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Even with 2-0 start, Bears still have things to work on
By Bob LeGere | Daily Herald Staff

Quarterback Jay Cutler, all revved up after the Bears took a 27-17 lead late in Sunday's victory at Dallas, has gotten off to a great start. But it's not all good news so far for the Bears.

 

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Published: 9/22/2010 12:00 AM

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The good news for the Bears is that, since 1990, 64.1 percent of NFL teams that start the season 2-0 make the playoffs.

Especially with the Minnesota Vikings starting 0-2, the Bears appear to be in excellent position to contend for a playoff berth, although it's still way too early to make plans for a return trip to Cowboys Stadium, where Super Bowl XLV will be played.

There are some encouraging signs, though. Extrapolating two games over a 16-game season obviously is inconclusive, but Jay Cutler is on pace to throw for 5,192 yards, which would break Dan Marino's single-season record of 5,084.

Johnny Knox is on pace for 1,104 receiving yards, which isn't far-fetched at all, as long as he can stay healthy.

The return to Pro Bowl form of Brian Urlacher seems to have energized the entire defense, which is flying around and hitting anything that moves.

Now for the bad news.

The Bears have yet to establish a presence in the run game.

Matt Forte averaged the same 2.9 yards per carry in each of the first two games, and as a team the Bears are averaging 2.8 yards per carry, which would have been the worst in the league last season by a wide margin.

"The running game, of course, you would like to see a little bit more production from it," coach Lovie Smith said. "But sometimes when a team is focused so much on stopping it, it opens up lanes for the passing game, which it did."

It makes you wonder if the Bears really do need to develop a strong running game, even though Smith always has equated that with "Bears football."

But the Indianapolis Colts are the winningest team in the NFL over the past five years, and they seem to regard their running game as a necessary evil, doing it just barely enough to keep defenses from completely focusing on Peyton Manning.

The two worst running teams in the NFL last season were the Colts and the San Diego Chargers, and they won a combined 27 games in the regular season.

So, while the Bears probably don't need a great running game to succeed, they do need to run the ball better than they have so far.

It should be noted that the Colts ran the ball 43 times in their Sunday night victory over the New York Giants, including 23 times in the first half, their most rushing attempts in the first half in 19 years. But Manning still threw 3 TD passes and had a nearly perfect 145.5 passer rating.

Of more concern to the Bears might be their third-down offense, which converted just 1 of 11 opportunities, and third third-down defense, which allowed the Cowboys a 46 percent success rate.

Both are below average, especially the offensive numbers.

Even the glass-is-half-full Smith realizes that these are areas where his team needs to get better before it can consider itself a playoff contender, and he vowed to spend extra time this week working to improve.

Finally, the Bears don't appear to have much of a pass rush, even with the addition of Julius Peppers. They did not sack Tony Romo on 51 pass attempts, and they got to Detroit Lions quarterbacks Matthew Stafford and Shaun Hill just twice in Week 1.

But that may be something they can remedy Monday night in prime time at Soldier Field. No NFL team was sacked more than the Packers last year.

rlegere@dailyherald.com

Follow Bob LeGere's Bears reports via Twitter@BobLeGere. Check out his blog, Bear Essentials at DailyHerald.com