Chicago Bears

Despite 7-1 record, offense concerns persist for Bears

933263.png

Despite 7-1 record, offense concerns persist for Bears

It is too often becoming the elephant over there in the corner of the room that no one really wants to talk to. After all, the Bears are 7-1 and a very good football team, so if reporting some basic issues with the offense comes across as picking nit, it isnt meant to be.

But Jay Cutler on his weekly ESPN radio show Monday was blunt that as far as an offense, we still have a long way to go.

And Monday night in a chat with David Kaplan and Brian Noonan on WGN-AM 720s WGN Sports Night, the offense accounted for most of the talking and worrying points.

The reason this remains a significant issue is that the Bears have a potential championship team and that can be undone by a problem offense.

The Charles Tillman Experience in Nashville with Brian Urlacher and Corey Wootton supporting acts overshadowed how dismal the Bears were on offense too early and too often both Sunday and this season.

Big numbers

The final numbers were anything but dismal, and how much fault should be found with an offense whose quarterback had a 138.1 passer rating with zero interceptions; three running backs with a combined 213 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown; and a wide receiver with nine (of 10 targets) catches and 122 yards?

But Brian rightly wondered if there was really a weakness in the defense as it is playing now. My thought was that this defense is good enough to win a championship but the weakness of the 2012 Bears defense is the same one that threatens any defense:

If the offense cannot stay on the field, defenses eventually wear down.

35 minutes ofwhat exactly?

Brian noted that the Bears went 35 minutes (the entire second and third quarters and then some) against Tennessee without getting into the end zone. They reached the Tennessee 7- and 14-yard lines and had to settle for field goals at the end of drives for 76 and 73 yards. Impressive but

We stumbled a bit, Cutler acknowledged after the Titans game. In the red zone, we stumbled a bit down there, the turnover fumble at the Tennessee 14 was my fault and so on.

Those were chances missed against the Tennessee Titans. The Bears opened the game with possessions of three-and-out, four-and-out and a safety.

If the Bears give away those kinds of opportunities against the Houston Texans, among the elite defenses and offenses in the NFL, the Bears defense will never have a chance.

Looking ahead

The consensus is that the offense will improve as the comfort levels of Cutler, Mike Tice and the rest settle. The Bears already have had their off week so it has to be done in real time, with an eye toward J.J. Watt and the Houston defense.

Even with the stumbles in Tennessee, I definitely think as the game went along we were playing good ball and had a good rhythm going toward the end of the game, coach Lovie Smith said.

Thats how it happened, too. Right now, were talking an awful lot about our defense, but before this season is over, hopefully this week, its going to shift where were going to be talking an awful lot about the weapons we have and the offensive plays that were makingWe know that theres a long ways to go still.

And in other news

You know how sometimes you just know you should have followed your first, gut instinct? That happened on Sunday.

Yes, a certain View from the Moon analyst chose to honor his preseason prediction that the Tennessee Titans would upset the Bears. That didnt happen.

Accountability is a good thing. I allowed that the Bears could very well go back home with a 7-1 record and should have stopped there. First miss on a Bears result this year, probably wont be the last, and Ill also probably reverse my preseason pix on the next two games.

More on that over the weekend.

Bears: Where does Kyle Fuller fit with Prince Amukamara back?

9-23kylefuller.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

Bears: Where does Kyle Fuller fit with Prince Amukamara back?

Prince Amukamara (ankle) is expected to make his 2017 regular season debut against the Pittsburgh Steelers after being a full participant in practices Thursday and Friday (he wasn't listed on Friday's injury report). But that leads to the question: What does defensive coordinator Vic Fangio do with Kyle Fuller?

Fuller acquitted himself well in starts against the Atlanta Falcons — in which he helped limit Julio Jones to four catches on five targets — and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bears signed Amukamara to start opposite Marcus Cooper, but Fuller has at least earned the opportunity to keep his job — or a job — on Sunday. 

And it's worth noting that both Fuller and Amukamara are in contract years, so both should be motivated to not lose playing time going forward. 

“I was pleased with the waay Kyle played overall,” Fangio said. “There's obviously some plays he'd like to do over and play them a little better, but overall I thought he did a good job. I like where he's at right now.”

Fangio didn’t play Fuller as a nickel corner in 2015. But if the Bears want to get their best defensive players on the field could Fuller force his way into a nickel role with Amukamara and Cooper as the outside guys? 

That’s an especially pertinent question given Pittsburgh’s explosive trio of receivers: Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant and JuJu Smith-Schuster. 

“No matter where a receiver lines up, it’s not going to be a down to take off,” Amukamara said. “We’re always going to have to have our ‘A’ game.”

Avisail Garcia's 'big head' isn't getting in the way of defensive improvements

usatsi_10219511.jpg
USA TODAY

Avisail Garcia's 'big head' isn't getting in the way of defensive improvements

Avisail Garcia's "big head" almost cost the White Sox on Friday night. At least, that's Reynaldo Lopez's humorous theory. 

With the game on the line and the Royals' tying run dashing for the plate, Garcia slipped a bit before making a clutch recovery to nail Whit Merrifield. The craziness continued after the tag as Narvaez caught Lorenzo Cain drifting off first base to seal a win. 

"I was watching the game on the TV here," Lopez said, "and then when I saw the hit from Cain, and I saw that Avi fell down because he has a big head, I was concerned but at the same time I saw that his throw, he has a good arm and he made a very good throw." 

Just your average 9-2-4-6 double play to end a game on the South Side, right? 

"Obviously, when he slipped we took a little gasp," Renteria said. "But we were talking about his body control to be able to maintain himself enough to get up and make the throw that he did. Unbelievable. It's pretty exciting finish to a ballgame that kind of got a little ugly early on."

Ugly is an apt way to describe the first few innings. Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada both made errors in the Royals' six-run third inning, and Lopez capped it off with a wild pitch that allowed Eric Hosmer to score. But it went from an eyesore loss to an overzealous "we could make noise in 2019" rebuild win from there, and Garcia's defense -- of all things -- played a significant role. 

Garcia's outfield assist in the ninth was his second of the game. The first, an absolute strike to cut down Alex Gordon in the sixth, didn't involve a slip, though. 

And while much has been made of Garcia's breakout year with the bat, he believes his defense is hugely improved, too. 

"I think 100 percent," he said. "I just try to get better every day with hitting and defense. That’s baseball so get better in everything."

He has 12 outfield assists on the season, up from five a year ago. And despite his overall fielding percentage being down, his strong arm may give him a stronger defensive reputation. 

"Since last year, he's always had an excellent arm," Renteria said. "I think his accuracy is something to be pointed out too because as off balance as he was, he's made some throws to the plate that have been really spot on."

Renteria attributes Garcia's accuracy to the outfielder putting in extra time with Daryl Boston. 

"(Boston) has those guys throwing, and none of you guys are out there watching them work, but they'll throw quite a bit to the bases, especially second base," Renteria said. "They'll get deep and they'll work on doing that, so that's just a part of their routine."

The evolution of Avi carries on.