LAKE FOREST – Although Jay Cutler is grateful for the help, he knows exactly why the Bears are in first place entering a Week 8 matchup against the Carolina Panthers.
“We’ve got to do our part on offense,” Cutler said. “Defense has been carrying us for awhile.”
Perhaps this weekend, the Bears’ offense can share some of the workload.
The Bears (5-1) have excelled despite a pedestrian offense that ranks No. 22 in total yards per game, No. 25 in passing yards per game and No. 31 in sacks per pass play. They have done so because of a top-caliber defense that leads the league in takeaways (21) and touchdowns (five).
It’s possible that the defense can maintain its torrid pace, but what if it doesn’t?
Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice said Wednesday that his players needed to do more. The plays that he called Monday against the Detroit Lions resulted in 13 points and 296 total yards.
However, the offense’s inconsistency was not because of a lack of effort, Tice said.
“I am very, very pleased with the approach that these guys took and the aggressive nature of which they played, how they got after it,” said Tice, who is in his first season as play-caller. “It’s not always pretty. Right now, we’re not the prettiest offense in the world.”
Some of the most ugly performances have come at right tackle and tight end.
Right tackle Gabe Carimi committed two more penalties Monday to bring his season total to eight, which is five more than any other player on the team. Tight end Kellen Davis missed a block that led to a zero-yard carry for Matt Forte and dropped an easy pass for a first down.
Davis’ problem was that he looked great in practice but made mistakes on game day, Tice said.
As for Carimi, Tice said, bad technique led to bad decisions. He cited several plays Monday in which Carimi charged too fast at his opponent and lost his balance falling forward.
“It’s like ‘The Wizard of Oz’ and the scarecrow, right?” Tice said. “His head is over here, his feet are over here. And then the guy just does a little move, and then he’s on his face, and so he grabs the guy and gets a holding call.
“He gets himself out of whack because he’s being a little overly aggressive. So, we’re going to settle him down, make sure he brings his feet with him on some of these blocks where it does look ugly or he’s getting those penalties. But he plays extremely hard.”
It’s the same criticism that Tice has shared with Carimi during practice this season. However, the second-year offensive lineman said his hard-charging style also worked to his benefit.
“I mean, yeah, I’m overaggressive, but I do a lot of good things when I’m overaggressive, too,” Carimi said. “There are some times I need to just bring it back a little bit.”
Whether it’s Davis or Carimi or anyone else, the Bears’ flaws are fixable. The team is off to its best start since 2006, when the Bears won the NFC title before losing in the Super Bowl.
All in all, Tice said, the Bears were good but wanted to be great.
“We’re 5-1,” Tice said. “We’ve had one really bad game. I’ve said it before, I got a little ahead of myself – we all did, offensively – after that [Green Bay] game.
“I think we’re starting to find our niche a little bit. I think Jay’s doing a tremendous job managing the line of scrimmage and doing the things that we’re asking him to do. We’re going to continue to get better.”