Tice: We just have to keep working


Tice: We just have to keep working

Friday, Sept. 30, 2011
Posted: 11:00 p.m.

By John Mullin and Jake Flannigan

Work ethic up front

Injuries could be used as an excuse for the inconsistency of the Bears offensive line this season. The line that faced off with the Green Bay Packers was missing two of its five starters.

Lack of experience together would be an alibi too. Roberto Garza, Frank Omiyale, Chris Spencer and Chris Williams, four of the five starters vs. Green Bay, all have a minimum of three years on an NFL roster. But that group, plus left tackle JMarcus Webb had never started a game together and was the third different starting offensive line in three games.

But offensive line coach Mike Tice has decided to forgo the blame game and stick to what he knows best.

Were not in here having barbecues and stuff like that at night, Tice said. We just have to keep working. Its a long haul and we got to get better.
Under scrutiny

No group has been more closely watched than the offensive line, with ample reason. They collectively have Jay Cutlers health and Matt Fortes rushing production in their hands.

After giving up five sacks to the Atlanta Falcons, the line allowed zero in the first half at New Orleans even without Lance Louis (ankle injury). The Saints got one sack (a huge one on a missed block by tight end Kellen Davis) in the third quarter after Gabe Carimi went down with a knee injury.

Without both Carimi and Louis against Green Bay, the first half again was sack-free on 17 drop-backs against a defense that had sacked Cutler 11 times in 10 quarters last season.

Tice genuinely believes his changes have been improving. But he also knows the teams overall lack of success has made it tough for outsiders to look past sacks, pressures and a run game that has averaged just three yards per carry and has zero TD runs through three games.

The 0-3 Kansas City Chiefs are the only other NFL team without a rushing touchdown this season.

There are some guys that are playing pretty good, Tice said. They kind of get lost in the sauce a little bit because of losses, and because of the non-rhythmic look we have sometimes.

Mr. Fix-It

The relationship between Tice and offensive coordinator Mike Martz may be a mysterious one for those not in blue and orange on Sundays. For Tice its simple.

Stay out of the way and focus on letting the line know what went right and what didnt.

During the course of a game you dont really want to get too much communication with the coordinator, Tice said. We talk after every series. You really dont want to mess with the guy thats trying to call the plays and get into a rhythm. Thats not a good thing to do.

Instead, Tice tries to stay off of the headphones and find ways to improve his group by looking over Polaroids of the previous series.

Normally thats what the job of an offensive line coach is, Tice said. Hes kind of a fix-it guy during the course of a game.

Duly noted

Besides Joe Theisman, Jim Mora and Willie McGinest, the fourth member of the analysts on NFL Networks No Huddle Show Friday was former Rams wide receiver Torry Holt, not Marcellus Wiley as mentioned in yesterdays roundup.

Much of the Mike Martz approach to offense is geared toward passing yardage for the quarterback. Cutler has passed for 300 yards six times as a Bear; the Bears have lost four of those six games, including last Sundays to Green Bay. The Denver Broncos were 5-5 in 300-yard Cutler passing games.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

Three quick fixes for some Bears woes while searching for a turnaround

Three quick fixes for some Bears woes while searching for a turnaround

Positives were difficult to find in last Thursday’s 26-10 loss to the Green Bay Packers. So maybe the place to look for improvement lies in just getting rid of a few negatives.

As far as positives, Leonard Floyd would be the obvious one, with two sacks, one a strip and fumble recovery for a TD. Ka’Deem Carey would be another, with 10 carries for 48 yards, his second straight game with high-impact running; Jordan Howard has been shackled for two weeks, so the Bears have needed another backfield-committee member contributing. Jeremy Langford may have trouble finding work when he comes back from his ankle injury.

But negatives have far outweighed positives, which is how you get to 1-6. Fixing three of those will go a long way toward improving their chances against a Minnesota Vikings team that appeared eminently beatable in losing at Philadelphia on Sunday:

Stop the penalty hemorrhaging

For the third straight game the Bears had 10 penalties walked off against them. This "streak" started after eight infractions in the win over Detroit. The 10 in Green Bay cost the Bears 108 yards in a game where their offense netted just 189. Seven of the penalties were charged to the defense, six of which gave the Packers first downs.

The three offensive penalties were mental. A wide receiver (Alshon Jeffery) lined up offsides. The quarterback (Matt Barkley) drew a delay flag. An offensive lineman (Ted Larsen) was illegally downfield.

All of which point to a discipline problem getting worse, not better. Whether the fault lies with players losing focus or coaches not instilling a mindset is a debate, but meaningless if the problem is not addressed. “There were a lot of penalties out there,” said cornerback De’Vante Bausby, who committed three of those penalties. “We had a good scheme and plan but we just didn’t finish in the second half as a group.”

Stop the dinking

While Brian Hoyer replacing Jay Cutler scaled back the downfield element of the offense, the loss of an emerging Kevin White should not be understated. The de facto rookie may not have gotten in the end zone but he was leading the team in receptions before he suffered a broken leg in the win over Detroit.

Since the loss of White, however, the offense has shrunk. The Bears averaged 7.5 yards per pass attempt through four games with White. Without White the average is 7.0, and that is including the blip in Indianapolis, which stands as a complete anomaly. The average was 5.9 in the Jacksonville loss and 5.0 in Green Bay.

Hoyer’s ball-security orientation has been a positive, but also a limiting factor. Cutler last year had one of the best ball-security seasons of his career, yet the offense was able to average 7.5 yards per attempt.

The Bears scored two of their three rushing touchdowns in games with White, who may not yet be the field-stretcher his 4.35 speed but the prospect of White arguably made for a more threatening offense than even with the contributions of Cam Meredith.

Stop the Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings have suffered injuries at a rate like the Bears’ but have overcome them. Until Sunday in Philadelphia, when the Eagles sacked Sam Bradford six times and hit him more than a dozen other times. The Vikings never sacked Carson Wentz, who wasn’t special but was good enough while Minnesota was self-destructing.

The Vikings have beaten the Bears the last three times they’ve met, the first time that’s happened since 1999 and 2000, which is also the last time the Bears started 1-6. And the Bears have lost three straight.

The Bears were able to end the first three-game skid by focusing on one game: the Lions. The result was shutting down a very good offense, the lowest yardage-allowed (263) of the season and the firmest commitment to the run game (29) attempts.

Morale inside the locker room can only be revived by a win. One game. This game.

Report: Bears looking for Jay Cutler return against Vikings; Matt Barkley on stand-by

Report: Bears looking for Jay Cutler return against Vikings; Matt Barkley on stand-by

FOX insider Jay Glazer confirmed on Sunday that the Bears expect quarterback Jay Cutler will be back from his sprained thumb and able to start against the Minnesota Vikings next Monday night in Soldier Field.

That would put Matt Barkley back where he has been pretty much his entire three-plus-year NFL career. Waiting.

That's the Bears want what every team wants – a young quarterback in the developmental pipeline – is no secret. Ryan Pace is among the NFL executives who speak of drafting a quarterback as much as every year, even if they don’t.

Could the Bears already have that player on their roster?

If Barkley, who was pressed into service when Brian Hoyer went down with a broken arm in last Thursday’s loss to the Green Bay Packers, is in fact that player, he might not be surprised. But the rest of the NFL would be.

"I'm confident that no matter where I am or what the deal is,” Barkley said, after going 6-for-15 with no TD’s and two interceptions, “I can play in this league.”

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

He may be one of the few still holding onto that belief. The Bears picked up Barkley after the Arizona Cardinals discarded him in early September. The Cardinals didn’t see Barkley as even a practice-squad option, which the Bears did and where Barkley was working before Cutler’s thumb injury forced the Bears to sign him to the active roster.

“The [Bears] personnel people thought he was a taller [6-2] guy that stood in the pocket pretty well,” said coach John Fox. “A guy that we thought we could work with, that had some experience and, hopefully, he got a little bit more experience [at Green Bay].”

Barkley has gone from possible No. 1 pick in the 2012 draft to just another touted USC quarterback who failed or were no better than just-OK at the NFL level (Todd Marinovich, Rob Johnson, Matt Leinart, Mark Sanchez), who has thrown 65 NFL passes, none for a touchdown and six that were intercepted, including two in the Bears’ 26-10 loss last Thursday in Green Bay.

The question for Barkley at this point in his career is whether Chicago is his last stop and/or chance. Fourth-round draft picks have played their ways into prominence (Kirk Cousins in Washington, Dak Prescott in Dallas, even Sonny Jurgensen and Norm Van Brocklin if you want to find Hall of Famers), but Barkley has the added challenge of being on his third team and learning yet another offense after beginning this season running Houston and Philadelphia plays for the Bears’ defense.

Barkley offered no excuses for his poor showing (18.3 passer rating). Sort of.

“It definitely would be more beneficial [to have gotten more snaps before Green Bay],” Barkley said. “I’m not going to say what Coach should do; that’s his decision and you’ve got to deal with what you’re dealt.

“Just since I’ve been here, you know, scout-team reps and trying to put our plays into what we’re seeing on cards, you try to do every little thing you can to get better no matter what you’re doing. That’s no excuse.”