Bears' offensive line faces tough test against Seahawks
Down two projected starters and coming off their worst rushing season in 31 years, a battered and embattled offensive line paved the way for the Bears to rush for 175 yards in their preseason opener.
Now the linemen have to do it again at 8 p.m. Saturday in Seattle.
“We had a decent start,” center Olin Kreutz said, “but we’re not looking too much into that. We have to keep improving. It will be a big test in Seattle.”
The line, without No. 1 pick Chris Williams (back) for at least half the season and guard Terrence Metcalf (knee) for another week or two, is suddenly the biggest question mark on an offense full of question marks. And even another great game won’t be a definitive answer for the Bears, who averaged an NFL-low 3.1 yards per carry last year.
“We’ve got a long way to go,” Kreutz said. “People are going to worry about our line until the year is over. We have to go out every week and prove ourselves.”
Chicago’s veteran defense also feels as if it has something to prove after allowing Kansas City to open with a 16-play touchdown drive last week.
“We want to correct the first drive from the last game,” defensive coordinator Bob Babich said. “We want to start the game fast.”
The Bears (0-1 in the preseason) should have a little help. Seattle (1-0) will be missing Pro Bowl quarterback Matt Hasselbeck (back). Journeyman backup Charlie Frye is expected to start in his place.
And that first drive was the only thing Chicago’s first-team defense complained about last week. It forced three quick punts without a first down on its other three series.
“That means we are headed in the right direction,” linebacker Lance Briggs said.
The Bears are also heading closer to a decision on their starting quarterback. This game and Thursday’s home game against San Francisco are the last two big opportunities for Rex Grossman and Kyle Orton to break open what has been an even, and somewhat tepid, quarterback battle.
“I’d love to get a couple of touchdowns right away, get into a rhythm, move the chains and be efficient,” Grossman said.
Grossman, who starts this week, added that he’s excited to “get out there and make things happen.” But this battle seems more about not letting bad things happen. The two combined to complete 11 of 18 passes for 100 yards last week. The longest four passes gained 72 yards. The other 14 gained 28 yards.
More dinking and dunking seems to be the plan.
“I’m working on just managing the offense and doing exactly what the coaches ask,” Grossman said.
And what is it, exactly, that the coaches ask?
“Come out and run the offense,” offensive coordinator Ron Turner said. “Come out and be smart with the ball. Be accurate with the ball. Execute the plays that are called.”
That type of play led ESPN.com to headline last week’s game as a Chiefs win over the “QB-less Bears.” This time, the Bears want to again stay safe, only do it better. And play defense from the start. And keep running. In short, do everything they did the week before, only better.
“Last week we set the bar,” coach Lovie Smith said. “Now we need to take a big jump.”
Matt Trowbridge can be reached at (815) 987-1383 firstname.lastname@example.org.