Bears offense needs to step up vs. Lions
Bears quarterback Jay Cutler completed only 1 of his first 11 passes Sunday at Arizona. He finished with a passer rating of 76.8, the third straight game he was under 80.
Sunday's victory over the Arizona Cardinals was accomplished without much input from the passing game, but by now that should be something the Bears are accustomed to.
The passing "attack" produced just 145 yards in the 28-13 victory, the sixth time in the past 10 games the Bears have been under 150. The league average is 233 yards, which the Bears have exceeded just once in the past 10 games, and that was in the 21-14 loss at Minnesota on Dec. 9.
The Cardinals are one of the NFL's top defenses against the pass, but that doesn't excuse Jay Cutler's 1-for-11 start in which several of his misses weren't even in the vicinity of the intended receiver.
He finished 12 of 26, and his passer rating of 76.8 was his third straight game under 80, hardly playoff-caliber performance. Cutler has thrown a total of 3 TDs and 3 interceptions in those three games.
"Offensively, we had a little bit of trouble early on establishing ourselves, especially with the pass," coach Lovie Smith admitted on Monday after his defense and offense each accounted for 14 points.
"The passing game wasn't what we'd like for it to be early on. We didn't expect to score 50 points and throw for 400 yards against them, but I thought we made the plays when we had to, especially after that first quarter."
It's safe to assume the offense, and the passing game in particular, will have to make more plays this week at Detroit to keep the Bears' playoff hopes alive.
"We would have liked to have had more yards, but we did what we needed to do in (Sunday's) game," Smith said. "We want to score more than 14 points (on offense), but in a game like that we're going to be pleased with what we were able to do. The offense did what they needed to."
It should have a better chance against a Lions defense that statistically is average at best and is much worse than that in points allowed, where they rank 28th.
But the Lions' offense is far superior to the Cardinals', so it figures the Bears will have to put up some points to remain relevant in the postseason picture.
"We did a lot of good things (Sunday), offensively," Smith said. "I know that the stats don't jump out at you; some of them don't. But some of the things we did well, like running the football, protecting the football, those were things that we had to do to get the win."
The maligned offensive line also took a step forward in Arizona, allowing just 1 harmless sack for minus-1 yard and paving the way for 152 rushing yards on 33 carries, a 4.6-yard average.
With former starting right tackle Jonathan Scott potentially back from a hamstring injury, the line would be deeper. Scott's return would force a decision on what to do with Gabe Carimi, who played well at right tackle Sunday but has been inconsistent at tackle and at right guard throughout the season.
"They did a heck of a job (Sunday), all of them," Smith said. "I'm talking (left guard) James Brown moving in, getting more and more experience. Gabe Carimi, having him play a couple different spots.
"Protection was good and (they) allowed us to rush for all of those yards. As much as anything we just want to get Jonathan back and put him into the mix and then we'll decide who does what from there."
Probably more important will be improvement in the passing phase, which struggled as even Cutler admitted after the game, in which he completed less than half his passes despite good protection.
"I was aware it wasn't pretty." Cutler said. "I knew we were throwing some missed balls, and balls were hitting the ground. It wasn't the prettiest game, but we got done what needed to get done."
It's questionable whether the same level of production will get it done this week.
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