Every so often, something in the NFL makes close to no sense at all (actually, it happens a lot but this is about just on-field stuff).
The offensive lines of the Bears and San Diego Chargers would be one of those instances.
The Bears, who are philosophically rooted in running the football, have fielded four different starting-five’s in the span of seven games. They’ve started three different centers, and only right tackle Kyle Long began the Minnesota game at the same spot he was to start the season.
The Chargers, who are passing on 66 percent of their offensive snaps, have opened with five different starting-five’s over their eight games. Those include three different left guards. Only right tackle Joe Barksdale has been in the same place all eight games.
Yet with all those lineups in front of quarterback Philip Rivers and the NFL’s second-highest number of pass attempts (354), the Chargers are a respectable 15th in sacks per pass play, despite trailing going into the fourth quarter in six of their eight games – meaning opponents knew full well that a pass-based offense was even more tilted toward Rivers throwing.
And the Bears, without Alshon Jeffery for four games and an offense declared for the run – the Bears have run 43.3 percent of their snaps despite leading in just two of their seven games – are an equally respectable 16th in rushing average (and tied for 13th in sacks percentage.
“We’ve dropped back to pass more than [all but Houston] in the league and [the O-line has] done a heck of a job with all the combinations of guys we’ve had out there,” Rivers said. “I have a great deal of confidence in them. Obviously we want to get guys back but I feel comfortable wherever we are there… .
”We just kind of keep going. We have a resilient bunch, like a lot of teams that feel that way. It’s the next man up so we’ve got to just keep on rolling. But it’s been a tough stretch.”
If it sounds familiar, it’s because the same tune comes out of Halas Hall, a place where as recently as 2013 the team started the same five linemen for all 16 games.
[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]
Offensive lines rely on cohesion and coordination and the Bears have struggled to run the football with the success they require: five straight games failing to rush for 100 total yards.
“I think with the amount of pieces that we’ve shuffled around, we’re improving in that area, especially from one week to the next,” said offensive coordinator Adam Gase. “I know the numbers don’t say it, but there is a lot of things that we’re doing well. We just have to make sure we get more guys doing the right things consistently. We were having one or two guys here and there kind of either bust or not finish, and we just do a better job of finishing.”