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Columnist
Offensive woes in opener went well beyond QB
By Bob LeGere | Daily Herald Staff

Wide receiver Earl Bennett (80) didn't appear to be on the same page as Jay Cutler at times in Sunday's opener at Green Bay.

 

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Published: 9/16/2009 12:01 AM

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Everyone wants to get on Jay Cutler for his performance Sunday night, and that's fine.

He stunk. But he's far from the only offensive player who had an offensive performance.

Cutler will have a lot of disappointing performances this season if the running game isn't more effective than it was against the Green Bay Packers and their new 3-4 defense.

For instance, Sunday's home opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers, whose defense is considered the gold standard when it comes to the 3-4 scheme.

Apparently the Bears' rebuilt offensive line still is under construction, otherwise Matt Forte would have averaged more than the meager 2.2 yards per carry he got on 25 attempts.

Sure, the Bears could have run more than 11 times in the first half and done a better job of establishing a ground attack to take some of the aggressiveness out of the Packers' pass rush.

But they ran the ball 31 times Sunday. It's not that they didn't run enough, it's that they didn't run well enough.

The offensive line wasn't any better at pass protection. The Packers' Aaron Kampman and Cullen Jenkins constantly hurried Cutler into throwing sooner than he wanted to or to players not wearing Bears jerseys.

Hey, guys, the preseason is over. We're playing for keeps now. If you can't block Kampman and Jenkins, what's going to happen against the Steelers' James Harrison and Lamar Woodley, who had 271/2 sacks last season?

Tight end Greg Olsen and Forte were supposed to be the reliable, go-to guys in the passing game. But Olsen caught 1 pass for 8 yards, even though he had 6 passes thrown his way, one of which was a brutal drop.

That's not the preferred method for getting to the Pro Bowl.

Forte had zero catches, but he had an excuse. Only 1 ball was thrown to him. Why, after he led the team with 63 receptions last year?

The Bears' other tight end, Desmond Clark, also had just 1 catch, although it went for 23 yards and helped set up a field goal. But Clark failed to catch a high pass in the end zone that bounced off his hands midway through the second quarter.

If Clark holds on to that ball, the Bears go up 7-3, and Cutler doesn't get intercepted by Johnny Jolly on the next play.

That was just the first of the Bears' three red-zone trips that failed to reach the end zone. The second time, right tackle Chris Williams was flagged for a false start, Cutler was sacked by Jenkins, and Forte ran for 1 yard before the Bears salvaged a 47-yard field goal.

Their final red-zone flop was even more aggravating. After reaching the Packers' 15, Forte had 5 carries for just 12 yards and, with first-and-goal at the 5-yard line, the Bears managed just 2 yards before settling for Gould's 21-yard field goal.

On the other hand, what is commonly referred to as "the worst group of wide receivers in the NFL" accounted for 238 of the Bears' 277 receiving yards.

The wide receivers were not the problem against the Packers, even though Earl Bennett needs to do a better job of getting on the same page with Cutler.

But part of the blame for that goes to Cutler, too. He threw behind his receivers more in the Packers game than he had in all of the preseason combined.

So criticize Cutler if you want, but there's plenty of blame to go around. And I didn't even mention cornerback Nate Vasher.

rlegere@dailyherald.com