Zero Commitment to Running Game

The Chicago Bears talk every week about wanting to run the football more, but then each and every game offensive coordinator Mike Martz keeps calling pass play after pass play. It's not working.

Bears coaches once again say they need to run the ball more.

They've been saying that since the 17-3 loss to the Giants in Week 4, when just 16 running plays were called. They said it again after the 23-20 loss to the Seahawks, when there were just 12 running plays. And now they're saying it yet again after running the ball 16 times in the 17-14 loss to the Redskins last week.

Starter Matt Forte has carried the ball just 90 times this season, 28 less carries than he had after seven games last season. His workload was expected to drop off a bit this season after the Bears signed unrestricted free agent Chester Taylor in the offseason, but Taylor has just 44 rushing attempts.

"I'm real fresh," said Taylor, who averaged 117 carries a season the past three years as Adrian Peterson's backup with the Vikings. "I feel fresher than I have in a long time. I'm just waiting until the time comes."

Only twice in seven games have the Bears run the ball more than 19 times.

"We need to run the ball more, no doubt about that," coach Lovie Smith said on Wednesday of the bye week, as the Bears worked on correcting the mistakes of the first seven weeks. "And not just run the ball more, we need to get those two guys involved more, whether that be through the run, like what we've done with some of our screen [passes]. Just getting the ball in our playmakers' hands, and those are two of them."

But offensive coordinator Mike Martz is the play caller, and his preference for the pass is well documented. His ratio of pass plays to runs was 4-to-1 against the Seahawks and nearly 3-to-1 against the Redskins. Martz claims that, after the bye, he plans to use both running backs more – and perhaps with even a twist in personnel that the Bears haven't shown yet.

"We've got to get them in the game more together," Martz said. "I think that's a neat opportunity for us. We've explored a little bit of that, and those are all things that we'll look at over the bye week. There's a couple things we want to look at that's a little bit different than maybe what we've done in the past, and we're all excited about that."

The Bears are currently 30th in the NFL in rushing yards per game, which is part of the reason they're the NFL's worst team in preventing sacks and in converting on third down, and also why they're 31st in interception percentage. Defending a one-dimensional attack is easier for any defense. Rarely will a quarterback complain about throwing the ball frequently, but Jay Cutler sees the wisdom in a balanced attack.

"We've got to get those guys the ball," he said of Forte and Taylor. "They're playmakers out there. Good things happen when you get the ball to Matt and Chester in space, so that's definitely something we've got to do."

The only game the Bears have won in the past month was the 23-6 victory over the Carolina Panthers, when they ran the ball 42 times for 218 yards. In the three games they've lost in the past month, they ran a total of 44 times for a combined 186 yards.

QB Jay Cutler
Jonathan Daniel/Getty

Having an extra week to stew about turning the ball over five times in the second half last Sunday shouldn't be a problem for Cutler, according to Martz.

"If you know Jay, then you'd know not to ask that question," Martz said. "Jay is a strong man, and he's very, very strong emotionally, and he's confident. I'm not concerned."

Cutler's passer rating has plummeted from 109.7 to 84.1 over the past four games, and he has thrown 33 interceptions and 34 touchdown passes in 22 games as a Bear, providing ammunition for his critics.

"I think a quarterback of every franchise is going to be scrutinized and weighed in [on], and everyone's going to have an opinion," Cutler said after getting a day off from throwing on Wednesday. "That's just kind of the world we live in right now with the media access and how things happen so quickly."

Cutler's solution to the negativity is to ignore it.

"I don't listen to anything," he said. "I listen to what's happening inside our building. There are so many distractions out there. We've just got to hold ourselves up and just concentrate on what we're doing and listen to our coaches and our players and go from there." ...

When the Bears went to a short passing game at the end of the first half against the Redskins, the results were encouraging, as they went 70 yards in seven plays for their only offensive touchdown on the day.

The same philosophy worked in the second half, as Cutler threw for 180 yards. The only problem was the six turnovers that killed all but one of their second-half possessions. It's the same philosophy that worked so well against the Cowboys in Week 2 after an early onslaught of pass-rush pressure.

"We had a lot of short passes, mostly because of what we were seeing," Martz said. "We're still trying to move some things around and try to get Matt the ball a little more out of the backfield, moving him around. Those are things now that they're more comfortable with then maybe they weren't as comfortable with before. As we move on, there are things that maybe we can be a little more complex and move in and out of as we need them." ...

Defensive tackle Anthony Adams said he wouldn't allow the struggling offense to take the blame for the 17-14 loss to the Redskins, even though seven of Washington's points came on a 92-yard interception of a Cutler pass.

"We're a team," Adams said. "If they don't score on us, then we win. We put it on us to try to keep them out of the end zone, and they ended up scoring, so that's what the score ended up being, 17-14. We take a lot of pride in keeping guys out of the end zone.

"We won't allow the offense to come and say, 'That was my fault,' or 'We should have done this better.' If they don't score, then they don't win. And we didn't get that done."

"You have to be a good football team to turn the ball over six times and have an opportunity to win, and that's what happened." – Coach Lovie Smith spinning his version of the 17-14 loss to the Redskins.

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