Matt Trowbridge: Run game not the reason Bears beat Rams
The Bears beat the Rams and Lovie Smith thinks they won because they ran 38 times.
“We felt we needed to run the football, we could run the football and we had to run the football,” Smith said. “We were able to do that. Any time you get 38 rushes, that’s a good day for our team.”
Lovie mixes up cause and effect.
The Bears could afford to run 38 times because they led the entire game. Lovie thinks they led because they ran.
No. Not even close.
The Bears took a 10-0 first-quarter lead when Jay Cutler passed for 131 yards. They got an additional 35 yards on a pass interference penalty.
Cutler passed for only 12 yards the rest of the game. And Chicago scored 7 points in those three quarters to finish out the 17-9 win.
The Bears are now 6-0 in Smith’s six years as coach when they throw fewer than 20 passes. But those previous five wins had as little to do with the running game as Sunday’s did.
The Bears, who all drink Lovie’s Kool-Aid, think they run to protect a lead and shorten the game.
“We were able to run it and pound out the clock,” quarterback Jay Cutler said.
If they controlled the clock, how come the Rams had the ball four minutes longer than the Bears? Chicago has lost the time of possession battle in five of these six non-passing victories. And not by a little. Chicago’s average deficit was eight minutes in five of those six wins.
So running didn’t protect Chicago’s lead. Nor did it provide the lead. Here, in order, is how the Bears won their previous five times they played with their passing arm tied behind their back:
_Bears 21, Packers 10, Sept 19, 2004: Mike Brown returned a fumble 95 yards for a touchdown to rescue a defense that gave up 404 total yards.
_Bears 17, 49ers 9, Nov. 13, 2005: Nathan Vasher put the Bears ahead to stay with a 108-yard return of a missed field goal on the final play of the first half. Kyle Orton passed for only 67 yards, but that was plenty on a day when San Francisco, and some mope named Cody Pickett, completed just 1 of 13 passes.
_Bears 19, Packers 7, Dec. 4, 2005: Nathan Vasher scored Chicago’s only touchdown with a 45-yard interception return as Brett Favre threw more TDs to the Bears than the Packers in 58 attempts.
_Bears 23, Vikings 13, Dec. 3, 2006: Rex Grossman had a 1.8 passer rating, but Devin Hester returned a punt 45 yards for a touchdown, Ricky Manning Jr. scored on a 54-yard interception return and Minnesota’s trio of Brad Johnson, Brooks Bollinger and Tarvaris Jackson threw four interceptions and averaged 4.0 yards per pass.
_Bears 35, Packers 7, Dec. 23, 2007: Corey Graham returned a blocked punt 7 yards for a TD and Brian Urlacher scored on an 85-yard interception return to finish a rout on a day Favre and the NFC North champs just wanted to get in from the cold.
Chicago ran in these games because it got gift touchdowns from its defense and special teams. It’s not about running. If it were, Chicago would have lost. The Bears averaged 3.9 yards per carry in running for 837 yards in these games. Their opponents ran for an almost identical 835 yards, but averaged 4.5 per carry.
If the Bears want to use Sunday’s run-run-run win as a blueprint for the future, they need to schedule the Rams (1-11) more than once a year.
Rockford Register Star assistant sports editor Matt Trowbridge can be reached at (815) 987-1383 firstname.lastname@example.org.