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Columnist
If not now with Bears' offense, when?
By Mike Imrem | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 8/21/2010 11:49 PM

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Probably not even quarterback Jay Cutler and offensive coordinator Mike Martz realize how much is at stake during this Bears season.

Oh, sure, they know head coach Lovie Smith's job hangs in the balance like so many Bears dying-quail passes hung in the air over the decades.

But Smith's status is just a footnote compared to what this franchise really is playing for in 2010.

Yes, we're talking about the survival of professional-football offense in this town.

That's all I could think about Saturday night as Oakland beat the Bears 32-17 in a preseason game in Soldier Field.

Not much was on the line in this meaningless exercise, though it would be encouraging to see the Bears beat a recently hapless outfit like the Raiders.

The Bears' regular season likely will depend on the defense, but the century likely will depend on the offense.

Let's put it this way: This is last call for offense at the Soldier Field Saloon.

"You can see that Mike's system works if we do what we're supposed to do," Cutler said.

That's the problem, of course. Cutler and Martz can do everything possible, but it won't be enough of the line doesn't block well.

"We had protection issues," Cutler said of being sacked five times while playing the first half. "But we have a lot of time to make corrections."

Cutler completed a modest 7 of 15 passes while playing the entire first half, but he had a 90.7 quarterback rating that was OK for the second preseason game.

"We did some good things out there, as well as some bad," Cutler said. "I think Mike did a great job of calling plays."

Martz called a nifty end-around by Devin Hester for a 16-yard gain that was a mere peek at his creative playbook.

These were just teases of Cutler's potential body of work and Martz imaginative brain at work.

However, if the Bears don't start pass blocking by September, well, they might as well resign themselves to playing defense for 60 minutes of every game for the rest of time.

Remember, this is the place where quarterbacks and wide receivers go to die. Ah, but maybe, hopefully, optimistically not in 2010.

This is the first year in most of our lifetimes that the Bears have a quarterback who can be great and an offensive coordinator who has been great.

Cutler and Martz are battling conventional wisdom, but at least they figure to keep battling.

The Bears have had pretty good quarterbacks and pretty good coordinators, but they never equaled pretty great offense.

But here they are, a quarterback like Cutler and coordinator like Martz, trying to stuff it to opposing defenses and Bears tradition all at once.

Folks, if this doesn't work the Bears might as well collect the prayer books, cancel the Hail Mary passes and send worshippers home for good.

That's why the stakes are so high. Either the Bears' offense enters the modern era this season or it will be stuck in the Dark Ages for eternity.

Hopefully the very prospect doesn't apply more pressure than Jay Cutler and Mike Martz can handle.

mimrem@dailyherald.com