Chicago Bears: First Quarter Report Card

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Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Offense: B-minus

It’s difficult to rate the Chicago Bears offense after four games, because they’ve had 2 ½ solid games and then 1 ½ atrocious games after Cutler was injured against Arizona and Clausen finished that game and started against Seattle.

For the most part, statistically they aren’t impressive: 25th in total yards and 28th in points scored, 28th in passing offense and tied for 24th in first downs. There have been some positives, though: they’re 10th in rushing yards, and are eighth best in the league (about 44 percent) at converting third downs. They’re also tied for 14th in committing six turnovers in four games. However, much of that statistical damage can be traced back to Clausen’s stinker in Seattle, so I’m not putting too much weight in those rankings.

Looking deeper, there’s reason for optimism, and the offense deserves high marks for overcoming a last-minute shift on the offensive line and a hobbled wide receiver corps.

Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

The rush offense has been a throwback to when Lovie Smith still coached the Bears. Despite an offensive line dealing with a weak left tackle (Jermon Bushrod), a so-so right guard (Vladimir Ducasse) and a dominant right guard suddenly shifted to right tackle (Kyle Long), the running game has carried the Bears offense, including a dominating performance in Week 1 against Green Bay. They’re averaging 123.5 yards per game and 4.2 yards per carry, while Matt Forte – having a great year despite being almost 30 years old – is averaging 4.4 yards per carry and 92 yards per game.

Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

The passing game has been inconsistent; Cutler has thrown three interceptions and completed 61.4 percent of his passes, and is averaging about 209 yards per game with him playing. Clausen … there’s no need to go into how bad he was against Arizona and Seattle. Let’s just say that if Cutler is hurt, we can skip Clausen’s sequel and go straight to David Fales.

Cutler seems to have control of the offense, but still has thrown three picks in three games, including a backbreaker against Green Bay and a near-crushing pick against Oakland. He’s managed to compile solid games against Oakland and the first half against Arizona without Jeffery, who has missed time with a hamstring injury, and first round pick Kevin White. Eddie Royal has been decent, but Marquess Wilson and Martellus Bennett have been the studs of the receiving group, with Wilson staking his case to be featured even after Jeffery comes back.

The pass protection has struggled; they’ve allowed nine sacks, tied for 13th in the league, and Cutler has frequently had to shuffle his way out of pressure. His hamstring limited his mobility against Oakland, but he was still able to elude pressure on several plays. Long has started to look better after a rough start against the Packers, and Charles Leno Jr., starting in Week 4 at left tackle for Bushrod, didn’t look as helpless as he did in the preseason playing right tackle.

All told, though, there’s little to complain about with the Bears’ offense. They’ve suffered some injuries along the offensive line – Bushrod suffered a concussion, and starting center Will Montgomery is out for the season with a broken fibula, meaning rookie Hroniss Grasu could get his first start this week against Kansas City – but they’ve overcome injuries to Jeffery and White to have a solid passing game, as long as Cutler plays. The running game aside from Forte hasn’t been overly productive (more on this later), but his ability has overcome the fact that the backfield is mostly a one-man show.

Next: Showing Signs Of Improvement