The Bears are abandoning the run! The Bears are abandoning the run! You could hear the old-school Chicken Littles all over the Chicago airwaves this week. Truth is, the Bears, even armed with their new Pro Bowl passing toy, remain as stubbornly committed to the run as any team in the NFL. Just because the Bears haven’t gone anywhere doesn’t mean they haven’t tried.
The Bears are abandoning the run! The Bears are abandoning the run!
You could hear the old-school Chicken Littles all over the Chicago airwaves this week. Former Bears Ed O’Bradovich and Doug Buffone sounded as if they were going to get into a fist fight when Buffone had the temerity to defend Chicago’s 43 rushing yards against a 3-4 defense in the Bears’ 17-14 win over the Super Bowl champion Steelers.
Truth is, the Bears, even armed with their new Pro Bowl passing toy, remain as stubbornly committed to the run as any team in the NFL. Just because the Bears haven’t gone anywhere doesn’t mean they haven’t tried.
“As much as anything, we need to keep the carries coming,” coach Lovie Smith said.
Keep. Not start. Just keep.
Even with Jay Cutler at quarterback, the Bears have run more this year than last year’s two Super Bowl teams, the Steelers and Cardinals. They’ve run more than the Chargers, Colts, Patriots and Packers, all expected playoff teams.
Even teams that have far outrushed Chicago haven’t shown as much devotion to a ground game as the Bears. The Cowboys, Titans and Bills rank Nos. 1, 5 and 6 in the NFL in rushing. The Bears are 31st. But that’s not for want of trying. Those three rushing leaders have totaled 10 more running plays than Chicago. They’ve just done it better.
What’s a bigger commitment, running 50 times when you average 6.5 yards, as the Titans have done, or running 49 times when you average 2.6 yards, like the Bears? The Cowboys, averaging 7.0 yards on 50 carries, are the ones who are not running enough, not the Bears.
As soon as the Bears can run, they will run. A lot.
“We’ll stick with it and get it going,” offensive coordinator Ron Turner said. “We’re not getting away from it. It’s game to game. Some games you’re just going to have to throw it more to win.”
The Bears actually stuck with the ground game too much the first two games. Only six of those 49 running plays produced a first down. That put the onus on Cutler to gain Chicago’s other 29 first downs.
The Bears can’t run unless Cutler comes through on third down to give them three more chances to run. Running won’t work in the NFL by itself.
“If you can only run the ball in this league, you are not going to be able to run the ball.” Turner said.
The Bears don’t need to run more. They need to run smarter. Running 31 times into the face of a 3-4 Green Bay defense committed to stopping the run helped lead to Cutler’s four interceptions in the opener. Cutting those runs to 18 against a similar Pittsburgh defense kept Cutler out of third-and-long holes and helped him to a 104.7 passer rating.
“You can stop the run,” Lovie Smith said. “They committed quite a bit to stopping the run. But just stopping the run, that doesn’t win football games for you. You have to stop the run. You have to stop the pass. To make a commitment to stopping the run, you have to give something up. That’s how football has always been.”
The Bears will run as long as they wait for Cutler to give them room to run. Getting Matt Forte (averaging 2.2 yards per carry) untracked isn’t about running more. It’s about running smarter.
Rockford Register Star assistant sports editor Matt Trowbridge can be reached at (815) 987-1383 or email@example.com.