Brian Billick called what Mike Tice has done with the Bears’ offensive line “one of the great coaching jobs I’ve seen.”
“And it’s flown under the radar,” said Billick, now an analyst for the NFL Network. “With all the difficulties they had last year, for Mike to come in, size them up and say, ‘I can do it with this group.’ ’’
Billick said some coaches may have looked at the Bears’ offensive linemen and said, “You guys are nuts.”
“But he said, ‘I can put these guys in the right spot, and I can make it work,’ ’’ said Billick, who led the Ravens to a victory in Super Bowl XXXV.
Billick can attest to Tice’s teaching talent. When Billick was the offensive coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings, most notably in 1998, when they broke the scoring record, Tice was his offensive line coach.
“But we had three first-round picks,” Billick said, referring to guard Randall McDaniel, right tackle Korey Stringer and left tackle Todd Steussie. “But he was a huge part of our success in 1998.”
When he arrived in Chicago, Tice had one first-round lineman in Chris Williams, who was moved from left tackle to left guard. And his best lineman was Olin Kreutz, who turned 33 in June. Frank Omiyale (fifth round), Roberto Garza (fourth) and rookie J’Marcus Webb (seventh) are his other starters.
Tice is under contract through the 2011 season. He could draw interest from other teams looking for an offensive coordinator, even though he never has held that position.
Billick emerged as a head-coaching candidate immediately after the season, and he said he’d love to work with Tice.
“I don’t know if that will happen,” Billick said. “They’re going younger and cheaper.
“But I would imagine [the Bears] would do everything to keep him there because he’s a key part of their success.”
There wasn’t much to nitpick about Sunday’s 35-24 victory over the Seattle Seahawks, but some Bears said they needed to close out the game more convincingly.
“We started out fast, and we’re normally a second-half team,” cornerback Charles Tillman said. “But we have to make sure that we finish out the game. We didn’t finish the game the way we would like.”
The Bears’ defense forced a three-and-out, and the offense scored a touchdown on its first possession as the team jumped out to a 21-0 halftime lead. The Bears also scored a touchdown in the third quarter to take a 28-0 lead. But Seattle scored 24 points in the last 17 minutes.
“We messed up on some plays, and in the playoffs, you can’t do that because it’ll come back and bite you in the [butt],” wide receiver Devin Hester said. “So from that standpoint, we have to tighten up and play a complete game, instead of just 3½ quarters.”
The offense did score a touchdown in the fourth on a 39-yard catch by backup tight end Kellen Davis. But the Seahawks’ offense scored touchdowns on three of four possessions in the fourth quarter.
“That’s how it goes; when you’re up a lot, you kind of sit back,” Tillman said. “But we have to make sure we don’t do that the next opportunity we get.”
The Bears have been solid in the fourth quarter, even though the Green Bay Packers scored the game-winning touchdown in the season finale in that quarter. For the season, the Bears have allowed the fewest points in the fourth (53). But the offense has scored the fewest points in the fourth (67), far below the 95 scored in the second quarter this season.
But opponents have scored 111 points in the second quarter.
Packers receiver Greg Jennings called the turf at Soldier Field “probably the worst in the league.”
“It’s rough,” he said.
“At the same time,” he said later, “you have to go out before the game and kind of get a feel of what you’re working with, what you’re dealing with, get your footing, because that’s going to play a huge, huge role.”
Added Bears tight end Greg Olsen, “You don’t have to be a scientist to know that grass doesn’t grow in these conditions.”