Bears Still Searching for Balance

For the entire week leading up to yesterday's 27-17 loss to the Packers, Bears coaches and players talked about the need to run the ball more. Yet the play calling again was painfully lopsided.

Maybe this will be the week that the 1-2 Bears actually commit to the run game and not just pay it lip service when the 1-2 Panthers come to town.

After the 30-13 loss to the Saints in Week Two, when offensive coordinator Mike Martz called just 11 running plays and 52 pass plays, he promised that such an egregious imbalance would be corrected in Week Three. Well, in Week Three, Martz called for just nine run plays and 43 pass plays in a 27-17 loss to the Packers.

Even worse was the production - just 13 yards on the ground on 12 attempts, including three scrambles by quarterback Jay Cutler.

That wasn't the lowest rushing output in franchise history, but it was the worst since at least 1960.

The all-time low is one yard in 1952.

There was a simple reason the Bears didn't give their ground game more opportunities to shift out of neutral against the Packers.

"We didn't run the ball because we weren't able to," said running back Matt Forte, who should know after picking up two yards on nine carries. "We just played bad out there. Obviously when they shut the run down, you're going to try to throw the ball a little more."

RB Matt Forte
Dennis Wierzbicki/US Presswire

In back-to-back losses, Martz has called for 20 runs and 95 passes. The Bears have actually had 24 running plays, but four of them were pass plays that resulted in scrambles by quarterback Jay Cutler.

"If you don't get your running game going, you have to look at what the other side of the ball did," said coach Lovie Smith, who was dissatisfied with the run-pass balance in Week 2. "(The Packers) played good, sound defense. You have to give them a lot of the credit. Their front seven is solid and it showed today."

Forte entered Week Three second in the NFL with 324 yards from scrimmage (117 rushing, 207 receiving), and he was able to pick up 80 yards on a team-best seven catches.

LINEUP WATCH: Because of injuries, the Bears started their third different offensive line group and their third different safety tandem against the Packers. Frank Omiyale started at right tackle in place of Gabe Carimi, who will be out several weeks with a partially dislocated knee. Omiyale was flagged for two false starts and one holding call Sunday. Chris Spencer started for the second straight week in place of Lance Louis and had a holding penalty.

Brandon Meriweather started in place of Major Wright for the second straight week at free safety, and Craig Steltz got his first start since 2009 in place of Chris Harris at strong safety. All the injured players except Carimi are expected back for Week Four.

UNDER THE RADAR: For the second straight week, undrafted rookie wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher scored the Bears' first touchdown, this one on a 4-yard dart over the middle from Jay Cutler, which got the Bears to within 14-7 with 8:12 left in the first half. He had five catches for 27 yards and is tied for second on the team with nine receptions on the year, for 66 yards.


--LB Brian Urlacher's second interception of the season was the 20th of his career, and he is just the third player in NFL history with 20 interceptions and 40 sacks (41.5).

--RB Matt Forte has 287 yards on 22 receptions (13.0-yard average) but just 119 yards on 35 rushing attempts (3.4-yard average).

--LB Lance Briggs had a game-high 14 tackles, including two for loss, one of which forced a fumble that the Bears recovered.

--WR Devin Hester caught three passes for 62 yards, giving him a 48-game streak with at least one reception, fourth best in franchise history.

--DE Julius Peppers had his second sack of the season and also his second fumble recovery, tying a career high.

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