Bears' offense continues to struggle in win over the Panthers

Bears' offense continues to struggle in win over the Panthers
Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune

Jay Cutler’s not worried.

“No, I mean, were not worried. I don’t think you can hit the panic button offensively. We just need to keep getting better. We have to keep looking at our mistakes, keep improving and keep trying to work on things week-in and week-out. It’s never easy in this league.”

Brandon Marshall’s not worried.

“No, I mean, every team, Super Bowl teams, undefeated teams, they’re not perfect. There are things they struggle at, but the thing about those teams that make them great is they continue to work and when you do that you have a chance to continue to get better. There’s no substitute for hard work.”

(And, yes, Cutler and Marshall both did start out answering that question with, “No, I mean . . .” I didn’t make that up.)

But Bears fans are starting to get a little worried. The Chicago Bears improved to 6-1 with a win over the now 1-6 Carolina Panthers on Sunday afternoon, but the offense continued to struggle to get into a rhythm early and had to come from behind in the fourth quarter to set up a game-winning Robbie Gould field goal.

And, really, that’s alright. A win’s a win, right? You can go through just about any winning team’s record at the end of a season and find a game somewhere in there similar to the one the Bears had on Sunday—even a Super Bowl winning team.

For the most part, until Sunday’s performance, the offense has been on the upward tick. But six sacks on Jay Cutler, just 210 net yards, five penalties, and going just two of eight on third down certainly does not bode well for Mike Tice’s squad.

Despite Matt Forte’s absolute gouging of the Carolina defense early (at one point he was averaging 7.6 yards per carry), the Bears continued to dial up deep, slow-to-develop passing plays that left Cutler in a tough spot to make a play and kept the Bears’ defense on the field for far too long.

Mike Tice has yet to address the media (he will do so this week), but I suspect the No. 1 question for the first-year offensive coordinator will be why it seemed there was no desire to continue feeding Matt Forte the ball while he was clearly having success.

For nearly three quarters of football, Jay Cutler was awful. But in the end, he and Tice engineered a game-winning, nine play, 55-yard drive, the 17th-career game winning drive of Jay Cutler’s career. Just to give you a snapshot, Cutler was four of nine for 40 yards, zero TDs and one INT in the first half; that’s a passer efficiency rating of 18.1.

In the fourth quarter, however, Cutler was 12 of 14 for 106 yards and one TD, for a passer rating of 122.0. So, what was the difference? Prior to that final set of series, the Bears weren’t working the intermediate part of the field. During it, they went into max-protect mode and sliced up the Panthers for chunks of 11, 12 and 13 yards.

The Bears’ offensive line, a group seemingly best built for the run game, couldn’t protect Jay Cutler on their own, and struggling RT Gabe Carimi appeared to have another less than notable performance.

But it wasn’t all on the offense.

The defense once again failed to contain Steve Smith, allowing seven receptions for 118 yards. On the whole, the Panthers tallied 416 net yards and went 10 of 19 on third-down conversions. Smith now has 696 yards against the Bears through four games (171 yards per game).

But in the end, a 25-yard pick-6 from Jennings—intended for Steve Smith—put the Bears in a position to take the lead. And they did. On to the next.

Here are some additional notes and highlights:

  • Since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970, this is the 8th time the Bears have started 6-1 or better. They made the playoffs each of the previous 7.
  • Robbie Gould’s game-winning field goal was the 10th of his career and his 1st since 2010. Gould is now 13-of-15 (.867) on the season. Gould is 53-for-65 (.815) in field goal attempts in the fourth quarter and in overtime on his career (regular- and post-season).
  • The Bears are now 22-5 (.815) in contests in which they score a defensive touchdown since 2004, including 19-2 (.905) since 2005.
  • Tim Jennings entered Week-8 tied for NFL lead in INTs w/ 4. His 6 are the most in a season by a Bears' player since '09 (Zack Bowman, 6).
  • The Bears' six interception returns for touchdowns are the most by any team through their first seven games in NFL history.
  • Matt Forte had 1 rushing TD on Sunday, 23rd of his career, breaking a tie w/ Thomas Jones & George McAfee for 8th most in Bears history.
  • The 1961 San Diego Chargers currently hold the NFL record for most INT returns for TD in a single season with 9. Bears ‘on pace’ for 14.


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