|Time running out on struggling Bears offense|
August 26, 2006
By Larry Mayer
CHICAGO - If tax preparation rules applied to football, the Bears offense could petition the NFL for an extension before beginning the regular season.
But without that possibility, the No. 1 unit has just two weeks to get in sync before traveling to Lambeau Field for the Sept. 10 season opener against the Green Bay Packers.
"We're concerned," offensive coordinator Ron Turner said following Friday night's 23-16 preseason loss to the Arizona Cardinals. "Time's running out. We've got to get it together."
The Bears' starting offense moved the ball at times against the Cardinals, but failed to get into the end zone for the third straight game while self-destructing with eight penalties and an interception that led to an Arizona touchdown.
"We did some good things and we're doing some good things, but it doesn't matter if you're hurting yourself," Turner said.
"That's what we've got to eliminate. It's us more than anything else. We need to do a better job of executing and take care of our business.
"We've got a lot of work to do in a short amount of time. It's obviously disappointing because we've been practicing better than that and we've got to go out and do it on game day."
On each of their final two drives of the first half, the Bears picked up four first downs and advanced inside the Arizona 20. But they settled for a Robbie Gould field goal and turned the ball over on downs when Adrian Peterson was dropped for a one-yard loss on fourth-and-two.
"Once again we moved the ball pretty well, but we need to get better in the red zone because that's crucial," said quarterback Rex Grossman. "We need to play our best when we're down there. That's where you win and lose football games.
"I need to play better, we need to stay onside; we need to do everything. We need to play our best and do everything we possibly can to get the ball in the end zone. We kicked some field goals, but that's not going to win you any football games."
Grossman was booed by the fans at Soldier Field while completing 13 of 21 passes for 117 yards with one interception and a 57.0 quarterback rating. But Bears coaches stressed that the lack of success by the No. 1 offense was a group effort and not an individual problem.
"The quarterback did a lot of good things," said coach Lovie Smith. "Brian Griese came in and (also) did a lot of good things. We're not going to throw this all on Rex Grossman, believe me.
"When we win and we play well, it's not just going to be the quarterback and I'm going to say the same thing right now. As an offense, right now we need to be able to put points on the board and we need quite a few of our players to step up.
"We don't have a lot of excuses for how we played. We've just got to go back to the practice field and try to get it corrected. We still have time; that's the good part of it. We didn't play Green Bay (Friday night). We have time to get it taken care of."
Turner was particularly disappointed with the number of penalties. Tight end Desmond Clark was flagged twice for false starts and once for holding, while offensive linemen Ruben Brown, Fred Miller and John Tait and fullback Jason McKie also were penalized for various infractions.
Thomas Jones made his preseason debut Friday night, rushing for three yards on four carries.
"I didn't see the progress in our offense that I wanted to see, not just from (Grossman) but just us offensively," Turner said. "It's frustrating. We're hurting ourselves; making too many mistakes and not really giving ourselves a chance.
"We made progress from Week 1 to 2 and I'm not sure how much we made from 2 to 3. We did do some good things, but we negated those good things by doing things to hurt ourselves.
"We had five false starts in the first half (technically four false starts and one illegal motion). You shouldn't have that many in a season really.
"Five false starts and a fumbled snap, there's no excuse for that. We've got to clean that stuff up. Obviously, progress wasn't made in that regard."
Nor was it made on the ground.
Even with Thomas Jones making his preseason debut after missing the first two games with a hamstring injury, the Bears rushed for just 52 yards on 17 carries. After ranking eighth in the NFL last season on the ground, Chicago has averaged less than three yards per rush while being limited to 179 yards on 60 carries in three preseason games.
"We have to be able to run the football," Smith said. "We get off the plane running the ball. So, yes, it's disappointing that we haven't been able to run the football better."
Starters typically play only a series or two in the preseason finale, but given the need to improve on offense, that may not be the case Thursday night when the Bears visit the Browns.
"Everything we do is to get ready for Green Bay and right now we're not ready for Green Bay," Smith said. "We'll evaluate. We have a normal plan that we go by of playing (starters) very little in the fourth game. But we're going to wait and look at the tape and maybe there will be a few more good things that I missed."