Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (6) scrambles during the first half of NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday, Oct. 23, 2011, at Wembley Stadium in London. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Updated: November 27, 2011 12:56PM
Center Roberto Garza owned up to his unit’s shortcomings last Sunday at Wembley Stadium.
“As an offensive line, they made some adjustments, and we didn’t stick to our technique, and we didn’t execute the plays the way they needed to be executed to be successful,” Garza said. “That falls strictly on the offensive line. This should not have been a game.”
He credited running back Matt Forte for making the big runs, offensive coordinator Mike Martz for calling the right plays and offensive line coach Mike Tice for preparing them for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Immediately after the game, Garza took a glass-half-empty approach, lamenting the missed opportunities for more big plays.
“There are so many plays that could have gone for even bigger yardage if we just get this one block or do this one technique,” he said. “As an offensive line, it’s good to win this game, but we know we have a lot of work to do.”
Moments later, though, Garza was reminded of everything his unit has been through.
The shortened offseason. The knee injury to rookie right tackle Gabe Carimi in the first half of their second game. And the constant shuffling of the unit, which has featured five different starting lineups and three players manning positions they didn’t play last season.
The offensive line was bashed after rough performances against the New Orleans Saints and Detroit Lions, but it has strung together two solid games heading into the bye.
“Obviously, I’m extremely proud of these guys,’’ Garza said. ‘‘They’re fighting every play. This is my first year at center. I’m making mistakes out there. But we’re fighting every play. We’ve proven time and time again that we’re out there fighting.
“We’re still a young offensive line, so there’s a lot of technique issues we need to work on.”
Ultimately, though, Garza was pleased that the Bears beat the Bucs, and the offensive line keyed that much-needed outcome. The Bears racked up 177 rushing yards, averaging 5.4 yards per carry, and Jay Cutler was sacked twice.
On second-and-nine on the Bears’ opening drive of the second half, Bucs defensive end Adrian Clayborn beat left tackle J’Marcus Webb on an inside rush.
On third-and-goal from the Bucs’ 4-yard line in the fourth quarter, cornerback Ronde Barber was unblocked and quickly reached Cutler.
The Bears allowed only one sack against the Minnesota Vikings, who are tied for the league lead with 21 sacks. But the Bucs’ defense has struggled to generate sacks, and another big test is ahead.
The Philadelphia Eagles have a 2-4 record, but they’re tied for sixth in the NFL with 18 sacks. They’re led by Jason Babin, who has seven, and former Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins, who has five.
For now, though, the Bears are focused on getting healthy.
Carimi has missed five games, but he’s expected to return to practice, perhaps on Wednesday or Thursday, and the team is optimistic he can play against the Eagles. In addition, Webb played through an elbow injury against the Bucs, and right guard Chris Spencer has a right-hand injury.
With Carimi likely back at right tackle, the Bears have to figure out what to do with Lance Louis, who has played with more confidence after replacing Frank Omiyale.
He said he had some “brain farts” against the Bucs, but he credited the veterans for helping him make the adjustment to right tackle, a position he played in college at San Diego State.
“I got veteran guys next to me; that really helps me out,” Louis said. “They make the transition that much better for me, so a lot of credit goes out to those guys.”
Asked about what will happen next, Louis said, “I just want to play no matter where I’m at.”
The only opening would appear to be at right guard, where he started the season. But Spencer has played well there. Either way, this is what coach Lovie Smith would call a good problem.