NFC North: Free Head Exam 9
November, 8, 2010
By Kevin Seifert | ESPN.com
After the Chicago Bears' 22-19 victory Sunday over the Buffalo Bills, here are three issues that merit further examination:
- There is a line of thinking in the NFL that suggests quantity of runs is more important than quality. I don't generally agree, but for this offense I think it makes some sense. Offensive coordinator Mike Martz almost needs a pregame quota to ensure balance and, more importantly, that he doesn't rely too much on a passing game that has demonstrated it can't carry this offense alone. On Sunday, tailbacks Matt Forte combined for 62 yards on 24 carries. No one is going to get excited about those numbers. But if nothing else, those carries lessened the pressure on quarterback Jay Cutler -- who coincidentally (or not) had a nearly mistake-free game. The Bears also converted 58 percent of their third-down attempts, another likely byproduct of balanced play calling.
- I had to smile when Chester Taylor scored on a 1-yard run in the second quarter. The Bears would be wise to continue using him in that role. I'm sure they're well aware of the statistic we discussed last week: Entering Sunday's game, Forte had scored on only four of 44 goal-to-go rushes since the start of the 2009 season. Of all the things he does well, hard running near the goal line doesn't rank at the top of the list. Taylor is much more suited for that role. I'm also all in favor of every opportunity the Bears have to put Forte and Taylor in the backfield at the same time.
- It was also nice to see tight end Greg Olsen continue to return to the offensive flow. He has now caught six passes over his past two games after going without a catch in his previous two outings. It's been a stop-and-start process as Olsen tries to penetrate a scheme that hasn't always emphasized tight ends in the past, and often you can see it's a work in progress. His 4-yard touchdown reception was almost broken up -- by teammate Earl Bennett. Olsen told reporters that Bennett thought he was a defender on the play. No, sometimes the tight end is actually the intended receiver. Even in this offense.
Kevin SeifertFollowing their win over Buffalo, the Chicago Bears take their turn in the examination room.
I'm not sure if there should be concern about a defense that gave up 340 yards to the Bills offense, while allowing 10 of 16 third-down conversions, or if it has earned the faith that it will consistently make game-saving/clinching big plays. On Sunday, it was cornerback Tim Jennings leaping for a fourth-quarter interception on a play he was trailing Bills receiver Steve Johnson by several steps. Had Johnson made the catch, he probably would have made it at least to the Bears' 30-yard line and put the Bills in position to add to a 19-14 lead. Instead, Jennings returned it to the Bills' 23-yard line to set up the Bears' winning score. If your defense regularly can make those kinds of plays, yardage totals are pretty insignificant.