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Still waiting for Bears’ high-octane offense

Updated: October 25, 2013 6:24AM



Marc Trestman went all Darwin on us after Sunday night’s game.

“We’re still in this evolutionary process of trying to find out who we are,’’ the Bears coach said.
“… We’re kind of a work in progress, but it’s exciting.’’

They are, and it is.

The Bears are 3-0, even though they haven’t been consistently excellent when they’ve had the ball. Offensively, they are closer to walking upright than dragging their knuckles along the ground. But they have a ways to go to be the explosive offense Trestman envisions.

What we’re seeing now is an opportunistic offense, which probably sounds patronizing, like a pat on the head and a dismissal. Let’s be clear: It doesn’t matter how you get to 3-0. Demerits and style points don’t exist. The Bears managed 258 total yards in their victory over the Steelers, including 159 through the air. And it didn’t matter. They scored when they needed to, most dramatically on a 17-yard connection between Jay Cutler and Earl Bennett late in the fourth quarter.

If you had missed Sunday’s game, saw the 40-23 final score and went only by those ho-hum offensive stats, you would know that, in all likelihood, some of the points the Bears dropped on Pittsburgh came from somewhere other than the offense. In other words, you’ve heard this story before. But it’s a good story. The Bears’ defense forced five turnovers and scored two touchdowns to help put the game away.

Imagine if the Bears’ offense ever catches up with the defense before Charles Tillman, Julius Peppers and Lance Briggs come down with age-related complaints. Is that like imagining the Cubs winning the World Series? No. A good offense isn’t a farfetched dream. It seems — this is where the dramatic music would come in — possible. The Bears will be without defensive tackle Henry Melton the rest of the season because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Nate Collins will step in. I’m guessing there’s not panic in the streets of Chicago over that, no matter how good Melton is.

If the injured player were Brandon Marshall, the gnashing of teeth would be in full grind.

There were long stretches Sunday when the offense couldn’t do anything. Part of that had to do with the challenges of the Steelers’ 3-4 defense. Part of it had to do with the Bears turning as conservative as a banker’s tie rack after jumping to a 24-3 lead.

If you think it was hard watching the offense pantomiming super slo-mo, imagine the frustration of playing in it during that dry spell Sunday night. Patience is a virtual impossibility for Cutler.

“It’s not something I’m used to,’’ he said. “We have been preaching ball security a lot. It was just that type of game. … We were sitting pretty good early on, and we didn’t want to give them anything else.’’

Chicago has been teased like this before. Remember, the Bears opened last season with a 41-21 victory over the Colts, with Cutler throwing for 333 yards and two touchdowns. It looked like Charlie Brown was finally going to kick the football, but offensive coordinator Mike Tice eventually intervened.

The Bears went on to finish 28th in total offense.

This looks different, more under control and less fragile. For one thing, Cutler is not under constant pressure. In three games, he has been sacked a total of three times. Last year, he was sacked 38 times in 15 games, which doesn’t sound great unless you compare it to 2010, when he was sacked 52 times. So far, rookies Kyle Long and Jordan Mills have held up well on the right side of the line.

And Cutler has shown an ability to turn it on in the fourth quarter this season. His defense gives him a chance to do that.

Major Wright intercepted a Ben Roethlisberger pass and returned it for a touchdown Sunday. Peppers scored on a fumble that Briggs forced. That sort of thing allows an offense to progress at its own speed.

“Third game in this offense, I think we are all still learning a little bit, but it’s a lot easier to make corrections after a win than after a loss,’’ Cutler said.

This is true. Everybody’s happy. The NFC North doesn’t look menacing at the moment, though we’ll find out more when the Bears play the 2-1 Lions on the road Sunday.

Your team is undefeated, Bears fans, but this might be a good time for a reminder. Evolution takes time.



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