Cardinals not the only Bears hurdle in Arizona
December 22, 2012, 12:54 pm
To their credit, members of the Bears defense have pretty well stayed the loyal course this season as their offense has effectively turned a playoff gimme into NFL survival-reality TV in which the Bears no longer control their own post-season destiny.
But the frustration issue is there and can still fester and split the Bears without a turnaround.
“I think that’s a question you have to ask me at the end of the year,” said linebacker Lance Briggs. “We win these next two games, and we get into the playoffs, and make a run… That question is hard to answer right now.”
The fact that it is, is an answer in itself.
“We just focus on what we’ve got to do,” said defensive tackle Henry Melton, likely out of Sunday’s game with a chest injury that has him listed as doubtful. “When we’re out there, we don’t really focus on what the offense is doing. It’s always great when you hear the crowd go crazy and they put up points, but we play versus the other team’s defense. We’re trying to outplay them. That’s what we go into the game trying to do.” Low-impact offense
The Chicago offense will have its problems with a very good Arizona defense. Indeed, this may be a game decided by whichever defense outscores the other.
The Arizona Cardinals do not do anything especially well when they have possession of the football – one of the few offenses worse than the Bears’ at this point of the 2012 season.
They don’t run well (32nd, 80 yards per game). They don’t pass well (30th, 184.2 ypg.). Best of all for the Bears’ purposes: They don’t score (16 ppg., 30th).
The Bears have not lost to an offense ranked lower than 17th in scoring (Minnesota).
All of this has gone down with a coach (Ken Whisenhunt) from the offensive side of the football, the Pittsburgh offensive coordinator when the Steelers reached the AFC Championship (2004) and won a Super Bowl (2005) and who coached the Cardinals to the 2008 Super Bowl.
Whisenhunt’s Cardinals opened the 2012 season with four straight wins in which they scored no fewer than 20 points. Then came nine straight losses in which they scored 20 in none, bottoming out with a 7-6 loss to the New York Jets and 58-0 pasting by the Seattle Seahawks, both on the road.
“We’ve had our share of injuries, and have had to play different players, and I think that’s contributed to where we are,” Whisenhunt said. “Certainly, continuity is a big part of it for us.” Troubled position
So are problems at quarterback, where Whisenhunt is on his third different starter (Kevin Kolb, John Skelton, Ryan Lindley) and now is faced with salvaging something from the season with Lindley, a sixth-round pick in this year’s draft.
Lindley has started four of the last five games and been woeful: 45.0 passer rating, sacked 10 times, thrown six interceptions and is yet to throw a touchdown pass. The best thing he may have going for him is that the Bears haven’t seen a lot of him.
“We prepare for the quarterback position,”said coach Lovie Smith. “It hurts you if you’re playing an option team or something like that, but when you’re playing a prototype NFL quarterback, most of them are in the same area.”
Arizona has failed to convert at least 30 percent of third downs in eight of its 14 games and are converting a league-worst 25.6 percent. The Cardinals are the only team worse than the Bears on first downs (4.2 yards).
The clear implication is that the Bears’ defense is being presented with a chance to get healthy, literally and figuratively. The Cardinals have lost time of possession in six of the last seven games, which bodes well for a defense that has overall played well but needs to have something in its tank to get past the Lions in Detroit next weekend.
“We have to build on things we’ve done well,” Briggs said. “And defensively we’ve made some plays. We’ve done some good things. We need to have more consistency in some of the things we wanted to do. But we know how we’re going to approach this game.”
Tags: Arizona Cardinals
, Chicago Bears