The Bears’ worst defeat under Lovie Smith need not be a season-defining defeat. “We had several breakdowns, but you move on,” Smith said after Chicago’s 45-10 loss at Cincinnati. “Experience teaches you a lot.” Does it? With the Bears it’s hard to know.
The Bears’ worst defeat under Lovie Smith need not be a season-defining defeat.
“We had several breakdowns, but you move on,” Smith said after Chicago’s 45-10 loss at Cincinnati. “Experience teaches you a lot.”
Does it? With the Bears it’s hard to know. Smith didn’t sound certain himself.
One minute, he talked about Tampa Bay recovering from a 45-0 loss to play in the NFC championship game when he was an assistant coach there. “I have been in this situation before,” he said with confidence.
But, as the debacle questions piled up, he soon changed his tune.
“We haven’t been in this situation, so it’s hard for me to answer these questions,” Smith said. Although he still promised: “We’ll learn from it.”
How about if the Bears start with the smallest of fixes and learn how to pick up one yard when they need it?
The answer is simple. Sneak for it.
Jay Cutler is 4-for-4 on the season following center Olin Kreutz and picking up a first down on quarterback sneaks. The last three times, he’s gained 2 yards when he needed only 1. That includes once on fourth down against the Bengals when nothing else was working. And twice in Atlanta in a game the Bears lost because they couldn’t score on first down from the 1-yard line.
“We didn’t do it that much in Denver,” Cutler said, “but we’re using it a little bit here. With Olin and how quick he is with his ability to get on top of defensive linemen, we’re definitely going to sprinkle it in.
“I don’t think it’s going to be a staple, though, by any means.”
Why not? It was when Erik Kramer played for the Bears. Dave Wannstedt, in probably his smartest move as Chicago’s embattled coach, got tired of seeing Lewis Tillman, Rashaan Salaam and Raymont Harris get repeatedly stuffed in short yardage and instead turned to Kramer, who delivered time and again.
“Jay does it very well, and Eric also had a good feel for it,” said offensive coordinator Ron Turner, who held the same position under Wannstedt when Kramer played for the Bears.
“Jay has good size, is strong, physical and has a real good knack for seeing where the holes are.”
The quarterback sneak is the hardest short-yardage play to stop because the quarterback makes his move before the linebackers and safeties can crash the line of scrimmage. Turner said Cutler, Kreutz and physical guards Roberto Garza and Frank Omiyale also make the QB sneak an especially effective play for Chicago.
“We’ve got some good athletes in there with strength,” Turner said. “They get on their guys very quickly. Olin snaps the ball and gets on the guys very quickly, which is what you want, and Jay gets right behind him.”
Except on the goal line. The Bears refuse to get “sneaky” there, never once trying to score on a sneak the last two years.
“It can be tough on the goal line, depending on the alignment,” Turner said. “If it’s a 5-3 look with two guys in the A gap, it can be difficult.”
Can it possibly be more difficult than the way the Bears are doing it now? Last year, in a meltdown in Minnesota, the Bears threw an incomplete pass on first down from the 1, then tried three failed runs. In Atlanta, a first-down pass failed again, followed by two fumbled runs from the NFL’s third-worst rushing offense.
That’s 0-for-7 from the 1 without trying their best short-yardage play. And the Bears say they still don’t want to sneak from the 1.
It’s good to know the Bears learn from experience.??
Rockford Register Star assistant sports editor Matt Trowbridge can be reached at (815) 987-1383 or firstname.lastname@example.org.