Pyle Ponders: Where's the Passing Game?

Statistically speaking the Bears failed to dominate Green Bay, but the defense did what it had to do for the team to win their eighth straight game. How much longer can the winning streak go if the passing game doesn't improve?

If you were just going by the stats, you'd think that there was no way the Bears could have won the game. With a passer rating of 23.7, Kyle Orton is not where he should be right now. Yes, he always seems to find a way to get enough on the board for a win, but with the increasingly good possibility of a playoff berth for the Bears, offensive coordinator Ron Turner and Orton are going to have to get the offense in order, and fast.

The Bears were 0-10 for third down conversions. Orton went without getting the offense into the end zone. The unit as a whole gained a total of 188 yards. Chicago had the ball for almost ten minutes less than Green Bay did. Green Bay had 84 plays while the Bears only had 51. Green Bay's offensive yardage was 358. It's amazing to me that the Bears came away with the victory, but that's what happens when you have a defense that can score on their own.

The offensive line is playing at a high level. They gave Orton more than enough time to make plays and it wasn't their fault he was unable to execute. They're creating huge holes for the running game. That's one reason Thomas Jones was able to go over 1,000 season rushing yards this year. When you have limited ability at the quarterback position, the running game is becomes the focal point of the defense but they've still been able to pound the ball.

But where's the passing game? There is a desperate need for a down field threat. Muhsin Muhammad was without a catch. Time and again I saw him open but the ball was never thrown in his direction.

It was good to see Bernard Berrian back from his thumb injury and contributing, but the Bears need much more and on a more consistent basis than a few sporadic completions.

Another aspect of Chicago's game with a glaring weakness is in special teams. If I were Lovie Smith, I'd put Dave Toub on the rack. What's he thinking having two punt returners who constantly fumble? Get somebody in there who can play, this game is about ball possession and field position. That means holding on to the ball.

The Bears defense once again dominated and this time the standouts were in the secondary with Nathan Vasher's interception and 45-yard run for a touchdown along with Charles Tillman's interception for a 95-yard runback. Those two plays changed the momentum of the game. Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher were also outstanding.

When I looked at the stats for overall penalties, I was extremely encouraged. The Bears had four of them for a total of 61 yards. The good thing is that these were aggressive penalties, not mental mistakes. Earlier in the year, you'd find most of the flags came on false starts, which are simply a matter of focus. Now you get calls like roughing the passer or clipping. Believe me, no coach will beat up his guys for something like that. Aggression on the field is exactly what you want to see.

I see some definite problems ahead in the upcoming game against the Steelers if the Bears can't get the offense going. Pittsburgh can be a tough team to beat. Even though they've lost three games in a row, they have a strong defensive line and their offense has the potential to be explosive. The Bears can ill afford any mistakes. The offensive game plan must be executed perfectly.

The bottom line? Don't count on selling your playoff seats to a scalper for a bundle of money just yet. I think that the Bears will make it to the postseason, but they probably won't stay around long unless Turner can suddenly get things going. A top ranked defense can only get a team so far.

But that being said, eight wins in a row are impressive anyway it happens. We'll see if the Bears have nine lives.

Mike Pyle played for the Bears from 1961-69, including a Pro Bowl selection following the '63 season.

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