Trying to predict the future of the Chicago Bears is not a simple task. If their history of early offensive struggles repeats itself, the Bears will be in trouble to start the season. After an impressive performance in the season opener versus the Indianapolis Colts, the Bears offense is doing their best to avoid one of those early season slumps. In the game versus the Colts, the Bears put up 41 points, but in the next two games combined they managed to put up only 33 points. Bears head coach Lovie Smith believes that his team is making progress. Given the past years, offensive slumps for the Bears seem to come in spurts, and history suggests that the Bears offense will find their rhythm and begin to put up above strong offensive numbers in the next few weeks.
This will be accomplished on the shoulders of the Bears’ offensive stars: quarterback Jay Cutler, receiver Brandon Marshall, running backs Matt Forte and Michael Bush. Cutler and Marshall are reconnecting from their time together on the Denver Broncos, and are expected to put up big numbers together. Forte will see his role diminished with the acquisition of Bush from the Oakland Raiders, but the one-two punch combo they provide makes the Bears running game even more of a threat than it already was.
The Bears defense has played well so far. Cornerback Tim Jennings has been a pleasant surprise, leading the league with four interceptions through the first three games. After week three, the Bears were leading the league with 14 sacks. Their defense finished with 33 total sacks through 16 games in 2011, and are on pace to surpass that number this year. The attractiveness of the defense is that everyone contributes. Eight defensive players account for the 14 sacks (through week three). Since the preseason, there were questions about Brian Urlacher’s ability to perform and if he would be impacted due to his knee injury, but it doesn’t seem to be a major concern due to the team’s strong defensive performance. Through week three, Urlacher is third on the defense with 14 combined tackles. The defense even performed well against one of the most explosive offenses in the league in their loss to the Packers. The Bears’ special teams are outperforming their opponents in kick and punt return yardage, but are yet to score a touchdown (through week three).
The true measure of a team is the ability to find ways to win even in tough situations. So far, they have done just that. During the Bears second game versus the Green Bay Packers, an altercation occurred when Cutler exchanged hostile words with left tackle J’Marcus Webb. The offensive line has not been up to par with regard to protecting Cutler, but Cutler must come to grips with his role as the team leader and be able to better communicate with his teammates who protect him. The lack of blocking cannot be blamed on one person. Football is a team sport, and until Cutler can embrace his role as a leader he will not get past his childlike demeanor and arrogant attitude.
The main issue that needs to be immediately addressed is the offensive line. It was apparent during the Packers game that J’Marcus Webb was getting beat off the ball on multiple snaps. Offensive coordinator Mike Tice should have pinpointed the problem immediately and added a tight end to assist the tackle. There is no problem with adding an extra tight end for pass protection to make sure the best quarterback the team has had in decades is not eating dirt on every play. It is simple, watch a game and make adjustments from the couch, but some changes can be easily made. The Bears have a tough schedule coming up to show what they’re made of, but there shouldn’t be any concerns about their playoff chances. The Bears will make the playoffs, but how well they do there will depend on how healthy they stay, whether their stars step up and deliver star performances and how quickly they acclimate to tough situations during games.