Notebook: Bears to lean on run game

Jay Cutler's thumb injury will likely sideline him for the rest of the season. This means Chicago's offense will have to rely heavily on running back Matt Forte in order to make the playoffs.

With inexperienced Caleb Hanie replacing Jay Cutler at quarterback, the Bears are expected to rely more heavily on the running of Matt Forte and Marion Barber.

"I think it will help a lot," coach Lovie Smith. "We'll lean on it even more. We've had over 30 rushes (per game) for a period of time now. We have a great player in Matt Forte. Our offensive line is playing well."

The Bears have run the ball more than 30 times in each of the past four games, and they've averaged 31 rushes over the past seven games. But the run game has bogged down the past two weeks, the line's best run blocker, right tackle Gabe Carimi, is on injured reserve as is left guard Chris Williams.

Through 10 weeks, the Bears were 13th in rushing yards and ninth in average gain per run. But they managed just 93 yards on the ground Sunday on 32 attempts for a 2.9-yard average. A week earlier against the Lions, the Bears had 109 yards on 35 carries for a 3.1-yard average.


QB Caleb Hanie
Tom Hauck/Getty

--Caleb Hanie takes over a 7-3 team that's on a five-game winning streak and has scored 30 or more points in three straight games and six times in 10 games this season.

"Caleb is pretty excited about the opportunity," coach Lovie Smith said. "When you're the backup you want to get a chance, not under these circumstances, but you want to get an opportunity to prove what you can do, and he realizes what's at stake, too. We have a good football team and he's going to do his job to keep it moving."

--Twice in a game this season the Bears' defense has had five sacks, but it has a total of just eight sacks in the other eight games combined, and it didn't have any Sunday.

"I haven't been disappointed in our defensive play overall," coach Lovie Smith said. "I like the way our defense finished (Sunday). There were some plays we would like to have back that we'll correct. But does the defense need to step up? We all need to step up our game, and we will."

The Bears are tied for 26th in sacks with 18 and are 31st in sack percentage. Opponents have thrown 421 passes against the Bears, the most in the league.

PLAYER NOTES

--SS Major Wright had an interception Sunday for the third straight game.

--TE Kellen Davis caught one pass Sunday for four yards, but it was his third TD catch of the season on just 10 receptions.

--RB Matt Forte has eight catches in his last three games for just 46 yards, a 5.8-yard average. In the first seven games this season, he had 38 receptions for 419 yards, an 11.0-yard average.

--CB Charles Tillman forced and recovered a fumble Sunday. It was the 27th forced fumble of his career, the most by an NFL defensive back since he entered the league in 2003.

--RB Marion Barber picked up his team-best fifth rushing touchdown of the season, all of which have come in the past seven weeks.

REPORT CARD VS. CHARGERS

PASSING OFFENSE: B - QB Jay Cutler threw 31 passes and completed 18, the last two with a fractured right thumb, which will require surgery. Cutler threw two TD passes and had a passer rating of 97.0, which would have been higher were it not for his only interception, a play on which WR Johnny Knox slipped, leading to the pick. That also was the play Cutler was hurt on, while trying to get into position to tackle Antoine Cason. Earl Bennett had another solid day (three catches, 75 yards) and Roy Williams (five catches, 62 yards) finally looked as if he were in sync with Cutler, and Knox finally caught a TD pass among his three receptions for 97 yards. The patchwork O-line did not allow a sack.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C-minus - Matt Forte struggled for 57 yards on 20 carries, as the Chargers seemed intent on not letting him get any momentum going. Marion Barber didn't have great numbers, but he's looking more and more like he will be a valuable complement down the stretch. Run blocking wasn't as crisp as it had been earlier in the season, but the Bears are now without two of their opening-day starters up front.


CB Corey Graham
Scott Boehm/Getty

PASS DEFENSE: B-minus - The pass rush continues to be a figment of the Bears' imagination. The Bears now have two sacks in their last 96 pass-rush opportunities, and they failed to get to Philip Rivers even once on 31 pass attempts. The secondary came up with two more interceptions, both in the fourth quarter - by SS Major Wright and nickel back fill-in Corey Graham -- that prevented the Chargers from getting back into the game. Vincent Jackson (seven catches, 165 yards, one TD) pretty much had his way with Charles Tillman, although the Bears' cornerback forced and recovered a fumble that led to a TD.

RUSH DEFENSE: B - Ryan Mathews popped a 23-yard run, but the Chargers' other 16 rushes netted a total of 29 yards. Lance Briggs was the most active run defender with two tackles for loss and a forced fumble. DE Israel Idonije had five tackles, as many as all the other Bears' defensive linemen combined.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B - Johnny Knox's 53-yard kickoff return set up one TD. Devin Hester had a 37-yard punt return and a 42-yarder that was called back because of a penalty and netted just 12 yards. Kickoff coverage was uncharacteristically shoddy, allowing 167 yards on five returns for a 33.4-yard average. P Adam Podlesh had another outstanding game, averaging a net of 45.7 yards with no return yardage.

COACHING: B - The Bears had little success running, but they continued to do it often enough to open up passing lanes. It was an unimpressive defensive effort until the fourth quarter, when it mattered, but something needs to be done to spark the pass rush.


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