Bears’ offense isn’t doing defense any favors
By Sean Jensen firstname.lastname@example.org December 22, 2011 11:11PM
The Broncos and cornerback Chris Harris helped stymie the Bears’ offense in the second half in Denver. | Getty Images
Updated: May 9, 2012 10:07AM
Bears players on defense don’t openly blame the team’s four-game losing streak on the futility of their teammates on offense.
While the 12 turnovers during that stretch isn’t a recipe for victory, the inability of the offense to sustain drives has put the defense in less than optimal positions.
Behind Caleb Hanie, the Bears’ offense went three-and-out 21 times, one more than the Green Bay Packers have the entire season. For the year, the Bears have had 54 three-and-out drives, tied for the most in the NFL with the Indianapolis Colts, according to STATS.
With only two games left, the dubious NFL record for most three-and-outs in a single season since 1991 appears safe. In 2005, the San Francisco 49ers had 78 three-and-out drives, passing the dreadful Bears who scored a league-low 231 points in 2004.
Yet the failure of the Bears’ offense in the last month to find a consistent rhythm clearly has contributed to the team’s collapse.
Consider these facts:
† The Bears have lost the battle in time of possession in all four games of their skid.
† They’ve been outscored 31-16 in the fourth quarter of those games, with 13 of their points coming against the Oakland Raiders.
† The three-and-outs seem to crop up most in the clutch, with seven of them in the fourth quarter of the last two games.
“You’re playing in Denver, and you have all those three-and-outs, you’re leaving your defense on the field that much longer to get gassed,” Bears guard Chris Spencer said, noting the challenge of the altitude. “A lot of things go into it. But it’s frustrating.”
With a 10-0 lead against the Broncos, the Bears’ offense attempted just one pass in the fourth quarter. Though they had success earlier in the game, the Bears didn’t get close to converting a third down by running the football.
The Broncos, of course, scrambled and scored 10 points before defeating the Bears in overtime on Matt Prater’s 51-yard field goal.
It was more of the same against the Seattle Seahawks.
With a 14-7 lead, the Bears’ offense opened the second half with an interception, then three consecutive three-and-outs. The longest drive of the second half went five plays and netted a single yard because of two sacks of Hanie.
Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher downplayed the significance of three-and-outs on defensive players (“We don’t think about it,” he said.). But cornerback Charles Tillman acknowledged the cumulative effects, particularly when the time of possession is slanted in the opposing offense’s favor.
“I think it does, at some point and time,” he said. “You’re not dying, but you’re tired. It impacts me a little bit more because I do punt [team] as well.”
Still, Tillman said, the mind-set doesn’t change.
“If our offense goes three-and-out, you have to look at it as another opportunity to get a pick or get a turnover,” he said. “You can’t be like, ‘Ah, our offense went three-and-out again. Come on, let’s go.’
“No, you have to take that field with excitement and joy and try to swing that momentum back in our favor.”
Bears running back Kahlil Bell said the offense has to do more to help out its defense.
“As much as they’ve been on the field the last few weeks, it’s tough for them to stay fresh the whole game,” he said. “So we have to do a better job of helping them out.
“It makes us feel bad. It’s frustrating because we know we’re better than that. We understand the plan we have going in is probably the best in the league. We have a great coaching staff here. So, it’s tough.”