The Bears offensive line did not play well on Sunday. There’s no two ways around it. You can point to scheme, protection plans, or play designs, but at the end of the day when a quarterback is sacked nine times, some blame lays with the players on the field. Could Matt Nagy have dialed up more max protections, or run more bootlegs to help neutralize Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney? Sure. But when push comes to shove, Sam Mustipher says the offensive line has to execute when they’re called upon to block five-on-five.
“We’ve got to get it done,” Mustipher said. “That allows for plays to develop, backs to get out of the backfield, five guys to be in a route. Then we’ve got to get it done. I think when you take pride in what you do, that’s what you want. That’s what you train for. You train to block the best of the best, one-on-one, in a critical situation. When the guy in the top row of the stands knows we’re passing the football, what do you fall back on? Your fundamentals and technique, and too many times during the game we didn’t do that.”
That’s what Sunday’s offensive line performance boils down to for Mustipher. Players missing personal assignments and failing to execute. Nothing the Browns did surprised them. It was just guys using poor technique and getting beat.
So how does an offensive line get back on track when they simply didn’t execute on the field?
“You just have to be honest with yourselves, the corrections, look at the tape and understand what you did do wrong,” Mustipher said. “Obviously we didn’t execute the way we needed to, specifically on the offensive line. There’s things I didn’t do myself that I’d like to improve on. It’s just being honest with yourselves. That’s all it is. It’s not taking personal criticism. It’s just understanding I have to be better for my guys. I have to be better for my room. And how can I do that?”
In Mustipher’s opinion it has to come from within.
“I don't really believe in vocal leadership. You've gotta do things. I can sit up here and I can tell you, 'Oh, we're working really hard.' I could be lying to you. I could be lying straight to your face. So for a guy to be a vocal leader, I don't feel like we need that. I feel like we need some honesty, some truth. Come out and say, 'This is what you've gotta do. This is what you've gotta improve on.' When I walk into the room, I tell the guy, 'I was unacceptable on this play.' That lends them to say, 'Here's where I messed up. Here's where I screwed up a blocking assignment.' So it's not about being vocal, it's about being honest.
“That's how you start getting the solutions. It's not, 'You did this, you did this.' I didn't play perfect. Nobody on that offensive line played perfect. And going into the rest of the season, I'm sure we're not gonna see any offense play perfect. As long as we're honest with yourselves, that being contagious, that's the key thing. I could call somebody out. Somebody could call me out. What are we solving? We're just pointing fingers. We'll play the blame game and we won't get any solutions. We'll be right back to where we were on Sunday. It's just about being honest with ourselves first.”
Having veterans in the locker room helps with that individual accountability. Jason Peters shared with the group that he’s been on teams where the offensive line was in a similar situation, they looked within themselves, and they came out on the other side better because of it. He’s been on teams where the opposite has been true too. It will be up to the players themselves which route they want to take.
Every week in the NFL is an opportunity to correct mistakes, grow, execute and perform at a high level. For Mustipher that opportunity can’t come soon enough.
“You kinda want to wash that stink off of you and get back and prove to yourself, to prove to each other, that we’re better than what we showed. And I think, I truly believe that we are better than what we showed. Now it’s all about getting to that point. We can talk about it or we can actually act on it. That started yesterday and is going to continue throughout the week. It’s not gonna be a magical fix and we’re not gonna snap our fingers. It’s all about putting in the work. Now that’s what we need to do.”