Despite 7-1 record, offense concerns persist for Bears

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Despite 7-1 record, offense concerns persist for Bears

It is too often becoming the elephant over there in the corner of the room that no one really wants to talk to. After all, the Bears are 7-1 and a very good football team, so if reporting some basic issues with the offense comes across as picking nit, it isnt meant to be.

But Jay Cutler on his weekly ESPN radio show Monday was blunt that as far as an offense, we still have a long way to go.

And Monday night in a chat with David Kaplan and Brian Noonan on WGN-AM 720s WGN Sports Night, the offense accounted for most of the talking and worrying points.

The reason this remains a significant issue is that the Bears have a potential championship team and that can be undone by a problem offense.

The Charles Tillman Experience in Nashville with Brian Urlacher and Corey Wootton supporting acts overshadowed how dismal the Bears were on offense too early and too often both Sunday and this season.

Big numbers

The final numbers were anything but dismal, and how much fault should be found with an offense whose quarterback had a 138.1 passer rating with zero interceptions; three running backs with a combined 213 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown; and a wide receiver with nine (of 10 targets) catches and 122 yards?

But Brian rightly wondered if there was really a weakness in the defense as it is playing now. My thought was that this defense is good enough to win a championship but the weakness of the 2012 Bears defense is the same one that threatens any defense:

If the offense cannot stay on the field, defenses eventually wear down.

35 minutes ofwhat exactly?

Brian noted that the Bears went 35 minutes (the entire second and third quarters and then some) against Tennessee without getting into the end zone. They reached the Tennessee 7- and 14-yard lines and had to settle for field goals at the end of drives for 76 and 73 yards. Impressive but

We stumbled a bit, Cutler acknowledged after the Titans game. In the red zone, we stumbled a bit down there, the turnover fumble at the Tennessee 14 was my fault and so on.

Those were chances missed against the Tennessee Titans. The Bears opened the game with possessions of three-and-out, four-and-out and a safety.

If the Bears give away those kinds of opportunities against the Houston Texans, among the elite defenses and offenses in the NFL, the Bears defense will never have a chance.

Looking ahead

The consensus is that the offense will improve as the comfort levels of Cutler, Mike Tice and the rest settle. The Bears already have had their off week so it has to be done in real time, with an eye toward J.J. Watt and the Houston defense.

Even with the stumbles in Tennessee, I definitely think as the game went along we were playing good ball and had a good rhythm going toward the end of the game, coach Lovie Smith said.

Thats how it happened, too. Right now, were talking an awful lot about our defense, but before this season is over, hopefully this week, its going to shift where were going to be talking an awful lot about the weapons we have and the offensive plays that were makingWe know that theres a long ways to go still.

And in other news

You know how sometimes you just know you should have followed your first, gut instinct? That happened on Sunday.

Yes, a certain View from the Moon analyst chose to honor his preseason prediction that the Tennessee Titans would upset the Bears. That didnt happen.

Accountability is a good thing. I allowed that the Bears could very well go back home with a 7-1 record and should have stopped there. First miss on a Bears result this year, probably wont be the last, and Ill also probably reverse my preseason pix on the next two games.

More on that over the weekend.

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Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks host Lightning tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks host Lightning tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Blackhawks Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Blackhawks.

Five Things to Watch:

1. Grab the first goal.

The Blackhawks have scored the game's first goal in seven of the last eight games, and of those seven, they've won six of them. Meanwhile, the Lightning have scored the first goal only 17 times in 48 games this season, and are 12-5-1 in those games. They're 9-17-4 when they allow the first goal, so getting out to a lead first will be important against a struggling Lightning team looking for signs of life.

2. Will the floodgates open for Jonathan Toews?

After a four-point game in a 4-2 win over Vancouver, the Blackhawks captain matched his point total over his previous nine games. He's up to 26 points on the season, which is now fifth among Chicago forwards. When Toews has offensive droughts, they usually last longer than they should. But when he gets hot, he gets extremely hot. Perhaps we'll see the floodgates open offensively.

3. A chance for the team lead in scoring.

With an empty-net goal on Sunday, Marian Hossa tied Artem Anisimov for the team-lead with 18 goals. Artemi Panarin is right behind with 17, and Patrick Kane isn't far either at 15. The Blackhawks had four 20-goal scorers last season, and haven't had more than that since the 2013-14 season. They're definitely on pace to hit four, but could they surprass that? Richard Panik, who scored another goal Sunday as well, is fifth with 11 goals while Ryan Hartman has 10. Toews is at eight, but a flurry after a drought could make things interesting.

4. The triplets reunited?

In an effort to jumpstart a struggling offense, Lightning coach Jon Cooper reunited the triplets line of Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat that was so successful during their 2015 playoff run in their latest game, a 5-3 loss to Arizona. It's unclear whether they will begin tonight's game on the same line, but if not, it's worth watching throughout the game whether they do. The Blackhawks have been coming at opponents in waves lately, so Cooper could look to separate the three to distribute the scoring.

5. Take advantage on special teams.

The Lightning have racked up the fifth-most penalty minutes in the league, and own a bottom-10 penalty kill unit at 80.1 percent. The Blackhawks are the second-least penalized team, and have converted on 17.9 percent of their power plays, which sits at 16th. But they haven't scored one on the man advantage in five straight games, going 0-for-9 during that span. Here's a chance to change that.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

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