INDIANAPOLIS – Whether it is a formula for winning football in 2015 remains to play out. But either by choice or by chance (injury), the Bears have to at this point of the preseason given every indication of a team that says it will run the football, and then does it.
Most important, it has the potential to produce an efficient, turnover-lite offense, something that was decidedly not the flavor of recent seasons.
The Bears have run 125 plays through their two preseason wins – 27-10 over the Miami Dolphins, 23-11 over the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday – and of those, 68 (54.4 percent) have been carries by running backs. They have zero lost fumbles and one interception, the latter on an apparent communication gaffe between the quarterback and tight end.
“That’s pretty much how we’re going to continue to play,” coach John Fox said, in a rare public declaration of both strategy and tactics.
Offensive coordinator Adam Gase has tasked line coach Dave Magazu to slowly turn a group of what were pass-protecting guard dogs under Marc Trestman into attack dogs for Fox. (If the Bears do want to be a running team, however, Magazu does have a penalty issue to address).
Gase now has had Jay Cutler for six preseason series and the NFL turnover leader of 2014 has been the very model (relatively speaking, of course) of ball control – zero INT’s through all but two training camp practices and two preseason games, and zero fumbles. Cutler will never be a classic game manager, but he is currently doing a functional job of impersonating one.
The run-pass template that was established last week with a 50-50 balance was pushed even further toward the run Saturday: 57 total plays, 35 carries by running backs.
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Why this becomes more than just statistically significant is that the Bears have established themselves running the football even when they were forced to and a defense knew it. By the end of Saturday’s first quarter, the offense was without three of its projected top four wide receivers – Alshon Jeffery out with a calf injury, Kevin White down indefinitely with his shin injury, and then Marquess Wilson leaves with a hamstring injury.
The result has been nothing like plodding football. The Bears have outscored two opponents by a combined 50-21.
“Running the ball like that says there is confidence in the offensive line,” said center Will Montgomery. “You have to be good in both pass and run blocking but every offensive lineman likes to come off the ball and hit somebody.”