Bears

Tice: We just have to keep working

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Tice: We just have to keep working

Friday, Sept. 30, 2011
Posted: 11:00 p.m.

By John Mullin and Jake Flannigan
CSNChicago.com

Work ethic up front

Injuries could be used as an excuse for the inconsistency of the Bears offensive line this season. The line that faced off with the Green Bay Packers was missing two of its five starters.

Lack of experience together would be an alibi too. Roberto Garza, Frank Omiyale, Chris Spencer and Chris Williams, four of the five starters vs. Green Bay, all have a minimum of three years on an NFL roster. But that group, plus left tackle JMarcus Webb had never started a game together and was the third different starting offensive line in three games.

But offensive line coach Mike Tice has decided to forgo the blame game and stick to what he knows best.

Were not in here having barbecues and stuff like that at night, Tice said. We just have to keep working. Its a long haul and we got to get better.
Under scrutiny

No group has been more closely watched than the offensive line, with ample reason. They collectively have Jay Cutlers health and Matt Fortes rushing production in their hands.

After giving up five sacks to the Atlanta Falcons, the line allowed zero in the first half at New Orleans even without Lance Louis (ankle injury). The Saints got one sack (a huge one on a missed block by tight end Kellen Davis) in the third quarter after Gabe Carimi went down with a knee injury.

Without both Carimi and Louis against Green Bay, the first half again was sack-free on 17 drop-backs against a defense that had sacked Cutler 11 times in 10 quarters last season.

Tice genuinely believes his changes have been improving. But he also knows the teams overall lack of success has made it tough for outsiders to look past sacks, pressures and a run game that has averaged just three yards per carry and has zero TD runs through three games.

The 0-3 Kansas City Chiefs are the only other NFL team without a rushing touchdown this season.

There are some guys that are playing pretty good, Tice said. They kind of get lost in the sauce a little bit because of losses, and because of the non-rhythmic look we have sometimes.

Mr. Fix-It

The relationship between Tice and offensive coordinator Mike Martz may be a mysterious one for those not in blue and orange on Sundays. For Tice its simple.

Stay out of the way and focus on letting the line know what went right and what didnt.

During the course of a game you dont really want to get too much communication with the coordinator, Tice said. We talk after every series. You really dont want to mess with the guy thats trying to call the plays and get into a rhythm. Thats not a good thing to do.

Instead, Tice tries to stay off of the headphones and find ways to improve his group by looking over Polaroids of the previous series.

Normally thats what the job of an offensive line coach is, Tice said. Hes kind of a fix-it guy during the course of a game.

Duly noted

Besides Joe Theisman, Jim Mora and Willie McGinest, the fourth member of the analysts on NFL Networks No Huddle Show Friday was former Rams wide receiver Torry Holt, not Marcellus Wiley as mentioned in yesterdays roundup.

Much of the Mike Martz approach to offense is geared toward passing yardage for the quarterback. Cutler has passed for 300 yards six times as a Bear; the Bears have lost four of those six games, including last Sundays to Green Bay. The Denver Broncos were 5-5 in 300-yard Cutler passing games.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

Even in a controlled gameplan, Mitchell Trubisky's playmaking ability shines through

Even in a controlled gameplan, Mitchell Trubisky's playmaking ability shines through

While the Bears praised Mitchell Trubisky’s operation of a controlled gameplan in his second NFL start, they’re not losing sight of the special kind of athleticism and playmaking ability the rookie quarterback possesses. Two plays in particular stand out — plays that led to anywhere from a five-to-10 point swing in the game. 

Trubisky’s 18-yard third down completion to Kendall Wright in overtime seems to looks better every time you watch it on film. Trubisky was pressured by two Baltimore Ravens pass rushers, but managed to wriggle free and slide to his right, only to find linebacker C.J. Mosley waiting in front of him. The blend of athleticism and aggressiveness Trubisky displayed in firing high over the middle toward Wright — who made a specular play of his own — is one of the many reasons why the Bears are so excited about him. 

“To be able to throw that ball with both hands in the air and changing your arm angle – that’s why you draft a kid second,” offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. “Because of things like that.”

But there was another instinctual, athletic play Trubisky made that was just as impressive, and just as important. Cody Whitehair’s snapping issues cropped up at the Bears’ 13-yard line, with the center sailing a snap over Trubisky’s head and toward the end zone. 

If Baltimore recovered that ball, it would’ve tied the game; had Trubisky simply fell on the ball, it very well could’ve led to a safety that would’ve brought the Ravens within five points about a minute after the Bears took a 17-3 lead. Instead, Trubisky picked up the ball, scrambled to his right and threw the ball away — one of six throwaways he had on Sunday. 

“(That) was a critical, critical play at that time,” Loggains said. 

This isn't to say that two plays — only one of which gained yards — are enough to say the Bears' offense is in a good place. It's still a group that necessitates a controlled gameplan, similar to the one they used with Mike Glennon. But the difference: Trubisky can make plays. 

Briefly, on Whitehair

Since we’re on the subject of another poor snap by Whitehair, here’s what Loggains had to say on that topic: 

“He’s gotten better. We still had one too many. The thing and point I want to make with Cody Whitehair is, obviously wants to talk about the snap, but you’re talking about two weeks in a row of completely dominating. We’re an outside zone team that ran 25 snaps of inside zone because of what they were playing. It changed our game plan and Cody’s a big part of that. The last two weeks we’ve been able to move those guys inside. He’s a really good football player. 

“We’re going to battle through these snap issues. We’re cutting them down. He’s more accurate. He did have the one that obviously is unacceptable and no one owns that more than Cody Whitehair does. But he is a really good football player and let’s not lose sight of the 79 snaps where he really helped the team run the football and you can’t do that without a Cody Whitehair at center.”

Loggains has a point here — if Whitehair were struggling in the run game, against the defensive looks the Ravens were showing, the Bears wouldn’t have been able to run the ball 50 times with the kind of success they had. But the poor snaps nonetheless are ugly and have to be eliminated — imagine the uproar over them if Trubisky didn’t make that play in Baltimore. The Bears' offense won't always be good enough to overcome those kind of self-inflicted mistakes. 

Loggains and coach John Fox have praised Whitehair’s attention to the problem, and as long as Hroniss Grasu is still limited with a hand injury, Whitehair will have some time to work through these issues. One final thought: Who would’ve expected, back in May, that Whitehair would have the problems with snaps, and not Trubisky? 

SportsTalk Live Podcast: What are Bears' chances against Panthers?

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SportsTalk Live Podcast: What are Bears' chances against Panthers?

On the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast, David Haugh (Chicago Tribune), Laurence Holmes (670 The Score) and Phil Rogers (MLB.com) join Kap on the panel.

The crew discusses Bobby Portis’ suspension, Edzo’s return to the booth and the Bears' chances against the Panthers. 

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here: