Bush stands out in lackluster offense during 1st Bears start
CHICAGO – Bears quarterback Jay Cutler says the offense needs to get better at every position, including his own, although he lauded the work of one teammate in particular.
“You can’t say enough about a guy like Michael Bush,” Cutler said after the Bears’ 23-6 victory over St. Louis on Sunday at Soldier Field. “He really didn’t miss a beat. He’s protection-savvy. He runs the ball hard and hits the holes. He does everything for us.”
Bush made his first Bears’ start Sunday in place of Matt Forte, who suffered a sprained right ankle at Green Bay on Sept. 13. Bush finished with 18 carries for 55 yards and a touchdown, although the offense as a whole was lacking.
Forte’s status is uncertain as the Bears head to Dallas next Monday night, then to Jacksonville on Oct. 7. Their bye week falls on Oct. 15, so it seems likely Forte will return by then.
Fullback Evan Rodriguez (knee) left Sunday’s game and didn’t return. His status is uncertain.
Until Forte’s ready, Bush should get the bulk of the work. Bush is 25 pounds heavier than Forte and offers more power in short yardage situations, although Forte is shiftier and one of the better receivers at his position in the NFL.
“To me, [the role] is the same,” Bush said. “I make sure to prepare to be ready when it’s my turn. I think I did a pretty good job. It was kind of ugly, but I got it done. It’s something I have to do. I know everybody’s depending on me. I just try to stay consistent, no turnovers and do the best I can.”
Together they are a formidable tandem, with Bush spelling Forte on some drives and used frequently near the goal line. Bush now has the starting role with Kahlil Bell, signed two days after Forte was injured, backing him up.
The offensive problems Sunday had little to do with Bush, who had 14 carries and 49 yards at halftime. He rushed four times for 6 yards in the second half while the defense harassed Rams quarterback Sam Bradford and consistently stopped St. Louis.
The passing game needed to be sharper, as Cutler finished with a 58.9 passer rating and threw for 183 yards. Bush’s 3.1-yards-a-carry average was not outstanding, but it was sufficient.
“We wanted to run the ball more to open up the passing game,” Bush said. “We know everybody’s going to try to double (WR Brandon) Marshall and things like that. We were trying to run the ball so they couldn’t do that.”
Bears coach Lovie Smith was just glad his team finished the job.
“Some games we are going to need to score 41 points and other games we’re not going to need to,” Smith said. “We’re going to have to play sound football and make the plays when required, and it was that type of day.”
“The Hawk [Tim Jennings]. Unbelievable every game. He caused the takeaway with Major [Wright, a touchdown], knocked the ball down earlier, had the pick at the end. He’s got to be playing better than anybody in the NFL right now, I think.”
– Bears LB Brian Urlacher
“Right now, [defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli] is in the back working on the next game. That’s what we need. He is a mastermind when it comes to putting schemes together. He really does a great job putting us in positions to be successful.”
– Bears DE Israel Idonije
“We’re playing with more confidence. We got a chip on our shoulders. Last week [a 23-10 loss at Green Bay], we had a little bit of a downfall. We bounced back. We came back this week and now we’re trying to get this train rolling.”
– Bears S Major Wright
3 things that worked
1. Bears’ first-half running game: They ran 19 times for 77 yards in the first half, with Michael Bush getting 49 of those yards.
2. Bears’ pass rush: DE Israel Idonije was credited with 2 1/2 sacks as the Bears brought down Rams QB Sam Bradford six times.
3. Covering Amendola: Rams WR Danny Amendola was No. 2 in the NFL in receptions (20) after torching Washington for 15 catches, 160 yards and a touchdown. The Bears limited him to five receptions for 66 yards.
3 things that didn't work
1. Bears’ second-half running game: After halftime, the Bears managed only 26 yards on the ground.
2. Bears short-yardage package: On a couple occasions, the Bears brought in extra linemen for short-yardage plays, but neither play produced anything significant.
3. Third-down efficiency: The Bears were 4 of 14 on third-down attempts, a number they will need to bring up to be more successful in the future.
3 moments that mattered
1. Roughing the kicker: Rams LB Jo-Lonn Dunbar was flagged for knocking down Bears P Adam Podlesh on the game’s first possession. That prolonged the drive that ended with K Robbie Gould’s 54-yard field goal.
2. Cutler misses for six: WR Devin Hester broke free of a Rams defensive back in the fourth quarter on first-and-goal from the 4, but QB Jay Cutler threw too high and the Bears had to settle for a field goal and a 13-7 lead.
3. Jennings on the spot: CB Tim Jennings deflected a pass that was intercepted and picked one off himself, but he thought his biggest play was a fourth-and-1 breakup on QB Sam Bradford’s pass toward Brandon Gibson early in the third quarter. It helped set the defensive tone for that half.
It means: The Bears head to Dallas for a Monday night game next week, but will need to generate more offense