Offensive MVP? The O-Line

The Bears offense is still striving for consistency, but the guys up front are allowing the unit to survive with a strong ground game and a minimal threat through the air.

While losing Thomas Jones for the second half against the Saints was a tough blow, Cedric Benson and Adrian Peterson combined for 137 yards on 20 carries and a touchdown in his place.

Despite being the focus of the opposing defense on a weekly basis, Jones has remained among the top ten rushers in the league all season. It seems as if the Bears can plug in any running back and the offensive line would open the holes for them to produce.

"The offensive line is doing a heck of a job blocking for them and creating holes," said Kyle Orton. "When they do that you've got to make one guy miss and there's a lot of running room and they've been doing that all year."

The Bears are averaging 130.7 yards rushing per game and are on pace to go over 2,000 yards for the season, something that hasn't happened in Chicago since 1990.

The line has repeatedly deflected credit for the Bears' strong running attack to Jones. But with the other two backs gaining big yards, the line's contribution was obvious.

"When you just keep running the ball, running the ball, you're never out of games," center Olin Kreutz said. "The offensive line loves that."

If Jones has to sit against the 49ers, it's clear the running game can survive without him in the short-term.

The o-line has been more than a dominant force in the running game. The unit has also been able to keep Kyle Orton upright at a much better clip than the group of quarterbacks behind center last year.

In 2004 the Bears surrendered an NFL high 66 sacks, which also set a new franchise record for futility.

Even with a rookie quarterback throwing all but one of their 226 pass attempts, the team has given up just 18 sacks. Some of those go on Orton for not knowing when to get rid of the ball.

Orton is the first quarterback to start eight games in a season since Jim Miller did it in 2001.

Three of the five members of the line have started every game. However, the Bears survived without John Tait for one game and Ruben Brown for the past four weeks.

John St. Clair will never be mistaken for a starting left tackle on a weekly basis, but he did the job against Minnesota. Roberto Garza has allowed the running game to thrive even without Brown in the lineup at right guard.

Midway through the season, the Bears offense is doing just enough behind one of the league's best defenses. At 5-3, Chicago has a two-game lead in the NFC North and the inside track to their first division title since 2001.

The offensive line will never seek credit and are often overlooked, but the unit is a primary reason for the Bears turnaround.

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