Urlacher: Team Has Lost its Identity

Not only are the Chicago Bears getting tattooed by fans and media alike for a dismal performance this season, but now injured superstar Brian Urlacher is expressing his disappointment from a distance.

The Bears' performance has been so disappointing this season that even players on injured reserve are complaining and criticizing.

Injured middle linebacker Brian Urlacher says in a current Internet story that he feels like the team has lost its identity because it is no longer able to run the football, play solid defense and thereby control the tempo of games.

The Bears have lost four straight and six of their last seven, leaving them with a 4-7 record. Only seven NFL teams are worse.

Asked Monday afternoon about Urlacher's comments, Lovie Smith disagreed that the identity of the team has changed, but the Bears coach said he understands the sentiments that Urlacher is feeling as he watches from the sideline with a dislocated right wrist.

"I can see why everyone who is a part of our football team is frustrated right now," Smith said. "Brian is a part of that. As far as our identity changing, no, I think every team in the National Football League needs to be able to run the football. They'll all say that. And at times they need to pass it.

"Sometimes you need to pass it more than you need to run it. That's what we are. That's what we have been throughout. By us saying that we are a running football team, that doesn't change what we try to do each week."

The Bears are averaging just 85.1 rushing yards per game, dead last in the NFL. In Sunday's 36-10 loss to the Vikings, quarterback Jay Cutler's 8-yard scramble was their longest gain of the day on the ground, and as a team they managed 43 yards on just 11 rushing attempts. The Bears are also last in the NFL with 21.1 rushing attempts per game.

In four games this year, the Bears have rushed for fewer than 50 yards. They have scored touchdowns on the ground in just two of their 11 games – against the Lions and Browns, who are a combined 3-19. Only three times this season have the Bears topped 100 rushing yards. 21 of 32 NFL teams average more than 100 rushing yards per game.

LB Brian Urlacher
Getty Images: Jonathan Daniel

Featured running back Matt Forte is averaging just 3.3 yards per carry, down significantly from the 3.9 yards he averaged last season as a rookie. He has just two runs of 20 yards or longer, and both were against the Lions. As a team, the Bears have 21 runs of 10 yards or longer. Their opponents have 45.

Said center Olin Kreutz, a team captain and a locker room leader at Halas Hall for several years: "The identity of losing, we're not happy with that if that's what (Urlacher) means. But the way we look on the field right now, the way we're performing, none of us are happy with that."

Told that Urlacher was referring to the Bears straying away from being a team that gets off the bus running, Kreutz said: "When you're not winning games, obviously you're not running the ball and you're not wearing people down. You're not keeping your defense off the field. Urlacher's obviously the leader of our locker room, so if he's not happy with the identity, we're all not."

There's nothing like six losses in seven games, including a four-game losing streak, to lower expectations.

"As much as anything, we just want to play better football," Smith said. "We're better than that. We just want to play the type of ball that we should be able to play as far as our talent. That starts with me. I've got to do a lot better job with our team to get them to play up to the standards that we've set."

Smith, who took over the defensive play-calling duties this season, said he understands the increased scrutiny that he's been subjected to during the extended slump, which spoiled a 3-1 start. In three of the last six losses, the Bears have allowed more than 35 points.

"I realize that we haven't played as well," he said. "There were high hopes, especially after the way we started. As far as why, there are a lot of reasons why. But we realize where we are, and we are going to continue to look at what we're doing, which we do each week. We try to evaluate everything we're doing from scheme, to calls we're making, to the players. We'll continue to do that and try to get a win. But yeah, we realize exactly where we are." ...

Nothing the Vikings did on defense surprised a Bears offense that produced a season-low 169 total yards.

The Vikings sacked Cutler four times without resorting to blitzes.

"They just lined up and beat us," Kreutz said. "They didn't outscheme us. We knew what they were doing when they lined up. It was pretty obvious. We couldn't do anything."

With the playoffs a virtual impossibility, Kreutz was asked what the O-line could do in the final five games.

"Keep fighting," he said. "This is our craft. This is what we do. We go out there to win games. We can get better. That's what we do." ...

The 537 yards of total offense by the Vikings were the most the Bears have allowed in almost 27 years. The last time they allowed more was on Dec. 26, 1982, when they permitted a franchise-worst 583 total yards in a 34-26 victory over the Los Angeles Rams. Rams quarterback Vince Ferragamo threw for 509 yards, but Walter Payton had 104 rushing yards and 102 receiving yards. ...

The Bears did not have a first down in the first quarter, the second quarter or the fourth quarter and, for the fifth time in franchise history, the Bears did not have a single rushing first down.

In the second half, the Vikings outgained the Bears 225 yards to 2.

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