While everyone waits for quarterback Jay Cutler to light up the night sky with aerial fireworks, it may be the Bears' running game that ignites the offense.
That's something that offensive coordinator Ron Turner talked about with Cutler after a dud of a preseason opener a week ago. Tonight, at home against the Giants, Cutler and his receivers will continue their effort to synch up, and a productive ground game will make that a lot easier.
"I told (Cutler) that if we are struggling a little bit, we can run the football," Turner said. "You always have a chance if you can run the ball, and we've got some guys that can make some big plays. If you can run the ball and make a big play, all of a sudden it can spark you."
The running game didn't impress anyone last week, but that was without featured ball carrier Matt Forte, who should be in the starting lineup tonight at 7 (Channel 32; WBBM 780-AM). Last season Forte accounted for 35 percent of the Bears' total yards from scrimmage and led the team with 63 receptions.
Turner said it's also important for the passing game not to burden itself by trying to live up to the lofty expectations that came as unwanted baggage in the trade for Cutler.
"Everyone's saying, 'Hey Jay Cutler's here, all of a sudden we're going to be the greatest offense in the history of football, so let's just roll the ball out and go play,' " Turner said. "And when we went three-and-out, everyone's like, 'Whoa, what happened?' I told Jay that's part of football.
"We're going to have games where you're going to struggle a little bit early and it takes a little while to get in rhythm and get in sync. There are going to be other games they're going to come out right from the start and go. We've just got to hang in there. We know we've got a good offense. We know we have good players, and if it doesn't mesh right away, then just keep going. Don't press, just relax and have fun, and a play or two would make it happen."
Before the receiving corps jells, the Bears still must determine which wideouts will be on the business end of Cutler's passes. Brandon Rideau, Rashied Davis and Devin Aromashodu are still jockeying for playing time behind starters Devin Hester and Earl Bennett.
Cutler said there isn't any rush to set the depth chart in stone.
"We have three preseason games left," he said, "so there's a lot of time to work those guys in there."
But coach Lovie Smith expects to see significant improvement from the preseason-opening loss to the Bills. It's only three weeks until the regular-season opener in Green Bay on Sept. 13.
"We're not ready to play the Packers yet," Smith said. "We'll know a lot more (after) this week. This week will tell us a lot. Every team, every position, as coaches, players, we all need to improve. And we expect to see improvement this week."