Biggs: 10 thoughts on Bears' win at Carolina
The question came in Sunday night via Twitter, and it was an interesting one.
"What's the possibility Martz calls the same game with Cutler in?"
How about zero? In ideal weather conditions like the teams had at Bank of America Stadium, you're not going to see Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz call 42 runs and only 19 passes with Jay Cutler in the game.
A well-balanced attack would have put the Panthers away. Instead, the Bears pretty much shut the offense down after the first eight minutes of the first quarter when they jumped out to a 17-3 lead.
But no matter who was at quarterback against the Panthers, the Bears needed to work on the running game. They'd been neglecting it, as well as Chester Taylor, and they rectified both matters in a 23-6 victory.
The real issue for the Bears is that they had not run the ball well. A couple big runs -- 18- and 68-yard touchdowns by Matt Forte -- made the difference. They averaged 5.2 yards per carry and that is producing on the ground. Ten of their 13 first downs were gained running the ball.
"That was definitely old-school Bears ball right there for sure, where you ran the football, played great defense, got some turnovers, some takeaways and special teams contributed," coach Lovie Smith said. "We know how to win games that way and it was good to see that we can still do that. I'm not saying we're getting off the bus running the ball or anything -- I'm just going to stay away from those comments -- but today we needed to and we were able to."
The Bears aren't going to get back on that bus Smith used to drive. They run a passing offense now that features Cutler, but you get the sense Smith drove home the point to Martz that they need to run the ball more and find a way to be more effective doing so. Martz can point to the biggest rushing day in the past 20 seasons for the Bears as proof that his offense can generate success on the ground.
Here are so more thoughts in the aftermath of the Bears' victory Sunday:
2. The hope is that Cutler will be ready to go this Sundays when the Seattle Seahawks come to Soldier Field. But his status is nothing more than speculation at this point. Remember, he needs to be cleared for a return to football activities by multiple doctors. Smith was optimistic after the game, but when hasn't Dr. Smith been optimistic?
If Cutler cannot go, you'd think Caleb Hanie will get a turn as the starting quarterback. Todd Collins was that bad and had the Bears not been playing a team as woeful as the Panthers (0-5), they could have been in serious trouble.
The Twitter in-box filled up with suggestions that the Bears cut Collins. There are a couple problems with that. First, you don't get rid of a player unless you have an upgrade in mind. Second, it's a little late in the game to get another quarterback up to speed on Martz's scheme.
The Bears should re-order their depth chart after Cutler. Cutting Collins doesn't make the roster necessarily better. If the Bears elect to go with just two quarterbacks, that's another thing, but the danger of that was put on display against the Giants.
After all the hand-wringing over this, remember this was the first time in a five-year career Cutler has missed a game because of injury. If all goes the Bears' way, it will not matter who is No. 2 or No. 3.
3. The run-heavy game plan created some changes in personnel usage. Tight ends Brandon Manumaleuna and Kellen Davis got much more work than usual. Wide receiver Earl Bennett was used with a three tight-end package and Devin Aromashodu got decent playing time, too. It all added up to significantly less work for Devin Hester and a reduced workload for Johnny Knox.
Manumaleuna had a big block on Forte's 68-yard touchdown run, and looked more comfortable run blocking than he had pass blocking. Who doesn't?
"A lot of it was Jay wasn't in there so we cut back a little bit on the passing," said Manumaleuna, who through the first four games had been on the field only 46 percent of the time. "Just a back-side cut off (on the long touchdown) and I washed the guy down. Matt was able to make the cutback and he had a lane there and hit it."
Manumaleuna admitted he wasn't happy with his performance in previous weeks but felt better coming out of the victory.
"It was a little frustrating, but luckily there are 16 games instead of two," he said. "We came here and we did what we were supposed to do."
4. Maybe it was just a coincidence, but the Bears got an inspired performance by defensive end Israel Idonije five days after his competition for the starting job, Mark Anderson, was released.
Idonije totaled three sacks according to game statistics, although one still could be awarded to linebacker Brian Urlacher. The press box announcer credited Urlacher for a sack that on the game summary was given to Idonije.
Either way, two or three sacks tops his previous career high of 1 1/2. In fact, Peppers entered this season with eight sacks in his career. He has three or four now and either way, he's the team leader.
I asked him when was the last time he had three sacks in a game.
"In college," Idonije replied.
He attended Manitoba. Who could the Bisons have been playing in those games?
"Calgary Dinos and Regina Rams," Idonije said. "You don't know anything about them, but they're good schools nonetheless."
Still, it had to feel good to get after the quarterback like Idonije did. He finished plays and that is what the Bears have been missing. While the pass pressure has been solid for most of the season, the defense simply hasn't tallied enough sacks and quarterback hits.
"It feels good ,but that is what is expected," Idonije said. "It is nothing more than what is expected so there is no reason to over-celebrate. Let's focus.
"Nothing has changed. Even when Mark was here. For everyone on the line, we gotta go. Mark is a good friend of everybody. Unfortunately, we lost him."
5. It will be tough for Danieal Manning to make the Pro Bowl as a returner without a touchdown this season. But if he can get one, he'll have a chance. It looked like he might have one on the game's opening kickoff when he returned it 62 yards.
But Seattle's Leon Washington has two touchdowns and is averaging more than 40 yards per return. Detroit's Stefan Logan had a 105-yard touchdown Sunday, the longest in the league this season. But Manning is averaging 29.8 yards per return. It's early. Keep an eye on him.
6. The defense turned in an all-around effort in holding the Panthers to 147 yards total offense. It was the team's best effort in terms of yardage allowed since limiting the Buffalo Bills to 145 in a 40-7 victory at Soldier Field on Oct. 8, 2006. Surely, there is some good to find in film review, and that is where you need to look for most contributions from defensive tackles. That being said, it's difficult to recall much from Tommie Harris in the game. He did not appear on the stat sheet afterward. We'll see what the coaches come up with after review of the film.
7. No, I don't expect anything to happen, but the NFL trading deadline is Oct. 19, a week from Tuesday. Of course, no one saw the Gaines Adams' deal coming last season when general manager Jerry Angelo swung that trade with Tampa Bay.
8. Not to get ahead of ourselves, but if we're not looking ahead, what are we doing? The second quarter of the season sets up nicely for the Bears. They host the Seahawks (2-2), who are coming off their bye, then host the Washington Redskins (3-2) and get a bye before traveling to Toronto to face the Buffalo Bills (0-5).
The back half of the schedule projects to be more challenging.
At Miami (2-2)
At Detroit (1-4)
New England (3-1)
At Minnesota (1-2)
N.Y. Jets (3-1)
At Green Bay (3-2)
We'll get a look at the Vikings coming off their bye and with Randy Moss on Monday night against the Jets. Who knows what kind of shape the Packers will be in by Week 17? They've been having one of those years where injuries pile up. This early success is going to serve the Bears well.
9. You had to like the confidence Smith showed in kicker Robbie Gould by electing to have him try a 53-yard field goal with less than four minutes to play. The Bears were leading 17-6 and faced fourth-and-six on the Panthers' 35. In the past, Smith has often punted in that situation. Had Gould missed, the Panthers would have taken over on their own 43 and been one play away from making it a one-score game. But Smith ordered Gould into the game and he drilled it. He attempted only five field goals of 50 or more yards in the previous five seasons.
10. Charles Tillman made a nice interception to help end the game in the closing seconds, his second pick of the season. The way I look at it, the Bears might have only two more valuable players on defense -- Brian Urlacher and Julius Peppers. Yes, Lance Briggs is a terrific weak-side linebacker, but I don't think the Bears want to experience life without Tillman. He's still the strongest link in that secondary, no matter what side he is playing on.
10 b. The Bears and Panthers combined to go 6-for-33 on third down. The Bears have been bad all season. They're 13-for-63 (21 percent) and that issue needs to be addressed. Third down is a money down and tight end Greg Olsen should be one of the players excelling in these situations.
10 c. The Bears have not scored in the third quarter this season.
10 d. I can't think of anyone that will rival Brian Urlacher for comeback player of the year honors. He's got one sack, two fumble recoveries, one interception and he's been all over the field.
10 e. Veteran tight end Desmond Clark spent another game on the inactive list. Still find it hard to believe there's not a role, even if it's a small one, in which he could help.
10 f. Don't know if Charles Grant, the new defensive end, will be ready to play against the Seahawks, but the Bears made the right move in turning to rookie fourth-round pick Corey Wootton first. Grant has some conditioning to do, too.
10 g. With Bernard Berrian really struggling in Minnesota, the Bears might have been better off having let him go to the Vikings for big bucks in free agency.
10 h. Speaking of ex-Bears wide receivers, can you believe Brandon Lloyd leads the NFL with 589 yards receiving? He flashed big-play potential from time to time with the Bears, but he never displayed any consistency. Maybe Ron Turner was on to something when he pushed for Lloyd. Or maybe Josh McDaniels is the right man to bring it out of Lloyd.