I was asked in a bar the other night what I believed the Bears needed to do to make the postseason. I quickly rambled off a list of eight or nine things and spent the following morning attempting to put that drunken incoherence into a tangible column for you, my blog buddies.
First, there is one rule. Everything on the list needs to be a plausible improvement over something done last year. (Arguing that Tommie Harris needs 12 sacks or Jay Cutler needs to go sixteen interception-less weeks are simply not going to get it done.) That being said, here's my three. Add yours below...
#1 Jay Cutler needs to reduce his interceptions by half. What would you think of Cutler's 2009 season if it read 60.5%, 3,666 yards, 27-13 (as opposed to 27-26). You know what you'd think? It's the greatest single season performance at the position in the history of the organization. Cutler needs to take his shots down the field but he simply needs to be more willing to toss the ball to the sideline when the offensive line forces him into uncomfortable situations. Robbie Gould three-pointers have been sustaining the club for years. They'll continue to do so.
#2 Reduce Opposing Rushing Percentage. I was actually surprised when studying the Bears' defensive stats of a year ago. They're bad but the league actually had much worse. However, the Bears were tenth worst against the run and thirteenth worst against the pass. You can do one of them poorly but if you do both poorly, you're just poor. The Bears have been a successful defensive unit when they force opponents to be one-dimensional and the healthy trio of Urlacher, Briggs and Tinoisamoa must be charged with forcing opponents to throw, throw, throw. What's this mean? Take the 126.4 yards per game down to 106.4.
#3 Bears Must Develop a Deep Threat. With the speed of Hester and Knox at wide receiver, the mismatches created with Olsen and the arm strength of Cutler, the Bears had no reason to be tied with five teams for 20th in passing plays over 40 yards. (Seriously? San Francisco beat us in long passing plays?) If the Bears can make teams respect their ability to go deep down the field, the offense might finally be able to reach its potential. This is why Mike Martz was hired. 6 passing plays of 40+ needs to hit double-digits.