It's ironic that the biggest failures of the Bears' offense have come, yardage-wise, on the smallest plays.
Marc Trestman's team has come up big in total yards (ranking No. 8), passing yards (No. 6) and points (No. 5). But when it comes to gaining one yard, the Bears too often have come up short, most noticeably in the past two weeks.
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It's a problem they hope to correct in Monday night's nationally televised game against the Dallas Cowboys. The Bears (6-6) can't afford repeated failures on makable plays that could lead to scoring opportunities. They can't afford to leave points on the field against a 7-5 Dallas team that is No. 3 in scoring, averaging 27.4 points a game.
The Bears have taken the first step toward solving the dilemma that has seen them fail to convert 10 of their last 16 opportunities when they needed just one yard for a first down or touchdown. They've admitted they have a problem.
"Certainly, with recent events, we have to do a better job," Trestman said. He also knows what the problem is -- Step 2 in the process.
"It really has come down to, with all due respect to our opponents, more about us than them," he said. "It's simply the execution of the play. It's everybody doing their job."
"On every one of those plays, it's just been one guy not fully executing," said left guard Matt Slauson. "It's been me on a play, Kyle (Long) on a play, (Roberto) Garza on a play. We know now there's no room for error. We have to be perfect in those situations. We know the situations that we've had to clean up in the past, and now everything's going to be all right."
That remains to be seen. But extra time and effort were devoted last week to short-yardage situations, with an emphasis on synchronicity.
"We just haven't executed plays completely with all five, six, seven, eight guys, whoever is involved," Trestman said. "There's no one guy. It's been a bit of taking turns. We've spent time on it to make sure that everybody knows what to do."
It will be interesting to see Monday night if Trestman changes his play-calling to reflect the recent failures, which have been much more prevalent on run plays. On the Bears' last 16 plays when they needed one yard, they ran the ball nine times and failed on six of them. The six runs totaled minus-2 yards.
Offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Aaron Kromer said the play-calling wouldn't change.
"We've got to run the same plays," Kromer said. "We've got to run the same schemes. We just have to do it better."
In the past four games the Bears converted 37.5 percent of the time when they needed one yard. But in the first eight games they succeeded 69.2 percent of the time.
Everyone on the field must execute, but to the offensive linemen short-yardage run plays are a matter of pride.
"When we go out there and we can't execute on second-and-1 or third-and-short, that's just a reflection on us, especially if we're running the ball," said two-time Pro Bowl left tackle Jermon Bushrod. "That's one of the things that offensive linemen preach: 'Run the ball.'
"But when we get the opportunity and we don't succeed, we (can't) wonder why coach will call a pass play on third-and-short. It's because we didn't execute."
And it's the execution up front that will play the biggest part if the Bears are to reverse their recent downward trend in short-yardage situations. They're confident they're close to a fix. And the offensive linemen know if they don't get it fixed, they're likely to get most of the blame.
"As an offensive line, you're expected to make those blocks," Long said. "Whatever the case may be, it hasn't gotten done. Obviously, within in our room, we know what the deal is and what needs to happen.
"We're one block away in a lot of cases from the first down and maybe even more. Sometimes a home run shot is one block away from happening. We've got to continue to focus on that."
Every time the Bears are in short-yardage Monday night, everyone will be focused on it.
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