Notebook: Defensive Line Struggling

We discuss the Bears' poor play on both sides of the trenches, as well as the problems at the safety position, getting plays on the field, injury impact, strategy and personnel, game plan and more.

Monday night's nine false starts broke down this way: left tackle J'Marcus Webb (three), tight end Kellen Davis (two), left guard Chris Williams, right tackle Frank Omiyale, running back Matt Forte and safety Chris Conte (on a punt).

"We started off with a regular count, and the guys were having trouble hearing me, so we went to a silent count," quarterback Jay Cutler said. "The pressure that they were putting on our offensive line with their defensive line, I think that started to accumulate a little bit and guys started wanting to get out of there a little bit quicker (and) the crowd noise, there's a lot of things that happened. But, at the end of the day, it can't happen. We practice that. We bring speakers out on our field, so this isn't anything new to us. We've played in loud situations before."

According to Stats LLC, the Bears' six false starts in the first half is an NFL record. It was easily the loudest crowd the Bears have ever experienced at Ford Field. In past years, for instance from 2006-09, when the Lions went 12-52, Bears fans nearly outnumbered Lions fans, so noise wasn't a problem. But Cutler said Monday night wasn't much different than any other loud indoor stadium.

"It wasn't anything that crazy, (but) it was loud," Cutler said. "We played in New Orleans, and it was loud. When we go to Green Bay, it's going to be loud and when we go to Minnesota it's going to be loud. If you don't handle it well, you're probably going to lose and that's what happened to us."

--After just five games, the 2-3 Bears are three full games behind the 5-0 Lions and Packers in the NFC North and have already lost to both of them, which also leaves them at a disadvantage in tiebreakers.

"There is never a time for panic, but we need to have a sense of urgency," said running back Matt Forte. "If you panic, you get out of your regular rhythm. We need to cut down on penalties and, if the opportunity to make a big play is there, make that. Eliminate the mistakes."

In his last two games, Forte has rushed for 321 yards on 47 carries, a 6.8-yard average.

--Safeties Chris Harris and Brandon Meriweather were both in the vicinity of Calvin Johnson when he hauled in Matthew Stafford's bomb that resulted in a 73-yard touchdown. But neither was in position to do anything about it.

"He threw it, Calvin caught it, and he scored a touchdown," Harris said. "There's really no answer to it. I've got to play better. That's probably the best answer I can give you right now."

--As usual, the Bears struggled more often than most teams at getting plays in to quarterback Jay Cutler, which resulted in wasted timeouts.

"I can't really give you an answer for that," coach Lovie Smith said. "We've got to get the plays in a little bit quicker. We've got to do a better job."


The defensive line was a unit that the Bears considered a team strength heading into the season.

It hasn't played out that way, with the group struggling to hold its own, coming up short in the pass rush and also getting gouged frequently in the run game.

And now, injuries are taking their toll.

Defensive end Julius Peppers suffered a sprained MCL (medial collateral ligament) in his right knee vs. the Lions, and his mobility was clearly affected. He might be able to play against the Vikings Sunday night, but he won't be 100 percent.

Nose tackle Matt Toeaina, who has started all five games, suffered a sprained PCL (posterior cruciate ligament) in the fourth quarter and is expected to miss the next two games. That would move Anthony Adams into the starting lineup. He started all 16 games last season.

Defensive end Corey Wootton, who was expected to be a valuable backup this season, missed the first three games recovering from a knee scope, played in one game and then missed last week with a hand injury. He might be able to play Sunday.

"Julius Peppers' knee is still sore," coach Lovie Smith said. "I don't know exactly when he'll be able to go, but hopefully by Friday he'll be able to do some things and be able to go this weekend."

Chances are second-round pick Stephen Paea will see his first playing time vs. the Vikings. He has been inactive every week.

"There's a rotation you go through," Smith said. "Sometimes it's hard for you to get an opportunity. Stephen has to just continue to do what he's been doing: going to work, practice, improving. He'll get his opportunity. We're still as high on him, as we have been. It's just that there's been other guys before him."


--DE Julius Peppers (sprained right MCL) did not practice Wednesday and will be limited all week, but the Bears hope to have him on the field Sunday night.

--DT Matt Toeaina (sprained PCL), who has started the first five games, is expected to miss two games.

--OT Gabe Carimi (partially dislocated kneecap) is unlikely to return until Week 9, following the Bears' bye.

--WR Earl Bennett (bruised chest) is not expected back at practice this week and general manager Jerry Angelo hinted that he might not return until Week 9.

--CB Charles Tillman (hip) aggravated the injury Monday night and was limited at Wednesday's practice but is expected to play this week.

--DE Corey Wootton (hand) went through a full practice Wednesday and is expected to play for just the second time on Sunday.


The loser in this one has no realistic chance of catching the 5-0 Lions and 5-0 Packers in the NFC North. What little success the Bears have enjoyed offensively has come when they run the ball effectively, or at least frequently enough to keep the pass rush away from QB Jay Cutler. He showed last week in defeat that he can be effective throwing the ball on the move, but Mike Martz's offense really doesn't provide a platform for putting Cutler on the move. With no individual accomplishing much in the passing game, aside from running back Matt Forte, the Bears would be best served to keep it on the ground with Forte and Marion Barber, who can be an effective complement.

The Bears believe that Job One is always keeping running back Adrian Peterson corralled, and that has never been more true than it is this week with the defense having been gashed for 350 rushing yards the past two weeks on just 46 attempts, a 7.6-yard average. The Bears desperately need more of a pass rush from the linemen, but with DE Julius Peppers hobbled by a sprained knee, that might not be possible. BY THE NUMBERS: 48 -- Number of lineup changes at the two safety positions that the Bears have made since Lovie Smith became head coach in 2004.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I don't know, you know. Well, I do know ... but we'll get them fixed." -- Bears QB Jay Cutler when asked about the continuing difficulties the team has experienced getting plays called down from offensive coordinator Mike Martz in the booth to Cutler on the field.

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