The Bears averaged a season-best 6.4 yards per rush in Sunday's loss to the Raiders, yet they had just 27 rushing attempts, and only 22 of them were planned runs, since quarterback Caleb Hanie scrambled five times for 50 yards.
During their five-game win streak, which ended Sunday, the Bears averaged 32.4 running plays per game. So why didn't they run more often against the Raiders, who entered the game ranked No. 31 in average gain allowed per run, especially since Hanie was making his first NFL start and wound up throwing three interceptions?
Coach Lovie Smith was asked Monday afternoon if more running plays should have been called.
"No," he said. "I think our game plan was good enough to win the football game. I think if we eliminated a couple of turnovers ... We all know that swing there at the end of the half. If you take that away, it's a different ballgame. If we don't give up the long screen pass and it's a different ballgame. I liked our game plan. We just didn't make enough plays this game."
QB Caleb Hanie
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty
The swing at the end of the half that Smith alluded to was, indeed, a killer. Trailing 9-7, the Bears had reached the Raiders' 7-yard line after Johnny Knox's 56-yard kickoff return gave them great field position. Hanie rolled right and threw a pass back to his left intended for Kellen Davis. But Raiders linebacker Kamerion Wimbley made an excellent play to pick off the pass, and only the hustle of offensive tackle Lance Louis prevented a touchdown on the return. Still, the Raiders got a field goal and a 12-7 halftime lead.
Critics questioned the wisdom of the throw that Hanie was asked to make, but Smith defended the play.
"We were trying to win the game," the Bears coach said in his postgame press conference. "Every time a play doesn't work you can say that. It happens like that sometimes, (and you) need to be able to rally from it."
The Bears never did, failing to get any closer than five points in the second half. And Smith didn't change his mind about the play on Monday.
"It didn't work, so of course you're going to get criticized when something doesn't work," Smith said. "But next time it will. First time it didn't; next time maybe it will."
As well as Hanie did running the ball - it was the most rushing yards by a Bears quarterback since 2003 - Smith isn't anxious to see Hanie imitate Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, who ran the ball 22 times (for 67 yards) in Sunday's victory over the Chargers. But he won't discourage Hanie from using one of his more valuable tools to make plays.
"I don't think you can ask anything more than that," Smith said of Hanie's contribution to the ground attack. "There are opportunities sometimes, especially with some coverages that teams play to lock down receivers; there's normally an opening. Quarterback is normally not accounted for in most defenses so, if you have a guy that's mobile enough to do that, we will occasionally take advantage of it."
The Bears also appear more inclined to get backup running back Marion Barber more involved in light of his Sunday performance (team-best 63 yards on 10 carries), his most productive game as a Bear.
"He's a weapon we need to use," Smith said. "We brought him here to fill that type of role for us, and it did seem like he was feeling it (Sunday). He was productive in our running game."
Matt Forte got just 12 carries vs. the Raiders, his lightest workload in two months, but he picked up 59 yards, averaging 4.9 yards per carry.
RB Marion Barber
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty
It wouldn't be a surprise to see the Bears get back to running more frequently with Forte, Barber and maybe even Hanie Sunday against the Chiefs at Soldier Field. Through 12 weeks, coach Todd Haley's team was ranked 27th in rushing yards allowed.
--Despite an otherwise solid performance, the Bears' defense fell short Sunday of its stated goal of forcing two turnovers every week.
The Bears allowed the Raiders 341 total yards and just 72 rushing yards in the 25-20 loss to Oakland. They permitted just 3-of-15 third-down conversions and got four sacks, as many as they had in the previous four games combined.
But the defense came away with just one turnover, Corey Graham's third interception in as many games. The Raiders took the ball away three times, all on interceptions.
"I thought we did good," said cornerback Charles Tillman. "(But) one of the things we fell short of was turnovers. Any time you lose the turnover ratio, the chances are you're going to lose. It's a proven stat."
It absolutely is for Lovie Smith's Bears. Since Smith came to town, the Bears are 4-9 when they fail to get a turnover, 9-25 when they get just one, 25-11 when they force two turnovers and 32-8 when they get three or more.
"The way we've won games this year has been taking care of the football and winning the turnover ratio," Smith said. "That really hurt us (Sunday)."
The Bears forced 15 turnovers during the five-game win streak that ended Sunday.
--Robbie Gould booted field goals of 50 and 53 yards vs. the Raiders, the first time in his seven-year career he's had two of 50 or longer in the same game.
In his first four seasons, Gould didn't have any field goals longer than 49 yards, and he only attempted two. But his kicks have been getting longer and stronger. In 2009 he hit 2-of-3 from 50 or longer, and last year he was 3-for-4 from long range. This year he's 5-for-5 from 50 or farther.
"Everyone said I couldn't make 50-yard field goals in the beginning of my career," Gould said. "Well, I never really got a lot of attempts. That just wasn't our style of football that we play around here, (but) I think by making a few later down the road, I might have gained a little more confidence from coach (Lovie) Smith and (special teams coordinator) Dave Toub. Obviously this year has been a special year for me."
--New long snapper Chris Massey handled four placements and five punts without incident Sunday in his first game with the Bears.
The 10-year veteran wasn't signed until last Thursday after the Bears decided not to go with untested rookie Jake Laptad.
"Unfortunately we didn't get the whole week to prepare, but Chris came in and has done a great job for us," kicker Robbie Gould said. "I feel bad for Jake; he kind of got thrown in the fire. He'd be the type of guy who'd be great to have in camp, and hopefully we bring him back because he was great at the end (of the preseason), and he could definitely have a career in long snapping. I just think he needs to have some time around (injured long snapper) Pat Mannelly."
REPORT CARD VS. RAIDERS
PASSING OFFENSE: D-plus - QB Caleb Hanie's first NFL start began poorly with three first-half interceptions, but he got better as the game went on, throwing two TD passes and showing the ability to make plays downfield with an 81-yard hookup to Johnny Knox, who also caught a 29-yard TD toss. Knox had a couple drops, but he wound up with a career-best 145 receiving yards on four catches. Pass protection was a little spotty; Hanie was sacked four times, but that also seemed to improve later in the game.
CB Corey Graham
RUSHING OFFENSE: B - QB Caleb Hanie helped with 50 yards on five scrambles, but backup Marion Barber led the Bears with 63 yards on 10 carries and Matt Forte added 59 yards on 12 attempts. The Bears had their third-highest rushing total of the season, 172 yards, so it seems odd that they ran just 27 times, their fewest attempts in the last six weeks. Forte didn't find much running room early, but he did break a 33-yard run.
PASS DEFENSE: B - The pass rush got to Carson Palmer four times, matching its total of the previous four weeks combined, but the Raiders' quarterback still threw for 301 yards. Julius Peppers had two sacks, giving him eight for the season and six in his last six games. A pair of 47-yard receptions, one on a screen pass, marred an otherwise solid effort, highlighted by fill-in nickel back Corey Graham's third interception is as many games.
RUSH DEFENSE: B-plus - Michael Bush was kept under wraps, managing just 69 yards on 24 carries. NT Matt Toeaina was stout up front, and Peppers showed up more in the run game than he had in recent weeks. LBs Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher were both active in run support.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B - Johnny Knox had four kickoff returns for 133 yards, including a 56-yarder that gave the Bears a chance to take a halftime lead, but they turned the ball over. PK Robbie Gould hit from 50 and 53 yards, the first time he's had a pair of 50-something field goals in the same game. P Adam Podlesh was very good again (44.8-yard net), but not quite as good as Shane Lechler, 49.2-yard net average, who took Devin Hester out of the game.
COACHING: C - Especially with a quarterback starting his first game, the Bears should have run the ball more, and the across-the-field screen pass seems ill-advised in retrospect, since it resulted in an interception in the red zone and led to a Raiders field goal.
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