According to the stat experts at Pro Football Focus, the Bears offensive line has improved from laughingstock to No. 22 overall. The group is ranked No. 22 overall 25th in pass blocking, seventh in run blocking and would rate considerably higher but for its No. 30 slot for penalties. More on that in moment.
The balance-oriented Bears have had no game with fewer than 93 rushing yards through six games in 2012. Last year they were sub-90 in three of the first six (with a 3-3 record). In 2010 they rushed for fewer than 80 yards in five games of the 4-3 start.
As coaches and players maintain, running the ball well is in some measure a state of mind. For all of the focus on Ndamukong Suhs savage ways, the meanest states of mind last Monday appeared to have resided in ones blocking Suh and his associates.
The state of mind on the Bears offensive line is becoming nasty. Sometimes even a little too nasty.
Case by case nasty
Gabe Carimi wants to kill guys, said offensive coordinator Mike Tice. He gets himself out of whack because hes being a little overly aggressive. So, were going to settle him down, make sure he brings his feet with him on some of these blocks where it does look ugly or hes getting those penalties. But he plays extremely hard. Theyre all playing hard right now, but he plays very hard.
Gabe Carimi is at right tackle in part because he is a mauler in the Tice assessment. He has become a penalty risk the past two games, not simply because of poor play, but for being too aggressive.
Ive just got to calm down on a couple things, Carimi said. A couple of penalties here and there. Its just my style of play, though. Im a very aggressive player.
Yeah, Im overaggressive, but I do a lot of good things when Im overaggressive, too. There are some times I need to just bring it back a little bit.
On the other side, JMarcus Webb has brought it up a bit, quite a bit from the debacle in Green Bay. He was the Bears only offensive lineman not penalized in the Detroit game. He has played 424 snaps this season and allowed a total of three sacks.
Matt Fortes 39-yard run on the Bears fifth play Sunday? Between Webb and left guard Chilo Rachal.
Right guard Lance Louis long has fit that physical mold. Roberto Garza was a guard before moving to center.
Chilo Rachal replaced Chris Spencer at left guard after the Green Bay game. He wasnt the only reason, obviously, but the Bears averaged 104 rushing yards in the first two games. With Rachal at left guard, the Bears have averaged 145 over the last five.
Rachal, self-described as a mauler, was hit with a personal-foul penalty in the fourth quarter of the Detroit game. It wasnt entirely a random act of unkindness.
Where Suh has drawn fines for stomping a player on the ground and hits on quarterbacks, Rachal drew his flag for going to the defense of running back Michael Bush after he was tackled.
I want to keep guys off my running backs, Rachal said. If I feel that a linebacker still trying to go after someone, then apparently the running back is still running with the ball. So I just want to keep him off of our guy.