Chicago Sun-Times

A closer look at the Bears issues on first down

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In today's paper, I wrote extensively about the Bears averaging a league-worst 3.2 yards on first down. Mike Tice and Jay Cutler both insisted it's a point of emphasis as they head into Dallas.

The story is here.

But, here's some other interesting numbers I crunched.

Matt Forte has run the ball 11 times, and he's managed just 14 yards. That's right, 14 yards. Two of the runs were for losses, two were for no gain and three of them gained a single yard.

Michael Bush, meanwhile, has 19 carries for 83 yards, an average of 4.37 yards. He has no negative-yardage runs, two for no gain, and four for one yard, although one of those was a touchdown.
Michael Bush.jpg
The running back who is struggling most, though, is Kahlil Bell, who got extensive playing time against the St. Louis Rams because Forte was inactive. Bell had five first-down carries, and he had three for no gain, one for a yard and one for a loss of four. Yikes.

Brandon Marshall has been a frequent target, and he's been fairly productive. He has seven catches for 100 yards, including one touchdown. Jay Cutler and Marshall haven't connected four times for incompletions, and Marshall was the target on one interception. But, Marshall has drawn two defensive pass interference calls.

Perhaps a player the Bears should go to more on first down?

How about rookie Alshon Jeffrey, who has four catches for 35 yards. Cutler has only had one incomplete pass that was intended for Jeffrey.

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Good observations, Sean, but could most of those stats be a result of poor blocking by the offensive line? Certainly a power back like Bush can ordinarilly get a yard or two on his own, even with poor blocking, but lighter and mor finesse oriented backs need at least a crease. I agree that hitting big receivers over the middlle or elsewhere on first dow is a good move,but setting up play-action passes with the run is also a tried and true approach if at least a modicum of yardage is by the runner on first down.

Good stuff Sean, but, in Forte's defense, he did miss the Rams game, and I'm sure had he played vs St Louis, his 1st down stats would be a little better.

This may be the area Chicago is missing a more hard nosed hit em in the mouth fullback like Tyler Clutts as a lead blocker on 1st down. Last season most of the Bears more productive running plays came when Clutts was lead blocking. A player like Clutts, who is basically a mini guard, would be nice running wise as a lead blocker, especially on 1st down. And we all know, the only way play action works is with an effective running game. Some how the Bears gotta start picking up 4-5 yards rushing on first down for this offense to work and stay out of predictable 3rd and long passing plays. I think a smash mouth lead blocker would help.

With that being said, Evan Rodriguez has been a pleasant surprise at fullback, especially as a lead blocker. I just don't thing Rodriguez can move a defender like Clutts could. I think Chicago kept Rodriguez over Clutts because of Rodriguez's ability as a pass catcher, where Clutts was a one trick pony as solely a lead blocker, Rodriguez can block and pass catch, Rodriguez just isn't the lead blocker Clutts was, and monday night, the Bears won't even have Rodriguez. Hopefully Kyle Adams can come in for Rodriguez and move somebody as a lead blocker. I think the bad line play and the lack of a more traditional fullback/lead blocker are the main reason for Chicago's poor 1st down results. A lack of an effective running game, especially on 1st down, means the play action pass won't be as effective. Hopefully Kyle Adams and Evan Rodriguez (when he returns) can step up their game along with the Bears offensive line GO BEARS!!

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This page contains a single entry by Sean Jensen published on September 28, 2012 10:18 AM.

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