Running Game Must Improve Quickly

Lake Forest - The Bears want to be known as a running team, but they showed no signs of it in the season opener.

The Redskins and Bears entered Sunday's game in similar situations.

Both teams had strong defenses and young, inexperienced quarterbacks. Common sense should have dictated that the offensive game plan rely heavily on running the football to take pressure off the quarterback. But only the Redskins followed that plan. They ran 40 times for 164 yards. The Bears ran 18 times for 41 yards.

Bears offensive right tackle Fred Miller cited multiple reasons for the failure of the running game.

"The Redskins were giving us some different looks where we didn't have a guy blocked and sometimes the running backs have to make someone miss or find the right hole," Miller said. "Normally there's a couple holes that the running back can choose from, but when there's just one and he doesn't hit it, then you have a bad play, and sometimes we just didn't block it up."

The only surprise in the outcome was that the Redskins didn't win by a greater margin than 9-7.

The Bears have invested approximately $88 million in their offensive line in salary and bonuses, and coach Lovie Smith and offensive coordinator Ron Turner have repeatedly stressed that they want to be known as a running football team. But the Bears called almost twice as many pass plays (31) as run plays.

Smith admitted they should have run the ball more.

"There are a lot of things we probably should have done," the Bears' coach said. "When you lose, you look at a lot of things that you would like to have done differently. We would like to have run the ball better. (But) once you can't get the running game going, you know you have to rely on the pass a little bit when you're behind. But we've said all along that we'd like to be a running football team so, yes, we probably should have run it more."

Both defenses knew that they would be facing offenses that needed to establish a presence on the ground, and neither offense found much success in the first half. The Bears' Thomas Jones rushed nine times for 22 yards, a 2.4-yard average. The Redskins' Clinton Portis rushed 12 times for 35 yards, a 2.9-yard average. Neither team had a run of longer than 8 yards.

The difference was the Redskins stayed on the ground in the second half, when Portis broke a 41-yard run and had 86 of his 121 yards. Jones got just 6 more carries for 9 yards, and rookie Cedric Benson added 10 yards on 3 attempts.

Benson's workload will increase Sunday against the Lions and, unlike in the opener, he will get in the game before the fourth quarter.

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