Within the Bears’ success at running Matt Forte for 141 yards against the Green Bay Packers lay an element of good news-bad news that points to a “problem” for the Bears’ offense going against the Arizona Cardinals.
Forte ripped off runs of 23, 22 and 20 yards, equaling the offense’s total of pass plays gaining more than 20 yards (not including a 14-yard completion supplemented by a 15-yard penalty). The run results stand as exceptional; the pass results, not so much, and a significant task before the offense is to change some things. Fast.
The Cardinals were a respectable 13th vs. the run last season and began this season by limiting the New Orleans Saints to 54 rushing yards in the Cardinals’ 31-19 handling of the Saints last Sunday.
Pounding the Cardinals the way the Bears did the Packers is not a winning formula, and the Bears know it.
“We've got to take some shots,” said quarterback Jay Cutler, who rarely threw deep even through preseason and almost not at all against the Packers. “We've got to air it out. We make sure that we take our shots, push the ball downfield and just let them know that if you're going to play [to stop the run], we're going to let it go.”
An obvious key for the Bears will be to generate rush on Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer. The Saints failed to sack Palmer even once, and lost; the Bears failed to even hit Aaron Rodgers once, and lost.
The pressure is on Cutler from more than the Cardinals front.
Besides stretching the field, Cutler is tasked with completing a higher percentage of his passes than the 50 percent (18 of 36) against Green Bay. The low percentage was far from Cutler’s fault alone; drops affected the overall, some of them egregious.
But with the Cardinals expected to make sure that Forte does not beat them, Cutler has the football in his hands with the opportunity and burden of sustaining drives and forcing Arizona linebackers and safeties to pay attention to more than run-blocking and Forte.
“We’ll pick our spots when it’s time to go down field,” said offensive coordinator Adam Gase. “We’ll wait to see who challenges us as far as taking away the underneath stuff first.
“I’m not going to just start dropping him back there and see how many times he can get hit. We have to make sure that the defense is giving us what we want. Maybe that’s when we start attacking down the field a little more.”
And the Bears-Cardinals winner is… a surprise?
Arizona coach Bruce Arians is the one that got away for the Bears, who passed on the chance to hire him and went instead with Marc Trestman. Under Arians the Cardinals have gone from three straight years without a winning season to two straight with a combined 21-11 record.
Worse for the Bears, Arians has balanced the offense between the passing of Palmer, working on a streak of seven consecutive wins, and running the football, with 120 in the win over New Orleans.
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Palmer is 3-0 vs. the Bears for his career, albeit none of them games against a 3-4 Bears team. And the 120.3 passer rating he has vs. the Bears is his highest against any team. The Bears did not show enough defensively against the Packers to expect them to end Palmer’s win streak.
But here’s the rub:
“View from the Moon” surveyed the schedule not long after its release and opined that the Bears would win one of their first, very difficult games. It is beyond difficult to envision the Bears defeating the Seahawks next week in Seattle, and they just lost to Green Bay by a score, a game VFTM had as a win. Therefore, to get back on rhythm:
Bears 23, Cardinals 21