Cowboys Stadium has been kind to Bears

In-game adjustments in 2010 turned around offensive line for big victory on way to NFC championship game

Dallas is as good a place as any to burst through the growing frustration surrounding the Bears stalled offense.

"We can't be up and down like a roller coaster,'' wide receiver Devin Hester said. "We have to get a winning streak going — at least six or seven games straight where we can compete for playoff position.''

In a league where only three teams remain unbeaten after three weeks, putting together that kind of run might seem unrealistic. But clearly the Bears have great expectations (delusions of grandeur?) that do not include being peripheral figures in the Super Bowl hunt. That makes Monday night's visit to the stately pleasure-dome Jerry Jones decreed for a cool $1.3 billion a potential turning point in the season.

Winning on the road is crucial in any sport, but now more than ever in the NFL where five of the last seven Super Bowl champions have had to win at least one road playoff game en route to a title.

There are happy memories for the Bears at so-called Jerry World, where Cowboys opponents have won 11 of 25 regular-season games since the building opened.

It was the site of the greatest in-game coaching alteration made in the Lovie Smith era. Think Mike Martz, Mike Tice, a revamped offensive line, a scuttled game plan and a 27-20 victory in a season that wound up with the only playoff appearance of the last five years.

Quarterback Jay Cutler was hit hard on five of the first nine plays in that game and laid out twice more on plays erased by penalties before Chris Williams grabbed at a pulled hamstring. The Bears were over their skis like replacement referees. Then Tice moved Frank Omiyale from right to left tackle and inserted Kevin Shaffer on the right side. Martz abandoned the deep drops and went to a short passing game to keep the Cowboys outside linebackers in check.

"I've never been in a game on the road where things went south so quickly as they did on the offensive side of the ball only to come out of it,'' then general manager Jerry Angelo marveled on the team's website. "With the injury (to Williams), the pressure the quarterback was under as well as a hostile environment, to handle that and settle down and find a way was great to see. They're exceptional coaches and we saw why. How do you know somebody is great? When you see how they respond to adversity. Anybody can man a ship when the waters are calm.''

Oddly enough, that game didn't do much to curtail Martz's overall play-calling, but the Bears did show a capacity for change. The offense adjusted for good during their off week that year with a home game for the NFC championship the end result. Of course, the Bears lost that game to the Packers, who went on to win the Super Bowl, greasing the skids for the eventual departure of Martz and Angelo.

"I remember we hit Greg Olsen down the field, but I don't remember a lot more than that,'' Roberto Garza said of a 39-yard touchdown strike that was keyed by a big block from Earl Bennett,

"I know we won the game and I remember the coaches made some kind of adjustment,'' Bennett offered.

Cutler probably doesn't remember a lot from that season either, but he has to be annoyed that the Bears are still dealing with protection issues. New GM Phil Emery didn't do much to the offensive line in his first year, bypassing the position in the draft and bringing in only Chilo Rachal on a minimum salary benefits contract before signing Jonathon Scott off the street. But if the 2012 Cowboys can teach the Bears much in their three-game snapshot it's that getting linemen as opposed to the right linemen doesn't help much.

The Cowboys spent $30 million in free agency to bring in guards Mackenzy Bernadeau and Nate Livings. They also swapped tackles Doug Free and Tyron Smith and have been forced to use backup center Ryan Cook while Phil Costa recovers from a back injury. The result is nobody is in the same spot they were a year ago and production has decreased as reflected in seven sacks allowed and a No. 23 ranking in rushing per attempt (3.54 yards) with just one rushing touchdown. The Cowboys rank 20th in pass protection index according to STATS.

The Bears are 29th in the same ratings. They have allowed 11 sacks, but seven were against the Packers with four coming in the fourth quarter of that game. The Bears are 25th in rushing yards per carry (3.46) but have four rushing touchdowns.

The game sets up as a defensive battle in light of those statistics, with the only real mystery being which cornerback will bad mouth Cutler in the postgame. Charles, Woodson, Cortland Finnegan and teammate DJ Moore have taken turns.

Maybe the Bears can pull off another miracle adjustment instead. If Frank Omiyale and Kevin Shaffer can get it done …

Special contributor Mike Mulligan co-hosts "The Mully and Hanley Show" weekdays from 5 to 9 a.m. on WSCR-AM 670.

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