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Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Bears' protection not all about OL

By Jeff Dickerson

Jay Cutler
It's not always a breakdown of the offensive line that leads to Jay Cutler getting sacked.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- It's only natural to focus on the offensive line when discussing pass protection.

But keep in mind, tight ends and running backs play just as critical of a role in keeping Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler off the ground.

The Bears communication up front has greatly improved since a Week 6 loss to Seattle, because the same group has started together since November 7 vs. Buffalo. That's obvious. What's flown under the radar is the improvement of the backs and tight ends in the blocking department.

"That Green Bay game [to end the regular season] we didn't do as good a job [of protecting Jay Cutler]," Bears tight end Greg Olsen said. "But if you look at the last ten weeks, for the most part, we have. Yes, we've given up sacks, but sometimes it's not always as clear as people make it out to be."

Case in point: The Charles Woodson sack of Cutler in the regular season finale.

That sack didn't occur because the Bears were ill prepared or confused about who was supposed to pick up the blitzing cornerback. In fact, the Bears watched Woodson attempt the same blitz, twice, when the Packers squared off against Detroit a few weeks earlier. The difference was in the execution, not the game plan.

While Detroit's fullback properly picked up the blitz and crushed Woodson in the process, Bears tight end Brandon Manumaleuna missed the block and therefore allowed the sack to occur. It's not that Manumaleuna didn't know he was supposed to stop Woodson, he just couldn't do it.

The Bears weren't caught off guard, they just lost one-on-one matchups. If knowing is half the battle, then it stands to reason the Bears can correct or compensate for those types of physical mistakes when they face the Seahawks.

"I think we've come a long way from then [October 17 vs. Seattle] with our progress," Olsen said. "But I guess we'll see on Sunday. I hope it all comes true."