Partially overshadowed by the Jay Cutler Experience, good and bad, has been the Bears running for an average of nearly 112 yards per game, up a modest 10 yards per game over last season but a step, many steps actually, in the right direction.
Because a significant element of the offensive game plan vs. the New Orleans Saints on Sunday will be controlling the football, with the obvious reality that Drew Brees, Jimmy Graham and the Saints offense will find it difficult to score if they aren’t on the field, and a central aspect of ball control is running that football.
“The best antidote would be our offense staying on the field,” said offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer. “[That] would be the best.”
The Saints are among the league’s best against the pass but 22nd in rushing yards allowed per game. More important, teams are averaging 5.5 yards per carry.
The Bears believe they can run on the Saints, who are not the Detroit Lions up front. But how they do that is critical…
If the Bears can get into the fourth quarter with the Saints within reach, they will gain a major advantage with Matt Forte and Michael Bush. Part of the plan is expected to be using Bush to ensure Forte is strong enough to control the ball in the fourth quarter.
Bush did not carry the ball even once in Detroit. He has been considerably less than effective on the 16 carries that he had gotten in the previous three games (1.5 yards per carry, long of seven yards).
But the run blocking graded out well from the Detroit game, just not enough of it because of the scoreboard and game situations.
“A lot of the run blocking was good,” Kromer said. “Like any football game there's one guy here or there that has to improve and that'll continue to be worked on.”
Forte’s workload dipped against the Lions (14 carries, six pass “targets”) but he is tied (with New Orleans’ Darren Sproles) for first among running backs with 23 receptions.
“He’s a great player,” said quarterback Jay Cutler. “I think he’s one of the true professionals in this building on the field and off the field, he does great work to get himself prepared for a long season, because we ask a lot out of him — in the running game, in the passing game; asking him to block linebackers and defensive ends.
“He’s our guy. We move him around and we try to save him as much as possible, but it’s hard to save a guy like that when you want to give him the ball a lot.”