The Once and Future Offense

Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune quotes head coach John Fox on the conservative approach that the Bears took on offense on Sunday:

“‘We need to generate more than zero points to win games,’ Fox said Monday.”

“Asked Monday whether [Jimmy] Clausen earned another start, Fox would not address him specifically.

“‘I didn’t think our whole football team played well enough, obviously, to win the football game,’ he said. ‘I think in a pass-fail system, nobody’s totally pleased. But I don’t think it came down to one guy in that game.'”

The Bears took a ball control, run-first approach to the Seahawks game, one that’s been heavily criticized in some places the media. Many feel that it expressed a “Let’s not lose by too much” attitude rather than “Let’s go out and win”. Clausen has also taken a lot of criticism and most seem to feel that quarterback Jay Cutler would have done significantly better.

The truth is that offensive coordinator Adam Gase put together the only possible game plan that he could under the circumstances. And it probably wouldn’t have changed much even if Cutler had been able to play. This isn’t a defense of Clausen – he missed some throws that he absolutely had to make to give the Bears a better chance on Sunday. But the truth is that he was under siege every time he dropped back to throw and his only real receiver was Eddie Royal, a slot receiver stuck in a misfit role on the outside. Josh Bellamy isn’t talented enough and Marquess Wilson has been worse than a mediocrity who simply can’t get open. No quarterback on the Bears roster was going to succeed throwing the ball under those conditions. There just wasn’t anyone to throw the ball to.

The Bears game plan was to run the ball. Yes, with no points in the first half, you could argue that it wasn’t working. But the benefits of sticking to the run often come in the second half as you wear the defense down. The Bears never got a chance to show that could happen. Poor special teams play put them down by 13 points one play into the second half, a huge deficit in a game like this. Then poor discipline resulted in too many penalties that put the offense into a hole that you can’t run out of. The offense couldn’t hold the ball and the Bears defense was the one to wear down.

The Bears had to play a nearly perfect game to have a chance to win Sunday. They are going to have to do so for good parts of the rest of the season. They’ll get Alshon Jeffery back soon and perhaps Cutler will be back to give them an extra run threat. You might seen more passes to tight ends and the Bears might line up Matt Forte more as a receiver to do more through the air. But what you saw on Sunday is basically what you get with this team. – a heavy, heavy dose of Forte on the ground and a cloud of dust. And under the circumstances I just can’t find it in myself to be too critical of that plan. The team is what it is.

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