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To protect Cutler, Bears offense might scale back
By Bob LeGere | Daily Herald Staff

Bears quarterback Jay Cutler checks his mouth after being hit by Browns linebacker Kamerion Wimbley on Sunday. Cutler, under constant pressure, was sacked four times.

 

Associated Press

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Published: 11/3/2009 12:04 AM

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In the interest of better overall execution and of keeping quarterback Jay Cutler upright and in one piece for the remainder of the season, the Bears' offense might be more basic Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals at Soldier Field.

Asked about the execution of the Bears' offense shortly after Sunday's sloppy victory over the Browns, frustrated coordinator Ron Turner seemed on the verge of borrowing a line from former Bucs coach John McKay and saying, "I'm in favor of it."

But instead Turner hinted that it might be time to focus on running fewer plays with better precision, as opposed to more plays with shoddy execution.

The offensive shortcomings were most noticeable in two areas.

Pass protection was lax, as Cutler was battered by a Browns defense that came into the game ranked 27th in sack percentage. And, in the red zone, the Bears scored just 2 touchdowns in seven opportunities from inside the Browns' 20-yard line.

Although coach Lovie Smith is much more involved with the defense than the offense, he didn't disagree with the idea of scaling back the attack.

"As a general rule, if we're making mistakes, (whether it's) offensively, defensively (or on) special teams, you take back," Smith said.

"That's the first step, to just be perfect in that area and give ourselves a chance to be successful. That is what stopped us a little bit (vs. the Browns). We, of course, will consider that."

Critics of the Bears' offense, including many of the fans Sunday at Soldier Field, have lamented the underutilization of deep threats Devin Hester, Johnny Knox and tight end Greg Olsen.

But it's risky to call for long passes that require time to develop when the offensive line can't keep the rush off Cutler on intermediate routes.

He was sacked four times against the Browns and used as a human trampoline on a couple of other plays by 350-pound Shaun Rogers.

"I'm not pleased with the amount of sacks," Smith said. "Whenever you have your quarterback sacked four times, it isn't good.

"And then our red-zone production, we have to do a better job of getting touchdowns once we get down there. Instead of settling for field goals from time to time, we need to get touchdowns."

Cutler has been sacked 15 times while throwing 239 passes in seven games. He was sacked just 11 times all of last year in Denver while throwing 616 passes.

But Smith said he's not overly concerned about the 6-foot-3, 233-pound Cutler getting roughed up.

"I think each game you have about 22 guys that get roughed up," Smith said. "That's a part of football as I see it. The quarterback is a part of that.

"Jay is a tough player (and) some games it will be that way. That's why you need big, strong, tough guys playing quarterback for you to be able to handle those things.

"But again, that's not an ideal world for us to be in, for our guy to get hit like that, (but) that's how it goes sometimes."

Substituting Josh Beekman for Frank Omiyale at left guard didn't pay any immediate dividends for the Bears' beleaguered offensive line.

But in Beekman's defense, he drew a tough opponent in Rogers. Smith didn't seem to indicate that additional changes were imminent.

"We're still having some struggles," he said, "and each week we evaluate what we've done, look at it hard, which we're doing, and then make decisions from there.

"I don't see any major shake-ups or anything like that this week. We're just going to stay with what we believe in, and we'll have more and more success with some of the areas we're not satisfied with right now."