Benson still believes the best of the running game is yet to come
Since QB Rex Grossman is no longer available for the media to kick around as they see fit, RB Cedric Benson has been getting the majority of the criticism for a Bears offense that has not lived up to its lofty training camp billing. Benson waited two long years behind veteran Thomas Jones before finally being handed the job as the featured runner, but he's only averaging 3.1 yards per carry, keeps dropping balls out of the backfield, and hasn't become an effective blocker in pass protection. Head coach Lovie Smith continually maintains that the Midway Monsters will always be a running football team, however, they are currently 30th in the NFL at just 81.1 yards per game on the ground.
RB Cedric Benson
Nam Y. Huh/AP Images
Week 8 will be the second time in five games the Bears face divisional-rival Detroit, something Benson sees as an edge for his offense.
"I think it's an advantage for us because we're not the same team we were four games ago," Benson said Wednesday before practice at Halas Hall. "We've been a lot more situations and had an opportunity to grow from those situations, so [it's] an advantage for us because we're a better team than we were then."
The Bears are the only team in the league without a run of 20 yards or longer, but Benson – his longest burst so far in 2007 is 16 yards – still sees enemy defenses game-planning to stop him despite giant strides in the aerial attack since Brian Griese replaced Grossman under center.
"Just dealing with those eight-[man] fronts," he said. "Eight-man box fronts [and] seven-man box fronts to the weak side mainly. A lot of plays create cutbacks. When you stack backside weak, the guy's usually there. That's his job, to stop the play before it becomes a big play. It's coming. All those things will turn. We're kind of really getting into our offensive groove here. We took a while, but we're starting to flow good and other things are starting to look good, so I'm sure the run game will get a spark here."
Should the Bears now think backwards and utilize the pass to set up the run?
"Usually if you're successful in the pass game," Benson said, "it will open up more opportunities in the run."
Kitna content being the quarterback of the present in the Motor City
The Lions got former first-rounder Kevin Jones back in the starting lineup at tailback last week, but make no mistake about it, Mike Martz's offense will always revolve around throwing the football. QB Jon Kitna currently ranks eighth in the NFL at 246.7 passing yards per game and tied for sixth in yards per attempt at 7.9, plus he's distributed the ball very well to perhaps the deepest receiving corps in the league. Three Detroit wideouts have caught at least 23 passes so far, and that doesn't include No. 2-overall draft pick Calvin Johnson who looks every bit as good as advertised so far.
QB Jon Kitna
Rusty Kennedy/AP Images
But even though Kitna has thrown for just 253 yards combined the last two games after getting off to a torrid start earlier this season, he doesn't believe there's been any fundamental differences in the performance of his offense.
"We haven't had a lot of opportunities to be honest with you," Kitna said via conference call Wednesday at Halas Hall. "This past week, we had I think 42 plays. Maybe less than that not counting our kneel-downs [and] things like that. So that's just not a lot of opportunities, and so you just try to be efficient in the opportunities that you get. And in Washington, I think it was much the same – just not a lot of opportunities. And then we're playing the same style defenses every week, that Tampa-2, and you're just not going to get the ball down the field."
Kitna was ultimately replaced by Carson Palmer despite playing very well in 2003 for Cincinnati and speculation is already running rampant as to who the QB of the future will be in Detroit, but the 11-year veteran doesn't waste his time with things he can't control.
"I don't ever try to think more than just the time that I'm in to be honest with you," he said. "Because I've learned, in this league, as soon as you think you know something, you don't know anything. And I don't put my trust or my faith or anything in anybody but Jesus Christ. And He's got my future. He knows exactly what's going to happen. If I play here the rest of this year, that's awesome. And if it happens to be three more years after this or whatever, that's awesome. But I'm not going to start thinking ahead and worrying about what's coming. I just try to focus on what I'm doing right now. That's enough worry for me just for this day."
So does he see another 34-point outburst in the fourth quarter this Sunday like the Lions managed against the Bears in Week 4?
"Hopefully, we don't want to try to depend on that," Kitna said with a half-hearted laugh. "Not against this defense."
For the Bears, DT Tommie Harris (hamstring), S Brandon McGowan (elbow), OT Fred Miller (ankle), CB Nathan Vasher (groin), and LB Jamar Williams (illness) were all held out of practice Wednesday. OG Ruben Brown (shoulder) and DT Darwin Walker (knee) were both only able to participate on a limited basis.
News & Notes
Griese was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week. Griese completed 27 of 41 passes for 322 yards against the Eagles, highlighted by a game-winning 97-yard touchdown drive that was capped by a 15-yard scoring strike to WR Muhsin Muhammad in the closing seconds.
John Crist is the Editor in Chief of BearReport.com and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.
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