Bears beat Lions despite growing offensive line concerns

Bears beat Lions despite growing offensive line concerns
Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune

The Bears managed to pull out a 13-7 at home over the division rival Detroit Lions on Monday night. The game was ugly in every sense of the word. The offense never seemed to gain any momentum at any point in time during the game. It was filled with heavy mental mistakes and a lack of football instincts.

Luckily for the Bears, they usually thrive in those ugly games, as they did on Monday night where the defense nearly shut-out the Detroit Lions. It was a complete and total defensive effort from Rod Marinelli's crew. But that effort, in turn, made apparent a number of flaws that the Bears' offense needs to work on in the coming weeks.

The one word to describe the Bears' offensive line in 2012 is “inconsistency.” The Bears' line has had lots of changing parts, and it has taken time to adjust to the new players at certain positions. At times during the season this Bears line has been solid in pass protection. In other instances, like on Monday night, they have been brutally humiliated by opposing defensive lines.

Chicago’s offensive line has not just been bad in pass protection, but it has shown a lack of discipline with drive killing penalties. The lack of explosiveness from the Bears’ offense is due in part to the mediocre play up front from the line.

The health of Cutler

Jay Cutler took one of the nastiest hits from one of the most vicious tacklers in the NFL in Ndamukong Suh. Suh beat right guard Lance Louis, and with his speed was able to latch onto Cutlers long sleeve before maliciously dropping Cutler to the ground. My ribs hurt after that hit, but thankfully Cutler only missed a play before getting back in the game. The injury was put in the press release as “bruised ribs,” and Cutler should be fine in the upcoming game vs. Carolina, but it does raise some warning bells.

We all saw what happened to the Bears' season in 2011 after the Cutler thumb injury. Yes, the Bears are in a much better position this year if Cutler goes down, but it will still take away most of the things the Bears try to do on offense with his abilities. The Bears' at 5-1 are in a prime position for the playoffs, possibly bye, and the health of Cutler is so vital to the success of this team going forward.

The Bears need to do as much as they can to keep him clean for future success.

The Carimi effect

Gabe Carimi is a player that I believed could possibly be the saving grace on the right side for this offensive line. Unfortunately, he missed virtually an entire year of play, and it has inevitably stunted his development and growth at right tackle. His lack of experience has haunted the Bears' offense this season, and once again, it hurt them on Monday night.

Carimi has the ability to be a producing right tackle, and at times he shows that talent, but for the most part this season, he has been the punch-line of the offensive line struggles.

Carimi has time and time again single handily taken away momentum from the Bears' offense with simple mental mistakes. In Green Bay, his drive-killing 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty cost the Bears on their most productive drive in the first half that could have given them the lead. In Jacksonville, back to back false starts in the Red Zone—absolutely inexcusable for any player regardless of stature. He also got manhandled and gave up two sacks vs. one of the weakest lines in the NFL. Finally, his penalties on Monday night, and the fact that he could not slow down defensive end Cliff Avril, are all concerning.

Gabe Carimi still has time to be effective, but he's sloping down toward another one of Jerry Angelo's offensive-line, first-round busts. He has made us completely forget about J'Marcus Webb, which I thought was impossible.

The offensive line performance against Detroit

The Bears' line has never had trouble getting out in space and making a block. They actually thrive on run downs, and it has been proven by the production in the running game. The Bears rushed for 171 yards against a Lions team that I believe to be stout against the run.

Matt Forte was able to penetrate the A and B gaps, and it was mostly due to the push brought by Chilo Rachal and Lance Louis along with some blocking out front by the tight-ends. The Bears did allow some tackles for loss, but the Lions are one of the best in causing disruption in the back field (it was bound to happen).

Where the Bears’ line struggled was obviously on passing downs and in the Red Zone. Cutler was sacked five times for a loss of 25 yards, but the Lions were able to deliver nine total QB hits. Lance Louis, who up to this point has been the Bears best option on the offensive line, was abused up front by Ndamukong Suh. Loius also made some rather unusual mistakes with penalties and missing his blocking assignments. The left side was also outmatched—Vanden Bosch had his way with Webb (two sacks, one TFL, three QBH) and Chilo Rachal.

Since 2010, the Bears have managed to win around bad offensive line play, and if the current trend continues, they will have to keep doing it in 2012.

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