The Chicago Bears are 2-1 after their second prime time road victory in as many weeks. The 27-19 win over the New York Jets included two offensive touchdowns, both through the air, yet it was another disappointing week for Chicago’s rushing attack.
Against a stout Jets front seven, Matt Forte had very little room to run, finishing with just 33 yards on 13 carries (2.5 yards per carry). Through three weeks, Forte is averaging just 3.2 yards per rush, which is down more than a full yard from his career 4.3 yards per carry.
“It is frustrating during the game,” Forte said yesterday. “Each week we're continuing to work on it, and we've got to get everybody on the same page up front. Some of the guys that are stepping in for the injured players, we have to get everybody on the right page where we're blocking the right looks, so if they change the personnel or change to a different defensive front, that we know how to block that as well.”
Forte’s not-so-subtle shot at the offensive line is justified, particularly after gaining just 54 yards on 25 carries the past two weeks combined.
Here are our Trench Report grades for the Bears’ five offensive linemen from Week 3:
|Brian de le Puente||1||0||1|
As a unit, Chicago’s front five graded -2 in the run game against the Jets. It was the second week in a row the O-line finished in the negative as run blockers – they graded -13 collectively against the 49ers in Week 2.
Four of the five starters up front graded 0 or worse in the run game, with only Kyle Long finishing in the positive (+2). Other than that, it was a hot mess in front of Forte for most of the game.
Over the past two weeks, the worst run blocker has been RT Jordan Mills, who has a -6 run grade in the San Francisco and New York games combined. Mills is getting very little push at the point of attack and is really struggling at the second level, where he’s lacking in awareness. Additionally, Mills was responsible for two of the four sacks on Jay Cutler, so it was a pretty rough game for the second-year player. That said, Mills was pretty solid during the pass protection plays in which he wasn’t giving up sacks, finishing with the team's second highest pass block grade (+4) in Week 3.
The bigger issues are LG Michael Ola and C Brian de la Puente, the backups to whom Forte was referring. In Week 2 and Week 3 combined, Ola graded +1 overall, while de la Puente has a -1 overall grade. And against the Jets, de la Puente was responsible for the other two sacks on Cutler.
While Ola and de la Puente are serviceable players, neither player has made the offensive line better and their inconsistencies, particularly as run blockers, are limiting the offense.
LT Jermon Bushrod had an up-and-down contest, grading -1 as a run blocker and giving up half a sack. Bushrod is -3 in the run game the past two weeks combined, an area in which he’ll need to improve.
The one player who stood out on film was RG Kyle Long, whose balance in pass protection is unmatched on this team. When he sinks his hips and extends his arms, Long can block any defensive tackle in the league 1-on-1. His +7 pass block grade is a 2014 single-game high for the Bears, tying the mark he set in Week 1. Long also had a pair of really strong blocks at the second level in the run game. It was his best all-around game of the 2014 campaign.
Here are the ancillary blocking grades from Week 3:
In his first action of the season, FB Tony Fiammetta was his usual inconsistent self. He showed little vision as a lead blocker and didn’t pack a punch at the point of attack. He suffered a hamstring injury in the game and was waived this week, which will hardly impact the offense.
RB Matt Forte missed a few blocks in pass protection, and takes partial responsibility for one of the sacks, yet he was pretty solid all-around. On one all-out Jets blitz, Forte cleared behind the line of scrimmage to clip the linebacker just before he got to Cutler. For the year, Forte has a +6 cumulative grade in pass protection.
Eben Britton played 17 snaps as the club’s sixth offensive linemen, although he did very little with them. He looked genuinely confused on a few plays and forced the Bears to call a timeout early in the game because he didn’t know where to line up. Britton struggled as a run blocker, grading -2 overall. He was one of the team’s most consistent edge blockers last season, so he was likely just knocking off the rust, but if he doesn’t improve over the coming weeks, the Bears might want to give seventh rounder Charles Leno a shot at Monster Tight End.
Here are the cumulative yearly totals for the Bears offensive line through three weeks:
|Brian de le Puente||1||-5||6|
As you can see, all five of the current starters graded 0 or worse as run blockers, combining for a -10 team grade in the run game. That is not going to cut it going forward. The Bears aren’t getting any push up front and defenders are too often penetrating into the backfield, giving Forte nowhere to go.
Matt Slauson, who was by far the team’s best run blocker last season, can’t return soon enough.
Long leads the team in pass protection (+19) by a wide margin. In Week 3, he was graded negatively on the second snap of the game but did not receive another negative grade for the remainder of the contest. His Pro Bowl selection as a rookie was no fluke and, if he continues at his current pace, Long will earn his second straight trip to Hawaii this year.
The edge blockers, Mills and Bushrod, are tied at +13 in pass protection. For Bushrod, a two-time Pro Bowler, that’s just par for the course, yet the improvement Mills is showing is very encouraging. Mills struggled mightily at times during his rookie year and, while he still has the occasional lapse in concentration and technique, he’s been much more consistent in pass protection this season. That said, if he doesn’t start carrying his weight in the run game, Forte will never take off.
For reference, here are the front five trench grades for each of the first two weeks:
|Brian de le Puente||2||0||2|
|Brian de le Puente||-2||-5||3|
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his fourth season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter.