9:34 AM CDT, October 31, 2011
The Bears point out that this season’s 4-3 record matches last season’s mark at the open week. The implication is they won five in a row and seven of their last nine to win the NFC North last season and feel they can do something like that again.
Yes. Well. Ahem. Green Bay and Detroit are ahead of the Bears this season and have beaten them already. But examine perhaps the two biggest reasons for last season’s surge:
The Bears decided to stick with a starting offensive line and to tell offensive coordinator Mike Martz to calm down.
And look at that: The offensive line moved forward with an expanded run game instead of moving backwards to pick up the oft-sacked Jay Cutler.
Smart decisions, those. When the Bears came close to balancing runs and passes, they cut the sacks by about half and became better all the way around, starting with the suddenly cohesive offensive line that had been abused by opponents on the field and by everyone else off it.
And yet, the Bears sound like they might be considering making the opposite decision on the offensive line this season.
Rookie Gabe Carimi is projected to be healthy enough to suit up against Philadelphia and perhaps regain his starting job at right tackle. That means Lance Louis goes back to the bench.
Or does he move to right guard and send Chris Spencer to the bench?
Would the Bears change the right side of their offensive line?
Better question: Why would the Bears change anything that is working with this group?
The idea of playing toy soldiers along the offensive line right now seems silly after the same unit started the same players and helped achieve the same result: back-to-back wins. The offensive line deserves some of the love raining down on Matt Forte.
Louis is showing the combination of viciousness and athleticism that first intrigued offensive line coach Mike Tice. Spencer is showing he can run and pull the way the position demands, even if there are only three runs plays in Martz’s playbook. Louis and Spencer have opened some massive holes and helped Forte own the right edge.
What’s more, communication obviously has been better. But it will be tested when the Bears go into Philadelphia next Monday night, perhaps as dangerously as it was in that debacle in Detroit. And remember, Philly always seems to be hosting “Handguns and Hard Liquor Night.’’
It’s always harder on the tackles when noise is an issue. Makes you want to give Carimi a couple false starts right now. If Carimi starts, he’ll face Philadelphia’s Jason Babin, who’s fast and relentless and coming off a two-sack game. I don’t think Louis could handle him straight up, either, so whoever is playing will get help. But Carimi likely would need more of it, and Cutler would be in favor of that.
Point is, since training camp, and especially because of the aborted offseason, the Bears have used the set-lineup approach along the line. Injuries changed that. So did some bad play. But consistency has always been the idea.
And now they might choose to go against that?
Maybe injuries dictate a change. Spencer has played with a broken hand --- and played well --- but you never know, someone else might be playing through an injury he just can’t play through anymore.
Or maybe the Bears will err on the side of smart. Maybe the Bears will err on the side of cohesiveness for the time being. That looks like the right play for a group that has been making quite of few of them lately.
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