Lovie won't rule out changes in O-line

October 20, 2009

                            
Of all the problems the Bears' offense had Sunday night in Atlanta, the turnovers in the red zone trumped them all.

The popular cry has been for change on the offensive line -- which coach Lovie Smith didn't rule out -- but just as in their loss at Green Bay, the Bears would have won if they had converted near the goal line.

Instead, they were left to dissect what went wrong in a 21-14 loss in which they racked up 373 yards and should've had at least 10 more points.

Smith cast blame on all three phases, but questions inevitably came back to the offense, which ranked 19th in the league entering Monday. The defense kept the Bears in the game and has played well with the exception of one half against the Detroit Lions. Matt Forte was limited to a career-low 23 yards on 15 carries, and the running back again looked like a shadow of the 2008 rookie version.

He was a patient runner last season; now he looks like a slow runner, due, in part, to clogged running lanes. Cutler has added a new dimension to the Bears' offense, but opponents, perhaps not fearing the receivers outside, have remained bent on stopping the run. The whole game plan has fallen on Cutler, and that's too much to ask of anyone.

Forte's strength isn't power running, and offensive coordinator Ron Turner sent a message that he didn't think the Bears could knock it in from the 1-yard line when he called an outside run on third-and-goal, when Forte lost a fumble. On the previous play, he fumbled failing to go over the pile.

''I don't know how much of a chance we gave [the running game],'' Turner said. ''We were trying to mix and do all that kind of stuff. We'll be able to run the ball; we just have to stick with it.

''We have first-and-goal inside the 1 there, we have to get a touchdown. Not to get points on that and then be down there a couple other times and not get points, that was the game.''

It's not as if the Bears have the personnel to change running backs. Kevin Jones is on injured reserve, and Adrian Peterson still is working his way back from a sprained knee. Garrett Wolfe showed a spark and could earn more playing time, but the running game is hitched to Forte.

''[Forte] didn't have a lot of production last night the way a lot of us didn't,'' Smith said. ''I don't think any more than that. The week before, we weren't talking about these things. Matt will be fine, just like the rest of our team.''

Smith, who typically doesn't address personnel decisions on Mondays, said he doesn't see any major changes coming on the offensive line. He didn't rule out an opportunity for Josh Beekman, who started 16 games last season and started at left guard for the majority of training camp before Frank Omiyale was named the starter.

''Would it be a major change?'' Smith said. ''That would be a change. I don't know about major. It would be a change. Again, we're evaluating everything like we do each week. No more than that. Josh has done a good job for us.''

The Bears also could turn to veteran Kevin Shaffer, but they aren't likely to remove left tackle Orlando Pace or right tackle Chris Williams. The question is whether switching to Beekman will invigorate a running game that ranked 27th entering Monday.

''We're 3-2, so the offensive line has done some good things,'' Smith said. ''They've contributed to all of that. Coming off a loss, we're not real pleased with anything we did, starting with me. I'm not pleased with a lot of things I did last night. We'll go from there.

''But our offensive line has done some good things.''

 

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