The 2012 Bears are scoring 27 points per game, offense and defense combined. Three of their six games have been against defenses ranked in the top 10 (Dallas, Detroit, St. Louis).
But for all that the offense has done wellkeeping the Bears defense off the field on average more than 33 minutes per game, one lost fumble all year and a total of three turnovers over the last four gamessomething is still missing.
Wanted: next-step offense
The offense ranks 22nd in yards per game, 25th in passing despite the playing teams with a combined 14-17 record in games other than against the Bears to this point.
The offense has scored just one touchdown in three of the Bears six games.
Weve got to do our part on offense, said quarterback Jay Cutler. Defense has been carrying us for a while. Weve got to make some strides offensively this week. We missed a lot of things in the second half against Detroit. Weve got to clean it up.
The Panthers should provide a forum for that cleanup.
Carolina ranks 20th in points allowed (24.0 per game) and doesnt stop anything especially well. The Panthers are 19th against both the run (120.3 yards per game) and pass (245.8), and are a lowly 26th in turnover ratio with a minus-4 (vs. the Bears at plus-13, No. 1 in the NFL).
Of more immediate significance, however, Carolina allowed 16 points to Seattle and 19 to Dallas in their last two defeats. Their problems have not been on defense.
And the Bears have problems of their own coming, in the form of road trips to Tennessee and San Francisco and home against Houston over the next four games.
We need to be 6-1, said offensive coordinator Mike Tice. Have you looked at our schedule coming up? We need to be 6-1, and we need to take care of our business. Thats the key in this business -- dont get ahead of yourselves like we did once, and take each game, you know the clich, one at a time.
The Bears have adhered generally to the balance formula that has served them well in particular over the last two years. With Jay Cutler coming in with bruised ribs from his hit by Ndamukong Suh, his already moderate 2012 accuracy may be in more question, possibly putting a larger load on a Bears run game that has begun to reach its levels of the past couple of seasons at this point.
Thinking on the run
Running backs have averaged 135 yards per game over the last three games and Matt Forte has averaged 4 or more yards per carry in all five games hes played. Expectations are that the Bears will eschew the exotic and simply force Carolina to prove it can deal with the run, which creates big-strike opportunities via play-action.
I think Jayll be fine, Forte said. Regular offense.
Carolina is trying to replace middle linebacker Jon Beason, lost for the season with a knee injury. Rookie and No, 9-overall draft pick Luke Kuechly started the first four games at weakside linebacker, moved to the middle and had 34 total tackles and an interception over the last two games.
But teams are converting 45.1 percent of third downs on the Panthers. The Bears are a very respectable 41.4 percent, up from 32.5 percent for 2011, and if the Bears can keep their offense on the field and their defense resting, the Panthers will be in trouble.
Weve improved in most categories, with the exception of third down 27th, said coach Ron Rivera. Weve been below average as far as third down is concerned. If we have one issue weve got to get shored up, it has been our third-down play. Weve gotten after teams.
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