The Bears want the ball in Jay Cutler’s hands at the end of games. Fine, but how about the start of a game? The Bears (2-1) keep rallying because they have to. A slow start made last week’s game against a Seattle team missing eight injured starters unnecessarily uncomfortable. And a slow start looks like the primary danger again Sunday against the lowly Lions (1-2) at Soldier Field.
The Bears want the ball in Jay Cutler’s hands at the end of games.
“Everyone in that offensive huddle is very confident in what we can do,” said Cutler, who has led Chicago on a fourth-quarter drive to take the lead in all three games this season. “We know we can move the ball, and by the fourth quarter, we have a really good feel for what the defense is doing.”
Fine, but how about the start of a game?
The Bears (2-1) keep rallying because they have to. They’ve been outscored 17-0 in the first-quarter this year.
A slow start made last week’s game against a Seattle team missing eight injured starters unnecessarily uncomfortable. And a slow start looks like the primary danger again Sunday against the lowly Lions (1-2) at Soldier Field.
The Bears roared to a 31-0 lead in an easy 34-7 win last year in Detroit, but trailed 23-13 at the half at home and almost lost to the league’s first 0-16 team, rallying to win 27-23 in the fourth quarter.
“It’s going to be a tough game,” Cutler said. “We’ve struggled with Detroit in the past.”
The danger grows the longer Detroit stays close.
“We’re working on that drill right now,” Chicago coach Lovie Smith said. “We talk a lot about starting fast. We’re conscious of it. We’re going to work to get it done eventually.”
The Bears have tried throwing, passing on eight of their first 10 plays against Green Bay and 12 of their first 14 against Pittsburgh without scoring either time. They’ve also tried running, staying on the ground for 10 of 21 plays in four scoreless drives to open the game in Seattle.
Why has neither way worked in the beginning, but both have done well at the end?
“That’s the million-dollar question,” tight end Greg Olsen said. “We have to do a better job of executing from the beginning and not waiting two or three series before we settle down.”
“Settling down” is the key issue, according to offensive coordinator Ron Turner.
“We have to come out and relax,” Turner said. “Guys are pressing too hard. Early in the game, we had guys trying to do too much. Then they settle down and trust the system and just do it.
“That’s part of being a young team with new guys in the mix. It takes awhile to adjust sometimes to what teams are doing and communicate and work together.”
Cutler said there’s no reason for the Bears’ early struggles to continue, and that Chicago just missed on a couple of big plays that could have gotten the Bears off to far quicker starts.
“The good thing about it,” Cutler said, “is we are making plays in the fourth quarter and we are finishing strong.”
Slow starts have made the Bears’ a high-wire act in 2009, but they’ve been staying on that wire.
“No matter what happened early in the game, you can correct it all,” Olsen said. “If you go in and win the game on that last drive, it makes up for the beginning.”
But who wants a scare against the Lions?
“It’s one we’ve got to win,” Cutler said.
Matt Trowbridge can be reached at (815) 9876-1383 or email@example.com.
Keys to a Bears win
_Rattle quarterback Matt Stafford. The book on rookie passers is to pressure them into mistakes, but Atlanta’s Matt Ryan stood tall against the Bears last year. “I assume if a guy is starting for an NFL team, you can’t rattle him,” Bears coach Lovie Smith said. Yes, Chicago can, but it has to be a controlled rush. The Bears can’t get reckless just because Stafford is a rookie. “If you try to take matters into your own hands, then you are going to play outside of the scheme of the defense and make the game about you, and it isn’t. It’s a team game,” defensive tackle Anthony Adams said. “Everybody has to get the quarterback.”
_Run more on third-and-5. Run less on third-and-1 or third-and-2. The Bears worst rushing stat isn’t their 2.8 yards per carry, it’s the nine first downs on 76 rushes, including only one on their first 25 carries last week. Chicago needs first downs any way it can get them, and it’s proven it can’t get them running into the teeth of a defense expecting a run.
_Tackle well. The Bears don’t need to strip the ball to beat Detroit. They just need to tackle the Lions when they get the chance. Detroit needs big plays to win. Chicago just needs to prevent them.
-- Matt Trowbridge