The bus, the boat, the plane — whatever the Chicago Bears get off — nothing’s changed. Head coach Lovie Smith, once again, reassured all this week that “We’re still a team that gets off the bus running the football. That statement ... I have it memorized, and that’s what we are here.
The bus, the boat, the plane — whatever the Chicago Bears get off — nothing’s changed.
Head coach Lovie Smith, once again, reassured all this week that “We’re still a team that gets off the bus running the football. That statement ... I have it memorized, and that’s what we are here.
“Most of our games, you can see we start out running the football. From there, you take what a team gives you — you’re trying to win the football game whatever way you can. I like seeing our receivers catch the ball, too.
“Still, there has to be a foundation for your team. For our offense, our foundation is the run.”
The reason the philosophy is being challenged is because they now have a quarterback in Brian Griese who is one of only two in the NFL to throw for more than 300 yards the past two weeks (Tom Brady’s the other). And the Bears (3-4) have been living through the air since Griese replaced Rex Grossman beginning with the first game against Detroit (4-2), Sunday's opponent at noon at Soldier Field.
“I’m saying that’s good — we’re a running team that can throw,” Smith said.
Passing is getting the Bears places. Running keeps the Bears basically in the same place. The Bears have climbed from 30th to 20th in passing offense (220.6 yards per game) the past four games, while remaining 30th in rushing offense (81.1).
“Everything goes hand in hand,” Griese said. “The run game plays off the pass game, and it’s not like it’s one or the other. We’ve played some pretty good run defensive teams in the past couple of weeks. Obviously, Minnesota has been historically a good defense against the run, and Philadelphia the same.”
Just because Griese has piled up impressive passing numbers — many coming in the fourth quarter against prevent defenses — doesn’t mean he thinks the team’s identity is shifting from run to pass.
“Like I said, we’ve played some pretty good defensive run football teams,” he said. “You can go in and you can bang your head against the wall if you want to. Or you can take what obviously is the best match-up in your favor.
“We’ve had some good looks to run the ball, and I think we’ve had some good runs. But we’ve also been able to throw the ball a little bit. At the end of the day, the key is do you move the team and do you score?”
Smith’s ideal world includes enough passing to make it a 50-50 run-pass proposition. So far, it’s tilted heavily toward throwing (58.4 percent of the time). The Bears have passed 253 times and rushed 180.
“We’ve won football games with what we’ve done in the passing game — that should make you take notice,” Smith said. “While I say we’re a running team, we can beat you with the pass. You want teams to come in thinking they have to stop the run, but they can pass, too.”
Offensive coordinator Ron Turner is on board with that approach.
“We all need to do more to continue to run the ball, and the more we run it, the better we’ll get at it,” he said. “Cedric (Benson) is doing a lot of good things, the offensive line is blocking well, and it’s going to come around to the point where we want it to.
“The big thing is we need to get the carries. That’s up to the coaches to make sure we get those carries, keeping the ball and converting first downs.
“If we get the carries, the rest will be all right.”
The Lions talk the same and play the same. They rank seventh in passing offense (243.0) and 27th in rushing (85.5). Quarterback Jon Kitna was an impressive 20-of-24 for 247 yards and two touchdowns in the earlier 37-27 win over Chicago on Sept. 30.
That’s when the Bears’ defense was missing corners Charles Tillman and Nathan Vasher, safety Adam Archuleta and linebacker Lance Briggs.
Kitna said he didn’t notice any difference in the game at Ford Field because “it’s still the same scheme.”
“It’s not like we had much success until late in the game anyway,” he said, referring to the Lions record-setting 34-point fourth quarter. “We weren’t moving the ball that well.
Like I said, going into that game, if their front four was out, I’d feel a little more comfortable. When that front four is in there, that’s what makes them special because they just get after the passer, and they just make it so you don’t have much time to make your decisions and do those things back there as a quarterback.
“That front four is the engine to that team.”
Reed Schreck is the NFL writer for rrstar.com. Contact him at 815-987-1381 or firstname.lastname@example.org.