears to right the ship?
Outsiders have been questioning the Bears' offense for weeks.
Now the questions are coming from within.
The principals in the Bears' sputtering attack questioned themselves this week, individually and as a group. Their collective futility seems to have reached critical mass in the wake of last week's frustrating loss to the Packers. The offense squandered multiple opportunities and accumulated just 190 yards of offense
"You sit there after the game and you feel horrible and you feel like, 'What could you have done differently and better?'" said Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice. "You look at the last number of weeks where you're not scoring enough points. What can you do better?"
Only once if the past six games have the Bears scored more than 17 points — not coincidentally, the only game they've won during the current slump that has seen them plummet to 8-6 and left them playing from behind for the final playoff berth.
"I said to myself, 'What can I do better to help me get better and help us win?'" Tice said. "We've all got to do something better because the answer to scoring more points."
Critics have blamed Tice's play-calling, although neither the run game nor the passing attack has been consistently efficient since the Bears completed the soft part of their schedule with a 7-1 record.
Since then, the offense, which was never great, has dropped from 25th to 29th in total yards, 17th to 25th in first downs and from No. 3 to No. 16 in scoring. If former Bucs coach John McKay were asked about the execution of the Bears' offense, he'd no doubt say he was "all for it."
"We need to score more points, we need to execute the game plan, we need to make sure we have a good game plan, and we need to make sure I call plays where the players have a chance to make plays," Tice said. "And then (after) a great week of practice, go down there with good energy and win the damn game."
With even a little more offense, the Bears' current 1-5 skid could have easily been 3-3, and they'd be discussing the possibility of earning homefield advantage for the playoffs rather than missing the postseason altogether.
Considering he's caught an NFL-best 107 passes for 1,398 yards and 10 touchdowns, wide receiver Brandon Marshall is an unlikely scapegoat. But even he wonders about his responsibility for the offensive failures.
"I've also been in situations in Denver where I didn't play against the Raiders and our offense put up 40 points," Marshall said. "And the same exact scenario in Miami. I didn't play against Oakland, had a hamstring, and I think that we had our best offensive game.
"So, maybe it's me, and what can I do differently? It's been a lot of thinking on my side of what I can do differently and my approach just to help the guys around and make them more comfortable in our offense."
Tice said Marshall has even talked to him about what Marshall can do to help get the attack back on track.
"We're all searching right now," Tice said. "There are a lot of what-ifs. Is it he, is it her, is it him? Well I guess there's no hers. But that's the way it is right now when you've lost a number of games in the last six. He's soul searching and trying to find a way because it means something to him."
According to quarterback Jay Cutler, questions and self-doubt come with any lengthy slump.
"Any time you lose consecutive games, there's that feeling that sets in of, 'What we can do differently? What we should have done,'" Cutler said. "I think that's anywhere in the league. Even when I was in Denver, you lose a couple games here and there, and it's the end of the world."
For now, Cutler said, those doubts have to be suppressed.
"Once the season's over, this organization will take time to let things settle down and figure out what the necessary steps are going forward," he said. "But as players, we can't worry about it. It can't be in the back of our minds. It can't be anything we're concerned with. We can only have one concern right now, and that's Arizona."
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