The Bears head into their bye week still clinging to first place in the NFC North with a 4-3 record but having lost three of their last four and searching for answers. The bye week couldn’t have come at a better time to give the Bears a chance to re-group and settle down to find their way and correct some major areas of concern. They resumed practice today, so here is my checklist of things they need to fix before embarking on their second half of the season:
3rd Down Conversions
The Bears rank dead last in the league in converting 3rd downs. If there was a way to rank them like 35th in the league, they would. They’re that bad. The biggest problem on third downs stems from the Bears putting themselves in very predictable situations on 3rd down. When you have 3rd and 7 or more, teams know you’re passing. As a matter of fact, whenever a team is playing the Bears, they know they’ll be passing all day long.
Please, please, please – find a play that can consistently gain ONE STINKIN’ YARD! The Bears are 0-10 at the doorstep of the endzone. Don’t even pretend that you’re a playoff contender if you can’t punch it in from 1 yard out.
RUN THE BALL
Both of the items above are helped tremendously if you can find a couple of good running plays. You don’t need to get off the bus running, but you need to do it enough to help sell play action passes.
People keep talking about continuity being the key to what ails the Bears’ offensive line. If that were the case, you could bring back Covert, Thayer, Hilgenberg, Bortz and Van Horne. They’ve all played together forever; so what if they’re AARP members? The point is you need talent and right now, the Bears are a little shallow on that with aging veterans and inexperienced rookies. They need to make it simple. They don’t need Mike Tice’s 37 protection schemes. They need two or three good ones that everyone understands.
Return on Investments
The Bears dropped some big bucks in free agency. It’s time for a little more return on their investment. Julius Peppers has been a force, but he only has 2 sacks. When you get paid $90 million, you need to get that number up, regardless of how many holding penalties you draw, how many pressures and hurries you get. You get paid to put the quarterback on his back. Time to start doing it on a more consistent basis.
Chester Taylor needs to see the field more. Period. He seemed to show some more burst last week and broke off some decent runs. You paid this guy, so it’s time to start using him.
Brandon Manumaleuna has yet to really show me why the Bears were compelled to sign him to a substantial deal this offesason. If he’s supposed to be the blocking tight end, here’s a novel idea – try to block someone!
Someone please issue a Amber Alert for Devin Aromashodu. Jay Cutler’s security blanket needs to get on the field. He is a big target that will really help the Bears in the red zone.
The Bears coaches have gotten to see these guys for seven weeks now. For the most part, you can get a pretty good sense for what they can and cannot do. Now is the time to adapt to your personnel. You’ve seen what works and what doesn’t. Be adaptable game to game and quarter to quarter.