Bears offense: The whole isn’t nearly as bad as the sum of the parts might indicate

November 7th, 2011 - 10:45 am

Sitting here on a Monday morning, watching the clock tick as I anxiously await the Bears-Eagles game tonight, which carries huge implications with it, I’m reading columns and articles from other analysts and I came across the following line from a story on the Chicago Tribune’s website:

“Matt Forte continues to be the engine for an offense that otherwise would be crippled.”

The sentence bothered me not so much for its simplistic and obvious declaration as the fact that it continues propagating an overstated and inaccurate cliche about the Bears offense.

The very next sentence stated, “Interestingly, the Bears statistically are now in the middle of the pack league-wide, a place they last were during the 2006 Super Bowl season (when they ranked 15th).”

Can we stop spreading falsehoods about how bad the Bears offense is?

Individually, there is much work to be done.  That is a fact that cannot be disputed.  I join those who are upset with not only Jerry Angelo, but the Bears organization in general for not being able to assemble one of the top offenses in football for more years than I care to research.

The Bears have allowed their offensive line to grow thin in talent and have caused Jay Cutler to be the most sacked quarterback in the league during his stint with the team. They also have a collection of middle-tier wide receivers and, arguably, the only player whom you feel comfortable with catching passes in traffic — Earl Bennett — is a No. 2 receiver at best because he doesn’t have great speed and he probably won’t win a lot of jump balls.

But, despite the weaknesses up front, as the old adage goes, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”  The Bears have one of the best running backs in football and also one of the most talented quarterbacks. As a whole, the Bears offense is ranked No. 17 in offensive yards and No. 14 in points per game.  That’s average production, which is exactly what the Bears are with a 4-3 record: an average team.

To say “Matt Forte continues to be the engine for an offense that otherwise would be crippled” is like saying without one leg, a person is crippled — literally. I challenge Brad Biggs, the author of the piece, to give me a list of offenses that currently have a featured running back that wouldn’t struggle without him.

Fred Jackson is the league’s leading rusher at this point. The Bills would clearly be a far worse offense without him considering Ryan Fitzpatrick is taking snaps for them. Adrian Peterson is ranked second and the Vikings would be abysmal if he was lost for the season with an injury. Third-ranked Frank Gore in San Francisco? You’d better believe the Alex Smith-led passing attack — currently ranked 30th — wouldn’t be enough to keep that offense from being bad sans Gore.

The only couple running backs currently ranked in the Top 12 whose offenses wouldn’t be bad without them are LeSean McCoy of Philadelphia (ranked fourth), Michael Turner of Atlanta (ranked sixth), and Houston’s Arian Foster (ranked eighth) and Ben Tate (ranked ninth).  McCoy and Turner have offenses that can pass the ball whereas if Houston lost either Foster or Tate, the other one would step up and continue.  On the other hand, without both Foster and Tate, Houston would have a terrible offense.

Let’s go through some more featured backs.

Jacksonville without Maurice Jones-Drew? Among the league’s worst.

Willis McGahee missing from Denver’s offense? Oh, you’d better believe they’d set records for terrible play with Tim Tebow quarterbacking them.

The Raiders minus Darren McFadden? Even with Carson Palmer… still bad.

The Rams without Steven Jackson? Sam Bradford gives them some pop, but just like Cutler and the Bears, they’re lacking playmakers at receiver.

The point is, of course the Bears would be crippled without Forte. Most teams with a featured running back would be, too. But let’s not continue to spread the falsehood that the Bears have one of the worst offenses in the league.

They’re an average offense with bad linemen whose deficiency is preventing the Bears from having a much better unit on that side of the ball.

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