The Chicago Bears’ loss to the Green Bay Packers in week 7 was just another gut punch to an already demoralizing season.
As has been consistent throughout the 2016 season, the Bears have been plagued with injuries on both sides of the ball. In weeks 6 and 7, though, the injuries spread to the Bears’ offensive line.
Pro-Bowl LG Josh Sitton left the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars in week 6 with an ankle injury. He is expected to miss two to three weeks. In week 7 against the Packers, Pro-Bowl RG Kyle Long left the game with an arm injury in the 1st half. His time to return is currently unknown.
How will the loss of Chicago’s Pro-Bowl guards impact the offensive side of the ball?
OC Dowell Loggains’ offense seemed to click the last few weeks when the Bears established a running attack. With an established run game, his play-action passes set up the Bears’ offense to move the ball downfield (see here). While they weren’t able to score enough points to close out games, they were at least able to move the ball.
With the loss of Long and Sitton, the Bears’ running game may take a big hit, impacting the entire offense’s ability to move the ball.
Low Offensive Output
One, looking at the numbers against the Packers, the Bears had a total of only 69 rushing yards. This was the fewest total rushing yards this season, outside of week 2 against the Philadelphia Eagles.
The lack of a running attack contributed to the Bears’ season low 189 total offensive yards (of course, losing QB Brian Hoyer and needing to rely on third-string QB Matt Barkley didn’t help).
Altered Run Game
Two, the Bears had to drastically alter their running attack.
In week 6 against the Jacksonville Jaguars, with Long and Sitton in for most of the game, the Bears had 92 rushing yards. This set up play-action passes that enabled the Bears to have 389 total offensive yards.
In that game, the Bears concentrated their running attack through the middle. The offense ran the ball through their Pro-Bowl guards a total of 32 yards and through the tackles for 40 yards. The Bears ran the ball through the outside ends for a total of just 20 yards.
Against the Packers in week 7, though, without Sitton and Long out for most of the game, the Bears simply couldn’t run the ball though their backups. Behind the backups, the Bears had a total of -1 rushing yard.
The Bears couldn’t run the ball behind their tackles, either. They ran the ball through their right and left tackles for just 6 yards. Without Long and Sitton, the Bears were forced to run the ball around the ends, for 37 yards.
Nonetheless, the one bright spot is that the Bears ran the ball through C Cody Whitehair for 28 yards against the Packers. This was an adjustment from week 6, where the Bears had 0 rushing yards through Whitehair.
With Long and Sitton possibly out for an extended period of time, how will the Bears adjust their running game? Can the Bears continue to run the ball around the ends, or will defenses quickly adjust? Can Whitehair handle an extended number of runs up the center?
If the Bears running attack takes a significant step backwards with the losses of Long and Sitton, and if we can’t rely on play-action passes, the Bears unfortunately may not have hit rock bottom this 2016 season.