Run Game Haunts Bears; Can Lions Capitalize?

The Chicago Bears are 2-1, but have struggled in the run department. The Bears look to correct some of those ills as Detroit heads to town. More inside from the opponent's perspective ...

Lack of production from the run game continues to be a much-discussed topic, but coach Lovie Smith managed to find a glimmer of hope after the ground attack picked up just 85 yards on 28 carries for a 3.0-yard average.

"We talk a lot about it, (and) it's improving," Smith said. "We got some production from it. We still need to take another step, but we're still committed to it by the number of rushes that we have. I really like the way we kept the balance with run and the pass."

While the Bears ran 28 times and threw 27 passes, they netted 233 yards through the air, almost three times as much yardage as they got on the ground.

Matt Forte rushed for 66 yards on 21 carries, a 3.1-yard average and a long run of 11 yards. And the Seahawks played without their two best linebackers, Lofa Tatupu and Leroy Hill. But even those modest totals represented season bests for Forte in every category but attempts.

Critics have focused on a rebuilt offensive line that has three new starters and was supposed to be an upgrade over last year's mediocre unit. But the results haven't been very impressive. Right tackle Chris Williams, a first-round pick who missed most of his rookie season last year after back surgery, was flagged twice for false starts at Qwest Field.

Free-agent left guard Frank Omiyale was called once for a false start. A common criticism is that he has not played as well as last year's 16-game starter Josh Beekman, who was relegated to the bench in the preseason, even though Omiyale did nothing to win the job.

But Smith insists that the group is improving.

"I think the line has jelled, and we did make progress," Smith said after the 25-19 victory over the Seahawks. "That's all I'm looking for is making progress each week. Our running game improved over the Pittsburgh game (in Week Two), and that's a step in the right direction. We'll take another step.

"I see signs of us getting back to where we need to be in the running game."

The Bears' coach must have better vision than most team observers.

Player Notes

  • Four-time Pro Bowler Lance Briggs tied with cornerback Zack Bowman for the team lead in tackles Sunday with eight, including six solos, and he also had an interception, a sack and a tackle for loss. He leads the Bears with 23 tackles and is the only player with an interception and a sack.

    "Lance Briggs has been outstanding," coach Lovie Smith said. "He's played like a Pro Bowler every time he's touched the field. (Sunday) he was going to will the team ... will the defense to step it up."

    The defense got both its takeaways in the second half as the Bears outscored the Seahawks 18-6.

    HOW THE LIONS CAN REACT: Detroit's run game kept Washington's own talented linebacker core honest, which allowed Matthew Stafford to see the field more comfortably last week. If they can continue that success, they'll effectively limit Briggs' impact and again have a balanced, productive offense.
     
  • Jay Cutler's passer rating of 126.4 was the highest by a visiting quarterback in the eight-year history of Qwest Field. Cutler completed 21 of 27 passes for 247 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.

    "Jay's spreading the ball around," coach Lovie Smith said. "Devin Hester (five catches, 76 yards, one TD) took a big step in his growth (as) our No. 1 receiver. Johnny Knox (seven-yard TD) made another big play. Earl Bennett (four catches, 80 yards), and our receivers all played well. (Tight end) Greg Olsen (five catches, 44 yards) did some good things, too. In order for all that to happen, the offensive line has to be doing some good things, and they are doing that."

    HOW THE LIONS CAN REACT: The Lions had trouble with Washington's shifty receiver Santana Moss, who shares similar skill-sets to Hester and Knox. Cutler is mistake prone under pressure, so expect defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham to bring the house early and often.



     
  • The defense allowed the Seahawks to convert 7 of 17 third-down situations, an unacceptable 41 percent, according to coach Lovie Smith.

    "I'm not pleased with our third-down conversions," Smith said. "We have to do a better job of that. We missed a couple tackles. After watching the video, we had them a couple times where we let them out."

    Last year the Bears were No. 5 in the NFL, allowing their opponents to convert just 34.9 of their third downs.

    HOW THE LIONS CAN REACT: The Lions made improvement in third-down efficiency against Washington, converting 56% of their third-down opportunities.

Injury and Personnel

  • LB Hunter Hillenmeyer's rib injury is not considered nearly as serious as the one that has kept TE Desmond Clark out of the past two games, and Hillenmeyer could play Sunday.
  • LB Pisa Tinoisamoa (sprained knee in Week One) has a chance to return this week after missing two games, but he might be held out since the Bears have a bye the following week, which would give him two more weeks of rest.
  • TE Desmond Clark (fractured rib) might be held out from a third straight game, since the Bears have a bye in Week Five, which would give him an extra week to heal.
  • LB Nick Roach moved from the strong side to the middle after Hunter Hillenmeyer suffered a rib injury Sunday, and Roach had six tackles, three solos, two tackles for loss and two pass break-ups.
  • LB Jamar Williams filled in on strong side after Nick Roach moved to the middle to fill in for Hunter Hillenmeyer, who was filling in for Brian Urlacher (season-ending wrist injury).  

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