TELANDER: Bears’ offense needs to get on the ‘D’ level
BY RICK TELANDER firstname.lastname@example.org
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Anybody who thinks the Bears’ defense could win a game by itself doesn’t need to read the rest of this column.
Just place this page under your breakfast scraps or directly in the bird cage.
It’s possible the Bears’ offense isn’t needed. Punt the ball. Hit a field goal here and there. Kick off. Wait for the other team to screw up.
The Bears’ defense and special teams forced five fumbles and recovered four of them, blocked a punt for a touchdown, ran an interception in for a touchdown and set up other scores against the Titans in this 51-20 country-style slapdown at LP Field. It seemed the Bears’ offense was around mainly to marvel and kill time.
‘‘It’s really a thing of beauty,’’ Bears quarterback Jay Cutler said of his team’s defense.
But I’m guessing at some point, the offense is going to have to get serious and earn its keep. It’s going to have to bail out the defense. Actually win a game on its own.
Like maybe next week.
That’s when the 7-1 Houston Texans come to town with an attacking defense of its own and a quarterback-demolishing pass rush. They also have a defensive end named J.J. Watt, the purported former gangly pizza delivery boy by way of Central Michigan and Wisconsin, who has become a pass-batting maniac and the leading candidate for NFL defensive player of the year.
Maybe the offensive stats don’t look so bad for the Bears, but, as you know, numbers can be deceiving.
You had Cutler with 229 yards passing, 19-for-26 for three TDs and an epic 138.1 passer rating. And running back Matt Forte with 103 yards rushing and a touchdown. And receiver Brandon Marshall with nine catches for 122 yards and three TDs. But somehow those stats don’t tell the real story.
The defense attacked first for the Bears, with cornerback Charles Tillman creating the first of his four forced fumbles on the Titans’ opening play, with middle linebacker Brian Urlacher recovering. And what did Cutler and the offense do with this gift? Nothing.
On the next series, it was four downs and a punt.
Soon the Northwestern alumni combination of Sherrick McManis and Corey Wootton blocked and scored on a Titans punt, and it was 7-0.
What did the offense do with this gift? It backed up until Cutler was nearly smeared in the end zone and a safety was called on tackle J’Marcus Webb.
The score at that point was Defense 7, Offense minus-2. See where we’re going here? After seven passing plays, Cutler had completed two for 15 yards, thrown the rest incomplete, been sacked once and given up a safety.
Yes, the Bears’ offense did score a touchdown on Forte’s eight-yard run a couple of minutes later, but that was only because Devin Hester had returned Brett Kern’s punt 44 yards to, guess where? The Titans’ 8-yard line.
Before anyone knew it, the score was 21-2. Again, unless you believe the Bears’ defense and special teams could win a game by themselves, you know this is not the formula for long-term success. And at 7-1, success for the Bears has got to be seen as leading invariably to the Super Bowl. And not just there, but winning it.
‘‘The defense sets us up,’’ Cutler admitted. He acknowledged that one of the team’s prime goals against the Titans was to get off to a fast start. ‘‘Offensively, we didn’t. We stumbled a little bit offensively.’’
And that’s not even mentioning the terrible play Cutler and the offense had just before halftime. Up 31-2 with a chance to make a laugher a knee-slapper, Cutler fiddled around at the Tennessee 14-yard line, yelling something at right tackle Gabe Carimi, then screwing up a pass play so badly that he was sacked for minus-six yards, fumbled to the Titans and thereby gave up another 30 yards.
In a game like this, it didn’t mean much. Nothing meant much. Except that voracious Bears defense.
But things like those 30 yards get lost in the stats, like the sack yardage that decreases Cutler’s passing total from 229 to a team net of 198.
And if an offense settles for three Robbie Gould field goals instead of red-zone TDs, those are points that someday — next week? — might be badly needed.
Yes, this was a wonderful win by the Bears. And if you believe all’s good with the team, that’s fine. But if you worry about the offense, uncrumple this page.
You’re with me.