If recognizing that you have a problem is the first step to correcting it, then Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith is well on his way to fixing the lopsided run-pass ratio on offense that resulted in a beat-down of quarterback Jay Cutler on Sunday.
"I know the balance as far as run/pass wasn't there," Smith said, a day after the 30-13 loss to the Saints in New Orleans. "All I can say is we'll get it better. We can't win football games with that kind of balance."
Offensive coordinator Mike Martz dialed up 52 pass plays (45 passes, 6 sacks, 1 Cutler scramble) and only 11 run plays. The second half was even more out of whack: 29 pass plays; 2 run plays. If there's a more effective recipe for getting your franchise quarterback maimed, it hasn't been discovered.
Featured running back Matt Forte knifed through the Saints' defense for 42 yards on his second carry, but he ran the ball just 8 more times after that.
"Surprised? Yeah," Forte said when asked his reaction to the lack of carries. "Ten rushes is not really a whole lot. But when you get behind pretty quick in the second half, I think the mindset was to pass the ball and try to get big chunks of yardage back or get a quick score in the passing game. We tried to do that, but we had a bunch of three-and-outs.
RB Matt Forte
"We didn't convert on third downs, which really killed us."
The Bears converted just 2 of 12 third-down chances (17 percent), while the defense allowed the Saints to succeed on 47 percent of their third-down plays (8 of 17). All 3 of Drew Brees' TD passes came on third-down plays.
Yet, even the pass-happy Saints, who were No. 3 in passing yards last season, ran the ball 29 times Sunday. Forte believes the Bears would have more success offensively with a closer balance between run and pass, and that it would slow down blitzes like those brought by the Saints that defused the passing attack.
"When the offense is more balanced, (the defense) just can't harp on one thing," Forte said. "If they know we're passing the ball, just like (Sunday), they'll pin their ears back and bring everybody. It's hard to pick up everybody when they're blitzing like that. You've got to hurt them in the passing game when they were blitzing so many people. We didn't get the ball off or, when we threw it, it wasn't completed."
Often it was dumped off to Forte, who had 10 catches for 117 yards. By the second half, when the Saints had all their sacks, Cutler barely had time to get the ball to Forte.
But Smith didn't offer any insight Monday as to how the play-calling got so out of whack.
"Just happened," he said. "Happens like that sometimes. We'll clean it up."
Smith was asked if he had spoken with Martz about the disparity between run and pass.
"Yeah," he said. "We speak a little bit from time to time. Yes, I have. I'm not going to sit here and tell you the reason why, I'm just going to tell you we have to get the balance a lot better, and we will. We didn't do that (Sunday) for a lot of different reasons."
One of the reasons may have been that the Bears didn't believe they could run successfully against the Saints, who were 16th last season in rushing yards allowed. But Smith wasn't admitting to that.
"I'm going to tell you again; we didn't have the balance that we needed," he said. "I'm not going to give you any more reasons why. We'll have it better this week. That's my answer."
That's a better answer than the Bears had on Sunday.
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