Commentary

Will Bears get really offensive?

If Cutler forces Urlacher to cover for offense again vs. 0-7 Bills, Bears are in trouble

Updated: November 5, 2010, 8:24 PM ET
By Jon Greenberg | ESPNChicago.com

CHICAGO -- The quote happened two weeks ago, but it's remained fixed in my head.

It's not a colorful quote or particularly memorable, but it's one befitting the Chicago Bears and their 360-degree turn on offense under the Jay Cutler-Mike Martz tandem.

[+] EnlargeBrian Urlacher and Jay Cutler
Robin Alam/Icon SMIJay Cutler is just the latest in a long line of Bears quarterbacks Brian Urlacher has had to worry about every week.

After the loss to Washington to send the Bears to the bye week on a 1-3 skid, Brian Urlacher sat at his locker, violence in repose, and quietly answered questions about another defeat blamed squarely on the slumped shoulders of Cutler and the team's offense.

"We don't worry about the offense," Urlacher said. "We worry about what we need to do on defense to win games. If we need 10 takeaways, we need to get 10 takeaways."

How many times has Urlacher said a variation of that sentence? It's like he's been the lead actor in the same bad play for a decade, parroting lines that must have seemed fresh in his youth.

Urlacher has played 145 regular-season games in his Bears career, tack on the playoffs, the mid-week interviews, the offseason interviews, the feature stories, the trips to the grocery store, times spent chilling at clubs, all the toll booths, and I'd put the number at 2.5 million, give or take a few.

When Urlacher dictates his memoirs, I hope it's called, "From Cade to Cutler: We Really Did Worry about the Offense."

I really hope, for Urlacher's sake, the fans' sake, and really everyone's sake outside of Buffalo and Toronto, that he doesn't have to say it this week.

It's only the midpoint of the season, but it's safe to say that if the Bears lose a third straight game, to the Buffalo Bills of Ontario, well, you can back up the moving trucks to 1000 Football Drive in Lake Forest.

"Pack it up boys, but leave the drapes and the wainscoting!"

The Seattle Seahawks and Washington Redskins, sure, but a loss to the 0-7 Bills? Well, that would be a statement game, wouldn't it?

The 4-3 Bears' regression toward the mean the last month hasn't raised the hackles on anyone outside Halas Hall. Most predicted the Bears to be in spitting distance of mediocrity, and that's where we find them.

Losses to Seattle and Washington, at home, weren't outrageous on their own, but coming in consecutive weeks, with the stink of the Giants game and Todd Collins' "performance" in Carolina still enveloping the team, it looked faintly reminiscent of the team's midseason crevasse last year.

"It should light a fire for everybody in that locker room," Lance Briggs told reporters Thursday.

Coming off the bye week, if the Bears lose to Buffalo, they should light a fire to the locker room and just simulate the season on Madden.

I have more faith in Illinois balancing its budget than I do now of the Bears making the playoffs, but even I can't find a legitimate reason to pick Buffalo this week, even after Cutler's four-interception game two weeks ago in the Redskins loss.

The Bills' defense is so horrific, by the numbers, that the Bears don't need Randy Moss to put up big numbers. Heck, they could put Aziz Ansari's Raaaaaaaandy character in the slot and still dominate.

The Bills are basically at, or near the bottom of every defensive metric -- though their adjusted sack rating, as calculated by Football Outsiders, is actually quite high, better than their 11 sacks indicate, which is kind of ominous. On paper, they look more vulnerable than James Harrison's checkbook does to Roger Goodell.

Cutler, and Mike Martz are loathe to pin blame on anyone but themselves, an admirable, if not totally honest, rhetorical tic that gets more frustrating to listen to by the loss.

When talking on a conference call with Buffalo media, Cutler admitted the lack of protection -- he's been sacked a league-high 27 times, with nine coming in the Giants game -- has hampered his playmaking ability.

"You kind of start looking down at the protection and making sure everything's shored up instead of looking downfield and identifying things," he said, according to a Buffalo News report.

This is a problem and one not easily fixed. If Cutler is worried about his health, he's smart, but he's also going to be a second slow, and in an offense predicated on timing, it's the reason why that unit has foundered. The line can't block, Cutler can't make decisions and no one's calling running plays.

That's why Cutler needs to play against a bad defense. For all the criticism he gets, he needs a break and this week provides him one. It might be the last one he gets as the Bears head into the meat of their schedule.

Cutler admitted this week he is cognizant of the morass the team is in right now and the potential consequences. He saw coaches get sacked last year. He saw what happened in Denver when he piloted a team that made a late fade.

There's every reason to think the offense can put up numbers this week and that the Bears' defense can hold down Ryan Fitzpatrick and the wildly improving Bills offense. The Bears are saying all the right things right now, talking up how good Buffalo looks on tape after losing two overtime games in a row to potential playoff teams.

But you have to wonder how confident the Bills are watching tape of the Bears, and how that could be the key to the game: Which team is more confident thanks to the other's ineffectiveness.

Chicago's offense hasn't had a really good game since Week 2 in Dallas, so there's plenty of bad film to splice together. Quentin Tarantino could make a sequel to "Grindhouse" with the gory footage the Bears have compiled.

The Bears have to keep it simple, and utilize the run, to guarantee a victory and limit the bloodshed.

The Bills' rush defense -- according to Football Outsiders and, well, society in general -- is putrid. According to FO's formula, Buffalo is giving up around 5 yards a carry, with no success stuffing the run or keeping backs limited in the second level.

Matt Forte should break a long run and maybe Chester Taylor could actually get some touches, you know, like he was brought here to do.

Just like there's no reason to doubt a Bears victory, there's no reason to have qualms that Martz will give the running game its' just due this week, after weeks of empty promises.

Having a week off from Bears' drama during the bye was great for all parties involved, though my Sunday was a lot dimmer without Cutler's incandescent smile.

The best thing that could happen this Sunday is that Urlacher won't have to lie, Cutler won't have to grimace and no one will have to question "Why?"

Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.

Jon Greenberg

Columnist, ESPNChicago.com
Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com. He has lived and worked in Chicago since 2003, and is a graduate of Ohio University and the University of Chicago.

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