Maybe the fifth time is a charm.
Sunday marked the Bears' fifth different offensive line combination, and all concerned hope it's the one that stays together and builds some continuity through the final half of the season.
"I'd like to stick with these guys for the rest of the year, absolutely," quarterback Jay Cutler said after being sacked just once in the 22-19 victory over the Bills. "We've kind of shuffled those guys around, had a few injuries, had a few setbacks, but I think this group right here is the group that we'd like to make a push with and make a run with. I think this is the most comfortable they've felt as well, too."
In his previous five and a half games this season, Cutler had been sacked a league-high 27 times.
Sunday's change involved re-inserting Roberto Garza at right guard. Garza had started at right guard the previous four and a half seasons but was switched to left guard this year, where he started the first five games before undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery and missing two games. Chris Williams was plugged in at left guard and performed well enough to allow Garza to go back to right guard, where he can help the maturation process of rookie right tackle J'Marcus Webb.
"I'm back out there playing right guard, and it feels like that is where I need to be," Garza said. "It was definitely good feeling. The comfort level's a lot higher there."
The Bears still need improvement in the run game. Not counting Cutler's scrambles, the Bears averaged just 2.5 yards per carry. But they hope a solidified lineup will produce a more cohesive and productive run-blocking unit, too.
"That's the key, keeping the guys in the same positions and working together and getting the communication up," Garza said. "We did that today, and hopefully we can continue that."
Center Olin Kreutz is the only member of the line to have started all eight games at the same position, although Frank Omiyale started the first two at right tackle and the last six at left tackle, where he seems to have found a home. The latest concoction helped Cutler produce a 97.6 passer rating, his best since Week 2.
"The line did a good job of keeping pressure off him," coach Lovie Smith said. "He wasn't hit a lot today, which allowed him to make a few special plays, special throws. That's what we have to do. We have to keep pressure off of Jay and let him do his thing. I would like to see the same group of five continue to play together for us."
NOTES AND QUOTES
"Shout out to the Bears fans here in Canada and the people who came out," said safety Chris Harris, whose first interception of the season sealed the victory with 27 seconds remaining. "It kind of felt like almost a semi-home game. We had a lot of support here. That's always good when you're on the road."
It wasn't just Canadians cheering for the Bears. There seemed to be many more fans that made the trip from Chicago than Buffalo, which is about 100 miles away. "We have good fans," Cutler said. "When we were down in Dallas, it was the same thing. We had a lot of fans down there and in Carolina. Bears fans travel well historically, so that helps us." ...
Since missing all of the preseason and the first regular-season with a pulled hamstring, Earl Bennett has been the Bears' most consistent receiver, with at least three catches in six of the last seven games.
Sunday he found the end zone for the first time this season, catching a 2-yard toss from Cutler with 6:41 left that provided the winning points in a 22-19 victory.
"It was all man coverage," Bennett said of the score. "Great call by [offensive coordinator Mike] Martz, and Jay threw a great ball."
Bennett led the Bears on Sunday with four catches and 52 yards, giving him 24 catches and 263 yards on the season. ...
Sunday's victory against a winless team may not have been a masterpiece, but the Bears weren't about to throw it back.
"It gets us back on the right track," said linebacker Brian Urlacher, who tied for the team lead with nine tackles. "It's good for our team after losing two in a row at home."
The Bears return home this Sunday to face the Vikings, who rallied for a 27-24 victory over the Cardinals in overtime to raise their record to 3-5.
"There's so much parity in the league, it's hard getting a win," Smith said. "That's why we feel so good about this."
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New O-Line Combo Keeps Cutler Clean
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