O-line key for Bears to turn season around

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O-line key for Bears to turn season around

Twice in the span of barely a year, the Bears have accomplished major season-altering turnarounds. Now, to save 2011, they need a third.

And the group squarely at the crossroads with the heaviest turnaround load, as it was at the off week in October 2010 and again after the consecutive losses to New Orleans and Green Bay in September, is the offensive line.

The line was the point of the spear that reversed the slide last year after the sack nightmares against the Giants, Seahawks and Redskins. It was the main difference going from five sacks against Atlanta, six at New Orleans and three vs. Green Bay to just nine sacks over the next seven games.

But Caleb Hanie was sacked four times at Oakland and seven by Kansas City and the offense has averaged less than four yards per carry in three of the last four games.

The line, and the Bears, are at a crossroads.

I'm completely confident in those guys, said Hanie, who took blame for some of the sacks by the Chiefs in particular. They're playing their butts off in there. From left tackle to right tackle, from J'Marcus Webb to Lance Louis, they're going to fight, and that's what type of group they are, and I'm confident they'll have a good game.

They will need it.

Broncos battles

Where the Chiefs came into the Bears game with only 13 total sacks, the Broncos have 32 and with edge rushers in end Elvis Dumervil and linebacker Von Miller significantly better than what either Oakland or Kansas City fielded.

They are fast. They are very fast, said line coach Mike Tice. They are very tenacious. They remind me a lot of the Steelers. They get after it pretty damn good.

Miller in particular; the Bears think enough of him to put a red 58 jersey on a scout-team linebacker to condition the offense to accounting for Miller.

Hes a phenomenal player, Tice said. Were going to know where hes at all times.

Confidence crisis?

The line was not helped by play-calling in the fourth quarter vs. Kansas City that consisted of 15 pass plays and two runs but played generally OK except for Louis, who had perhaps his worst game of the year. He was beaten by speed rushers for multiple sacks after a steady run of strong performances previously both as a blocker and running down a Raider to save a touchdown.

Now he is at a particular crossroads with the Bears needing him to put a nightmare game behind him.

I think theyve been doing a great job, Tice said. We had unfortunate circumstance with one of our players who didnt play up to the way he had been playing. For a guy who has been thrown over there, at right tackle, who has been holding the fort pretty good. Im not down on him. Hes down on himself, a little bit right now. I dont think he should be. We could have helped him as a staff, a little more, and we will, moving forward.

Hes got to bounce back, and we all got to bounce back.

Bears have run hurry-up offense, Brian Hoyer style

Bears have run hurry-up offense, Brian Hoyer style

Brian Hoyer spent Wednesday’s practice as the presumptive No. 1 quarterback, sources said, and with Jay Cutler limited due to his thumb injury, the Bears began prep for the Detroit Lions next Sunday in Soldier Field with Hoyer getting more used to the offense that he has only sparingly run since training camp.

Some of Hoyer’s teammates spent Wednesday’s practice getting a little more used to him.

A veteran of 27 NFL starts, Hoyer doesn’t do things the way Cutler does them. He doesn’t throw as hard. He doesn’t throw as far. And he runs a sort-of hurry-up offense compared to Cutler.

“Hoyer has a real good sense of urgency to him,” said left tackle Charles Leno Jr. “He’s more fast paced. He likes to quicken up things, whether it’s the cadence, the flow – he just has a real natural sense of urgency about himself.”

This involves more than just a feeling. The Bears ARE faster under Hoyer, based on one very unofficial measure, because game situations differ even though the Bears ultimately lost all three games.

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Based on snaps and time played, the Bears have run 2.2 plays per minute with Cutler. They have run 2.6 per minute, approaching 20 percent more, under “urgent” Hoyer.

The play rate, however, is not entirely on the quarterback. Like all teams, the Bears build tempos into their system, and defenses also dictate some of how the Bears elect to work.

Still, “Jay is more laid back, more relaxed, even-keeled,” Leno said, smiling. “But that’s just Hoyer, more sense of urgency."

Visa, PNC Bank partner for behind-the-scenes 360 degree look at Bears practice

Visa, PNC Bank partner for behind-the-scenes 360 degree look at Bears practice

Visa and PNC Bank have partnered up to give fans a behind-the-scenes look at Bears practice with a 360 degree video.

On the web, simply use your mouse to click and drag the screen to change your view. For mobile, you can tilt your device to experience the VR 360 effect.

If you're headed to the Bears-Lions game on Sunday at Soldier Field, be sure to stop by the Ultimate Tailgate on the Stadium Green from 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. to experience practice from a VR headset.

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You can also sign up for the Bears PNC Visa Debit Card to receive deals on gear throughout the season by clicking here.