The rushing numbers were not gaudy and there was one potentially game-changing sack of Jay Cutler. But the offensive line was strong in only its second start with the five opening against the Chargers (left to right, Charles Leno-Vladimir Ducasse-Matt Slauson-Patrick Omameh-Kyle Long).
With young running backs filling in for injured Matt Forte, the offensive line opened creases that led to 26 carries for 111 yards (4.3 ypc.). Slauson handled shotgun snaps flawlessly while combing with Ducasse and Omameh to block the Chargers’ targeting of the “A” gaps to get into Cutler’s face.
Cutler was sacked just once, when left tackle Leno was beaten on a speed rush by Melvin Ingram for the sack-strip. The Chargers were credited with five hits on Cutler despite making extensive use of linebacker blitz packages.
Slauson was ticketed for a false-start on a third down in the first quarter, which created that third-and-long on which the Chargers blitzed and sacked Cutler to force the fumble in the red zone. Long was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for protesting a no-call on a late hit of Cutler, moving the Bears out of range for a field goal in the second quarter and drew a holding penalty but the line overall was largely penalty free running 70 snaps.
But overall the protection was good against San Diego's edge speed, with Cutler making intelligent use of his mobility to extend occasional plays.
Moon's Game Grade: A-
A position group that requires cohesion and working familiarity among its five in game situations has had few opportunities to develop that continuity due to a succession of injuries.
Including center Will Montgomery, now on injured reserve, the Bears have had 10 offensive linemen this season. Eight of them have started at least one game, and only Long has started all eight games, albeit at right tackle, a position he played for the first time in a game on opening day.
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Leno has been a bright spot, stepping in at left tackle when Jermon Bushrod was injured against the Seattle Seahawks and performing to the level that he has taken the No. 1 job.
Despite the personnel turnover, blocking proficiency has been such that offensive coordinator Adam Gase has been able to operate according to plan, with the Bears running no fewer than 25 times in any of the first eight games. The Bears went five straight games without rushing for 100 total yards before San Diego and had seen their rushing average idle in the range of 3.9 yards per carry.
The Bears rank in the middle of the pack in sack percentage. Overall a creditable performance under the circumstances.
Moon's Mid-year Grade: C+