Chicago Bears look to solve goal line problems
Tight ends might be the key
Greg Olsen eyes a Jay Cutler pass that he failed to catch during 4th quarter of 17-14 loss to Washington. (Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune / October 24, 2010)
By Fred Mitchell Tribune staff reporter 5:55 p.m. CDT, November 5, 2010
Perhaps more bothersome than the fact that the Bears have not scored in the third quarter this season is that they've been woeful at the goal line.
The joke going around this week is that if Sunday's game in Toronto against the Buffalo Bills were played on a CFL field — with end zones that are 20 yards deep instead of 10 — it might help them out from the one-yard line. The offense has run 10 plays from the one this season and is yet to score.
Last season, tight ends combined to catch seven touchdown passes from the three-yard line or closer. The tight ends had a total of 13 touchdown receptions. Four of Greg Olsen's eight scores came from that close range and Desmond Clark had two and Killen Davis one. Brandon Manumaleuna is also a capable receiver and targeting one of these players would seem to make more sense than a quarterback sneak run at Albert Haynesworth or some of the other failed efforts.
"I don't think we've had a great number of opportunities from inside the five," quarterback Jay Cutler said. "So, you know, we've limited some stuff as (offensive coordinator) Mike (Martz) talked about some runs and some of the passes and really simplified that stuff down there. I think we just need a few more cracks at it."
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Davis said there are still plays in the plan to target him and his position mates. Clark dropped one pass on a play from the one-yard line against the Green Bay Packers, although the throw wasn't very good.
"We haven't had many snaps," Davis said. "But a lot of goalline plays are designed to go to me and the other tight ends so it's just an opportunity thing."
Key impressions: One of the key problems with the Bears' passing game, at least in the estimation of Keyshawn Johnson, is that Cutler lacks a top-flight group of wide receivers to work with.
"They don't have big-time wide receivers. Devin Hester and (Johnny) Knox are a good combination for what they are," Johnson told the Tribune. "And that's about all. And Jay Cutler is very loose with the football, but Mike Martz allows him to be loose with the football, and they don't protect him. He has this nonchalant, 'I-don't-care' look on his face. He throws four picks a couple of weeks ago (to the Redskins' DeAngelo Hall) and he comes out on television and says: 'I threw four picks and I'll throw right at the guy again.' OK, well, that was real stupid.
"You just threw four picks at him, now you're going to come back and say that if you had to do it all over again you would do it again. Man, where's your brain?"
Extra points: The Bills have one interception through the first seven games, putting them on course for an NFL record. The Houston Oilers had three interceptions in 1982, a strike-shortened season that was only nine games. The Detroit Lions had four interceptions in 2008 when they went 0-16. … Cornerback Zack Bowman (sprained foot) was held out of practice. Otherwise, the Bears are fully healthy. … Tight end Desmond Clark suffered a neck stinger in practice Thursday. Lovie Smith said he should be available Sunday, but Clark has been inactive three of the last four games. … Bills inside linebacker Andra Davis won't play because of a nagging left shoulder injury. Either Keith Ellison or Akin Ayodele will replace him in the starting lineup.