After one week, the Bears are in a first-place tie with the Colts with 463 yards of total offense, but they know they have room for improvement and that another four turnovers would probably be fatal Sunday at noon at Cowboys Stadium.
Execution at the goal line is a deficiency that leaps to mind after the Bears went 0-for-5 from inside the 1-yard line last Sunday. In the first quarter, they lost a yard on a third-down run and settled for a 20-yard field goal, and then failed on four straight tries on a fourth-quarter possession.
"We've got to get some goal-line stuff," quarterback Jay Cutler said. "We've got to concentrate on that. We've got to improve. It's definitely going to be a point of emphasis this week."
Offensive coordinator Mike Martz accepted the blame for last week, even though the offensive line deserves a good share of it.
"That's a coaching deal," Martz said. "We've been going through all this stuff, and our goal-line stuff has not gotten the attention that it needs. I just don't think we did a good enough job of preparing them for what they were going to see. [The Lions] were a little different than what we thought, but we've got to spend more time with them on that, too. I'll wear that one."
The idea of a quarterback sneak at the goal line was floated to Cutler, who said it could be a consideration down the road.
"That's game-by-game," he said. "It's going to be hard for us to get a push inside. Teams aren't stupid. They know once you get into those third-and-short, fourth-and-short, 1-yard-line situations, they're going to put two guys in the gaps."
Less of a problem but no less noteworthy was the lack of involvement from Devin Hester. Only one pass was directed toward Hester, which he caught for a 17-yard pickup. But one catch isn't what the Bears' coaching staff has in mind when they refer to Hester as their No. 1 receiver.
"If Devin would have got open, I would have thrown him the ball," said Cutler, whose 372 passing yards tied for sixth most in franchise history. "It's going to be game-by-game who gets the ball, depending on coverage. We're going to go with the matchups. They were doing some stuff to Devin, putting some [safeties] over the top of him. Devin is going to have his games. I'm not worried about that. He played really well. He's going to play really well this week, so I'm excited for him."
Hester, who led the Bears with 757 receiving yards last year and led the wideouts with 57 catches, isn't worried either. But he's caught just six passes in the Bears' past eight games, although he missed three straight late last season with a calf injury. On the bright side, Hester has averaged 26.7 yards on those six catches.
"That's the way it goes," Hester said. "You sometimes get one or two balls, and the next week you might get 15 or 20. That's what I'm hoping for this week: get my hands on the ball a little more and try to help out the team as much as I can. I thought I was open a couple times, but some of the plays are not designed for me."
Martz said there wasn't a conscious effort to target Devin Aromashodu 10 times (he caught five) or to target Hester just once.
"You just have to be careful about trying to get somebody the ball, and you leave trying to win the game," Martz said. "The defense will dictate that too. If the quarterback is doing what he's supposed to do, that ball can go anywhere at any time based on the structure of the defense. It just happens in the course of a game. We had some things that we were trying to get to, and it just didn't work out."
NOTES AND QUOTES
"It hurts, especially at that [middle] linebacker position," coach Lovie Smith said. "Hunter can play a lot of positions for us. He was a core special-teams player. Hunter was going to be a big part of what we were going to do. Last year, we lost Brian Urlacher at halftime of the first game. Those things come up, and you have to move on."
Hillenmeyer was injured in the third preseason game and it was not his first concussion, a factor that weighed in the decision to sit him for the season. He had returned to practice the week before last Sunday's season opener and suffered no symptoms.
But Sunday, "He had some [symptoms] without taking a shot, without getting a hit," Smith said. "We had him checked out and let him talk to the medical people. He consulted with them, and everyone came to the conclusion that that's what it was. It's not the first time. He's had trouble in the past."
In past years, Hillenmeyer never would have been put on IR so soon and probably would have returned in a couple weeks at the latest. But the league has become more sensitive to the long-term effects of concussions, especially in players with multiple concussions.
"It's changed, and it's changing still," Smith said. "First, on what you would call a concussion. Way back in the day, everyone said it wasn't a concussion unless a guy was knocked out. I can vividly recall having a concussion and being knocked out. Nowadays, we know a lot more about the injury. There's still a lot to learn. That's why you can't take any chances. And without trying to play doctor, you let the people who know make those decisions and you go with it." ...
Defensive tackle Tommie Harris says he'd prefer that former Buccaneers Pro Bowler Warren Sapp, now an NFL commentator, talk to him personally when he has criticisms.
Sapp said on the Mully & Hanley Show on WSCR Radio 670-AM Tuesday that Harris looked like "a blind dog in a meat house" during Sunday's season opener.
"Thanks for saying that on air, but you can call me anytime, Warren," Harris said. "Warren knows my number. If he has anything to say, he can call me."
Sapp played the same three-technique tackle position and in the same style of defense, so Harris has been compared to him since his rookie year with the Bears. That comparison is flattering since Sapp was a seven-time Pro Bowler, but Harris can do without the critique.
"Motivate me?" Harris said. "No. Bother me? Not at all. I could care less what he says. Looks like he got that job and went out there just to blast football players, not to motivate, so it doesn't bother me at all. I just know I have to go out there and do my job." ...
For the first time in his career, 2008 third-round pick Marcus Harrison was inactive last Sunday, as Matt Toeaina and Henry Melton backed up starters Tommie Harris and Anthony Adams. Melton, a fourth-round pick in 2009 who spent his rookie season on injured reserve, has emerged as a solid special-teams player. He tied for the team lead with two tackles on Sunday. But that's not the only reason Harrison sat.
It just wasn't Henry, but Matt Toeaina also," Smith said. "We like our defensive linemen, and each week guys don't know for sure who will dress. We'll go a lot on that last week of practice. Marcus has done some good things, but we just felt like the other players have done more and deserve to dress more."
Harrison said he has been told that he will be active Sunday in Dallas. ...
With Hillenmeyer on injured reserve and Nick Roach (hamstring) and Lance Briggs (ankle) sitting out Wednesday's practice, the defense was missing three linebackers. Urlacher, Pisa Tinoisamoa and backup Brian Iwuh from the 53-man roster were on the practice field, although they were joined by J.D. Folsom and just-signed Marcus Buggs from the practice squad.
A free agent is expected to be signed by today at the latest, and former Bear Rod Wilson is a player who makes sense. He was drafted by the Bears in the seventh round in 2005 and spent three years in Chicago before playing two years with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He was cut this year by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
QUOTE TO NOTE
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