The Bears may not wish to acknowledge their deficiencies in running the football, but they don't have to. The numbers say it all.
It took a game-high 34 rushing yards by quarterback Jay Cutler to salvage a bit of respect for the unproductive ground game Sunday night. Subtract his three carries, and the team that "gets off the bus running the football" ran for 49 yards on 20 attempts, an average of 2.5 yards per carry. Matt Forte was especially ineffective, with 23 yards on 15 tries for a 1.5-yard average.
"We didn't get enough production from it," coach Lovie Smith admitted. "I thought after last [game] we would keep it going, but they did a good job of holding our run down."
Every team the Bears have played, except the Lions in Week 4, has done a good job of limiting their run game. And running on the Lions isn't a great accomplishment. Their defense is 19th in rushing yards per game and tied for 24th in average gain per run allowed.
The Bears' running game is even worse statistically, ranking 27th in yards per game (89.8) and 23rd in average gain per run (3.8 yards).
In the four games not against the Lions, who they battered for 151 rushing yards and three TDs on 20 carries, the Bears have 298 yards on 99 carries for a 3.0-yard average and no touchdowns.
It's easy to blame Forte, who rushed for 121 yards and one TD on 12 carries against the Lions, but has just 173 yards on 74 carries (2.3-yard average) and no touchdowns against the rest of the league.
But the retooled offensive line hasn't given Forte or anyone else much running room.
Asked specifically about the O-line, Smith said: "We're 3-2, so the offensive line has done some good things. They've contributed to all of that. Coming off of a loss, we're not real pleased with anything we did [Sunday] night, starting with me. I'm not pleased with a lot of things I did [Sunday] night, but our offensive line has done some good things."
Maybe the line has done some good things, but not nearly enough of them. New starters Orlando Pace (left tackle), Frank Omiyale (left guard) and Chris Williams (right tackle) haven't created any more running room than John St. Clair, Josh Beekman and John Tait, the players they replaced.
That was especially true when Forte was stuffed on back-to-back plays at the Falcons' 1-yard line late in the third quarter. He fumbled on both plays, losing the second one and accounting for one of three red-zone trips that came up empty.
"I think we all take it personal," right guard Roberto Garza said. "We have to go out and get the job done. He's not the only one out there trying to put the ball in the end zone."
Garza and center Olin Kreutz are the only returning starters on the offensive line.
Smith was asked Monday if he would contemplate any changes to the offensive line before Sunday's game against the Bengals in Cincinnati, but he was noncommittal.
"We'll look at changes after every game," he said. "We look at what gives us the best opportunity to win, but I don't foresee any major changes on the offensive line."
That begs the question of whether re-inserting Beekman into the left guard spot, where he started 16 games last season, would be a major change.
"Would it be a major change?" Smith said. "That would be a change. I don't know about major. Again, we're evaluating everything like we do each week. No more than that. Josh has done a good job for us."
Last year, the Bears were 24th in rushing yards per game and 27th in average gain per run. Forte averaged 3.9 yards per carry in 2008 compared to 3.4 this year, when he has had some minor nicks. But Smith said Forte's health isn't an issue.
"He's not on the injury list," Smith said. "He's good to go. He didn't have a lot of production [Sunday] night, the way a lot of us didn't. I don't think [it's] any more than that. The [game] before, we weren't talking about any of these things. Matt will be fine just like the rest of our team."
If only they could play the Lions every week.
NOTES AND QUOTES
"Just going out and just practicing hard is the first thing, and just earning their respect," Adams said. "I'm not coming in trying to step on anybody's toes or anything like that. Just try to come in and work hard and earn the respect of those guys."
Adams is expected to play in a rotation behind starters Adewale Ogunleye and Alex Brown. Mark Anderson, who has backed up both positions, could lose reps, but he wasn't interested in talking much about it.
"I don't know," Anderson said. "I have no thoughts. It's not my problem. It ain't up to me. It's up to [general manager Jerry] Angelo."
Adams had 13.5 sacks for the Bucs after being the fourth-overall pick in 2007. If he works out better for the Bears, he could make Ogunleye expendable when his contract expires after this season.
"Why wouldn't it [impact my situation]?" Ogunleye said. "As long as it makes this team better, I'm all for it. He's a first-round draft pick, and I think that any time you can add talent, especially to the front four, it's a good move."
Ogunleye leads the Bears with 4.5 sacks, but he and the Bears were blanked against the Falcons.
"What I am going to do is I am going to keep playing hard on the field, I am going to keep busting my tail, try to play at a high level, and everything is going to sort itself out," the 32-year-old Ogunleye said. "I'm not worried about anyone, absolutely no one, except myself and how I play on the field." ...
With Pisa Tinoisamoa expected to be out up to several more weeks after re-injuring his sprained knee, the Bears could be a little thin at linebacker, where they've already lost Brian Urlacher for the season.
Tinoisamoa was scheduled for an MRI Tuesday morning. He missed four weeks after the initial injury, but the Bears hope to have Hunter Hillenmeyer (rib) back this week.
Without Tinoisamoa, the question would be: Where do Hillenmeyer and Nick Roach play?
Both have started games in the past on the strong side and at middle linebacker. Because he's the better athlete, Roach would appear to be a better fit in the middle, since the strong-side linebacker usually comes off the field in passing situations in favor of an extra defensive back.
"Nick Roach played a very good football game [Sunday]," Smith said. "He can do everything we would like for our linebackers to do: taking on the run, making the calls, good pass coverage. I was very pleased with Nick Roach out there." ...
After Cutler's red-zone interception Sunday night, his third of the season, Smith was asked if he said anything to his quarterback.
"Don't do it," Smith said. "It's really kind of as simple as that. We can't have those interceptions down there. Jay realizes that, but he was trying to make a play."
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