15 on 6: Run game provides a great victory

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15 on 6: Run game provides a great victory

Sunday, Oct. 2, 2011Posted: 6:30 p.m.

By Jim Miller
CSNChicago.com

I warned everyone about being a little nervous facing the Carolina Panthers. Now you know why. Carolina has a different type of offense that did get physical with the Bears, while churning out over 500 yards of offense. Thankfully, the Bears had solid performances from special teams and their run game, which required very little help from Jay Cutler.

There is nothing better in football when you have to protect the lead and turn to your four-minute offense. Offensively, some of your biggest runs come at this point in a game. Two of Matt Forte's biggest runs came with five minutes to go in the game when teams typically turn to their four-minute offense to close the game out.

First and 10 with ball at the Chicago 40, Forte rips a 20 yard gain off left tackle with 5:06 left on the clock. The next play was a 4-yarder off right end. The Bears eventually had to punt after a penalty on this drive, but it took almost two minutes off the clock.

The best run came the very next offensive series when the Bears really went 'Heavy personnel". Offensive lineman Lance Louis reported as an eligible tight end. With a little more beef, Carolina knows it's a run and Forte still gutted the Panthers with a 40-yarder with under 1:48 left on the clock. It was beautiful to see and the benefits of consistently running the ball throughout the duration of the game payed huge dividends late in the fourth quarter when Carolina simply wanted no more.

Jay finished with the most important statistic, which is the "W". He did not have to be Superman against the Panthers, but he didn't have to be Peter Parker either.

By Executive Order, the gameplan going in was to run the ball. Jay just needed to manage the game and his throwing opportunities when they presented themselves. He seemed flustered early when the protection did not hold up and I thought it affected some of his throws later in the ball game.

It's easy for me to say sit in there and set your feet, but it is very difficult to trust seven-step drop pass protection considering all the breakdowns the last two seasons. Therefore, I thought he was seeing some ghosts and feeling pressure that was not there. The interception Jay threw in the second half would be my example.

Jay sensed a need to shuffle right, then left before delivering the ball. The pass protection on the play looked fine. By falsely sensing pressure, it screwed up the timing of the throw, and Jay did not properly reset his feet to deliver an accurate ball down field. The ball sailed high, got picked off, and gave Carolina another opportunity.

I'm sure Bear fans just want to see how good this team can be ifwhen they put it all together offensively. They come a little closer by knowing they can run the football. Next on the list to complete is third down conversions and scoring. Bears are worst in the NFL right now at converting third downs.

But, that will have to wait until next blog......

Jim Miller, an 11-year former NFL quarterback, is a Comcast SportsNet Bears analyst who can be seen each week on Illinois Back Institute Bears Postgame Live. Miller, who spent five seasons with the Bears, analyzes current Chicago QB Jay Cutler in his "15 on 6" blog on CSNChicago.com and can be followed on Twitter @15miller.

Bears numbers don't indicate 3-13, yet still lie

Bears numbers don't indicate 3-13, yet still lie

In doing some post-season wrapping up of my Nerdy NFL Notebook as we begin turning the page to the 2017 season, part of it involves compiling where each team finished in big-picture team offensive and defensive categories: overall ranking (total yards), as well as team rushing and passing ranks on both sides of the ball.

So if the Bears wound up ranked 15th overall in total yards gained and allowed, they should've finished…oh, 8-8, right? It adds to the deception of some of the deeper issues that focus on a lack of playmakers, which tied into their inability to make plays when it matters most. In John Fox's 9-23 start, 18 of those games have been decided by six points or less. They've won just six of those games. 

Offensively, the Bears ranked higher in total offense than five playoff teams: Kansas City (20), Detroit (21), Miami (24), New York Giants (25) and Houston (29). They wound up 17th in rushing offense, better than four teams who advanced: Seattle (25), Green Bay (26), New York Giants (29) and Detroit (30). And their 14th-ranked passing offense ranked better than the Giants (17), Kansas City (19), Dallas (23), Miami (26), Houston (29).

On the other side of the ball, they'd be even better off before allowing 109 points over the final three losses. Their total defense ranked better than Detroit (18), Green Bay (22), Kansas City (24), Atlanta (25), Oakland (26) and Miami (29). After being gashed for 558 rushing yards the last three games, they fell to 27th in the NFL against the run (better than only 30th-ranked Miami). But the seventh-ranked pass defense, despite collecting a measly eight interceptions (among only 11 turnovers), was better than nine playoff teams: Miami (15), Pittsburgh (16), Kansas City (18), Detroit (19), the Giants (23), Oakland (24), Dallas (26), Atlanta (28) and Green Bay (31).

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

What do all the hollow numbers indicate? A lack of complementary, opportunistic football, playmakers on both sides of the ball, a minus-20 turnover ratio, and a lack of quality and continuity at the quarterback position — to name a few. All of those playoff teams have more impact players (or kept more of their impact players healthy) than the Bears in 2016.

While some of the numbers aren't that bad to look at, and some even raise an eyebrow, there's still a deep climb from the most significant numbers: 3-13.

Bears' best rookies will have another learning curve

Bears' best rookies will have another learning curve

There's a sense of irony and, to a certain degree, concern about what changes the Bears' coaching staff has undergone.

Think of the best of Ryan Pace's 2016 rookie class: Leonard Floyd, Cody Whitehair, and Jordan Howard. They were brought along under the position group tutelage of outside linebackers coach Clint Hurtt, offensive line coach Dave Magazu and running backs coach Stan Drayton. The latter was the first to depart, shortly after the season ended, to return to the collegiate ranks on Texas' new staff.

He's been replaced with former 49ers and Bills offensive coordinator Curtis Modkins (also serving as that position coach in Detroit, Buffalo, Arizona and Kansas City). Howard certainly adapted to the NFL game well, more than anyone expected, as the NFL's second-leading rusher. One would think Drayton played a part in that.

Longtime John Fox assistant Magazu was also let go after the season despite the impressive move of second-round pick Whitehair to center the week of the season opener after Josh Sitton was signed following his release by Green Bay. Whitehair was sold as a "quick study" following his selection out of Kansas State, where he was a four-year starter at three different positions (but not center).

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Like Howard, he wound up making the All-Rookie team, but whether he remains in the middle of the line or not, he'll be getting his orders now from Jeremiah Washburn.

Rounding out the trio of All-Rookie selections was Floyd, who was brought along by Hurtt. He impressed Fox enough to be kept around from Marc Trestman's staff, and moved from defensive line to outside linebackers.

That's where he assisted Willie Young in morphing to a foreign role, yet still managing 14 sacks over the last two seasons. The Bears have yet to name a replacement for Hurtt, who's joined the Seahawks in taking over one of their strengths in recent years, the defensive line.

These three were already good, and the jewels of last year's draft. But if they're to grow and ascend into impact contributors if and when this team becomes a regular playoff contender, it'll come from new faces, new voices in their respective classrooms and position groups.