No Jay Cutler. No Matt Forte. Now no Johnny Knox.
Wide receiver Johnny Knox was undergoing back surgery on Monday following the nightmarish hit he took in Sundays loss to the Seattle Seahawks. The hope is for a full recovery that will give Knox a chance of returning to his game, but more importantly, also to a pain-free life after a horrible injury.
On a completely different level, the Bears suddenly are facing desperate game situations needing to win by running the ball but without the full presence of their two speed receivers to create at least the threat of a deep throw now and then.
Knox was leading the Bears in receptions (37) at the time of his injury after leading them in receiving yardage last season. His gaudy 19.8-yard average per reception ranked among the NFLs best.
Now he is gone for the year and Devin Hester, the other outside speed opposite Knox, is still fighting through ankle and other minor injuries. Hester caught zero passes Sunday, wasnt targeted on any throws, and has zero receptions in five of the Bears last six games, and just one in the Philadelphia game before that span.
Meaning: The Bears primary receivers right now are Earl Bennett, Dane Sanzenbacher and Roy Williams, with a combined 4 receptions Sunday.
Ominously perhaps, Williams is still having communications problems with Bears quarterbacks, and now there may be a different one throwing to him. Williams misconnected with Caleb Hanie and the result was a 42-yard interception return for a touchdown by cornerback Brandon Browner in the fourth quarter.
That may have been Hanies last pass as a Bear.
Josh McCown replaced Hanie on the next series, only to see his second pass attempt, toward Williams, also be intercepted.
The Browner INT is on me, Williams said. Thats my fault. Dont put it on the quarterback; put it on me. It was a great play by the defender.
Bennett averages 15 yards per catch with a long of 34 this season. Sanzenbacher less than 10 yards per reception, none longer than 18 yards. Williams has no catch longer than 25 yards in 2011.
Weve lost some of our firepower out there, coach Lovie Smith acknowledged. Devin, best returner in the history of the game, knows how to make you miss and stretch the field. Johnny has had that role for us.
So we are missing those guys. But when youre down a few players you have to adjust what you do and find other ways to move down the field. You dont have to do it vertical always and thats what we have to do.