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- What is the cause for the plight of the 2007 Chicago Bears?

Kevin Figgers December 19, 2007
Kevin Figgers
NFL Columnist

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This time last season, the Chicago Bears were 12-2 and on their way to Super Bowl 41. This season, they are 5-9 and will miss the post-season for the first time in 3 years. You can't site the team's talent as the reason why they have fallen so far from where they were last year, because it's basically the same roster. So then, what IS the difference between this years Bears and last years Bears? It's simple. Inability to run the football, and a regressing defense.

Last season, the Bears rushing offense was about the league average (120 yards a game). Not great, but not terrible either. They ranked 15th in the league rushing the football. The effectiveness of their rushing offense helped an otherwise anemic passing attack. Even though their passing offense was nothing to ride home about last season (just 205 yards per game), it was good enough to produce some big plays and put some points on the board.

Lets move on to this season, where the Bears are dead last in the NFL in rushing yards per game (78 yards a game), and that in turn has effected the passing game greatly. Because teams no longer respect the Bears ability to run the football, they have been largely unable to make any plays downfield with their passing game. Even though they are averaging more passing yards per game this season (220 yards), they have scored considerably less touchdowns through the air.

The biggest reason why the Bears have struggled offensively this season is inconsistent play from the offensive line. The strength of their running game last season came from when they ran to the right side behind Olin Kreutz and Roberto Garza, but they have had little success this season. And the former All-Pro left tackle, John Tait, looks as if he has lost a step or two.

Even though the offensive line has not had its greatest season, I think much of the Bears offensive woes can be attributed to the loss of tailback Thomas Jones. Not to pat myself on the back, but I remember telling anyone who would listen, that Thomas Jones was the best back on that team and that giving him up was a mistake. 5 months later the Bears running game is in the tank and Thomas Jones is on his way to another 1,000 yard rushing season (he has 963 yards with 2 games left). There’s no question that Jones is a more patient runner than Benson. He waits for an opening before accelerating through the hole. Whereas Benson is the type of player who loves to get the ball, run straight ahead and carry a pile with him. However to be effective with that particular style, it is imperative that the offensive line perform at a high level on a consistent basis, and the Bears have not done that this year, hence the offensive struggles.

But don’t think I’m going to leave out that Bears defense. The once feared Bears defense has fallen from 5th in the NFL in total defense to 29th. This season, they are giving up almost 40 more yards rushing and 50 more yards passing than last season. Injuries have played a big part in their struggles this season, however they have also suffered from some sub-par performances from players that they have counted on to make plays. Last season the Bears defense forced 32 fumbles and had 24 interceptions, this year through 14 games, they have forced 22 fumbles and have recorded just 12 interceptions. Of course, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that the more you take the ball away from the other team, the more opportunities you give your offense to score. For a team that thrived off of forcing turnovers, and probably more importantly, scoring points off of turnovers, the Bears have fallen off dramatically this season, and that probably more than their inability to run the football, is the reason they find themselves on the outside looking in.

So what can be done to fix it? At this point, very little. The season is already over, and both viable quarterback options are on the shelf (and don’t give me Kyle Orton). It seems as if this current construction of the Bears offense has run its course (not that it was ever that impressive). But the Bears need to seriously look into getting younger up front on the offensive line, get a better offensive option than a converted defensive back (Hester), and may need to think about scrapping the Cedric Benson project. Defensively they need to keep guys like “Peanut” Tillman and Nathan Vasher healthy, while getting rid of dead weights like Adam Archuleta.

While the Bears aren’t headed to the playoffs this season, its not like they’re the Atlanta Falcons or the St. Louis Rams (2 teams that are going nowhere fast). They have the right coach and the right overall talent to put it together. With a tweak here or there (most notably a running back that can run for more than 2 yards and a cloud of dust and a receiver that can make plays on a consistent basis), the Bears can be right back to elite status in the NFC next season (for whatever that’s worth).

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