Sam Hurd’s absence will be felt primarily on special teams
By Mark Potash email@example.com December 15, 2011 8:12PM
Updated: January 17, 2012 8:25AM
How much will the Bears miss Sam Hurd?
Not much on offense — Hurd had eight catches for 109 yards and no touchdowns in 12 games. But he was a valuable special-teams contributor who played on all four phases and was the captain of the punt team. Hurd had eight tackles on special teams. In his first game as a punt protector, he recovered a DeSean Jackson fumble to set up a touchdown in the Bears’ 30-24 victory over the Eagles on Nov. 7 in Philadelphia.
‘‘It’s going to take a little bit to replace him,’’ said Bears special teams coach Dave Toub, who appeared shaken when discussing the Hurd situation. ‘‘We have a lot of guys who can do it. You treat it just like somebody got hurt — you move the next guy in. I’m not going to go into detail of who it’s going to be because we’d be tipping our hand.’’
With Hurd likely out, the Bears will be on their fourth punt-protector — rookie Chris Conte gave up the role when he became a starter on defense. Kahlil Bell replaced Conte. And Hurd replaced Bell.
Missing in action
In his first three games since returning from a chest bruise, wide receiver Earl Bennett caught 14 passes for 251 yards (17.9 yards per catch) and a touchdown with Jay Cutler at quarterback. In three games with Caleb Hanie, Bennett has two receptions for 10 yards.
‘‘We haven’t been able to find Earl the last couple of weeks, for whatever reason,’’ Hanie said. ‘‘Teams have been keying on him. They know he’s our third-down guy. He’s our clutch guy. We just got to find ways to keep getting him open.’’
When Cutler broke his thumb, the Bears ranked 17th in total offense and 25th in total defense. After three games without Cutler, the Bears are 21st in total offense and 20th in total defense.
‘‘We haven’t done enough,’’ middle linebacker Brian Urlacher said. ‘‘We haven’t gotten takeaways like we wanted to [three in three games]. We haven’t put our offense in good field position.”
Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch is averaging 118 rushing yards and a touchdown in his last six games, with 109 or more in five. In his last two games, Lynch rushed for 148 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-14 victory over the Eagles and 115 yards and a touchdown in a 30-13 victory over the Rams.
The Bears have kept him in check, though. Lynch rushed for 44 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries in the Seahawks’ 23-20 victory in the 2010 regular season. He had two yards on four carries in the Bears’ 35-24 victory in the NFC playoffs .
The key to stopping him?
‘‘Run through our gaps,’’ Urlacher said. ‘‘He breaks tackles, makes guys miss — so just get a lot of guys on him and get him on the ground.”
Defensive tackle Henry Melton (shin), cornerback Charles Tillman (knee), running back Matt Forte (knee), Cutler (thumb) and Hurd (drug arrest) did not practice Thursday.
Guard Edwin Williams (calf) and safety Major Wright (shoulder) were limited.