The Chicago Bears entered the season wanting to have a potent offense that would leave opponents struggling as they piled up the yards and the points.
This is not what they had in mind.
The Bears (2-1) will try to get their offense going again and shake off two bad performances when they visit the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night.
Chicago's offense ranks 27th overall and 28th in passing. All of this comes after a busy offseason and a promising opener against Indianapolis.
"Every time our offense goes out, some kind of way we expect to score 50 points, rush for 300 yards and pass for 500," coach Lovie Smith said this week. "That's not going to happen."
Even so, they need to perform better on offense than they have of late.
They also landed running back Michael Bush to team with Matt Forte in the backfield and backup quarterback Jason Campbell, giving them the depth to withstand the sort of injuries that wrecked them a year ago.
But clearly, this is a work in progress.
A familiar pattern appears to be unfolding after the offense struggled in the early going the past two years.
The Bears rebounded in 2010 to go on a run to the NFC title game, and they appeared to be in good shape before Cutler broke his right thumb late in a win over San Diego that put them at 7-3.
From there, they stumbled to an 8-8 finish that cost general manager Jerry Angelo his job, with Forte missing the final four games because of a sprained ligament in his right knee.
They also parted ways with offensive coordinator Mike Martz and promoted line coach Mike Tice to take his place.
One area they didn't really address was the shaky offensive line, but things looked good for the Bears in the opener against Indianapolis.
They stumbled badly in a 23-10 loss at Green Bay in which Cutler got sacked seven times, threw four interceptions and bumped left tackle J'Marcus Webb on the sideline.
That incident along with some pointed comments he made after the game seemed to undo the good will he earned last season, when he performed well despite taking a beating in Martz's system.
Things weren't much better last week, with the defense leading the way in a 23-6 win over the Rams.
Cutler was off target, completing 17 of 31 passes for 183 yards, and the offense in general just seemed out of sync.
Marshall had trouble hanging onto the ball at times and wound up with five receptions for 71 yards after catching just two passes the previous week. Bush ran for 55 yards and a touchdown with Forte sidelined by a sprained right ankle, and the Bears just never really found their rhythm.
"We've just had a couple of slow starts," tight end Kellen Daivs said. "It's kind of been our M.O. this season, something we're trying to get away from. Get back to being explosive early on in the game, and we're going to look to do that on Monday night."
Getting Forte back would help.
He practiced Wednesday for the first time since the Green Bay game and expects to be ready to play against Dallas, even though Smith tempered that a little bit.
Even so, Forte practicing was a good sign for the Bears, and the Pro Bowl running back's return this week would be a huge boost for the offense.
"So it's real big to get in synch with the running game as well as the passing game so we can help the defense out," Forte said. "The defense has been playing lights out. So we need to put a lot of points on the board so they can at least rest a little bit and continue to play good."
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