DALLAS -- The Bears will have a short night at AT&T Stadium unless the offense relieves Brian Hoyer of some pressure by running the football.
During the six-week build-up to the regular season, the Bears felt they could carve out an identity as a unit that imposed its will on the ground, no matter the opponent or defensive front staring back at them.
The logic seemed sound.
The late addition of ex-Green Bay Packer Josh Sitton afforded the Bears another Pro Bowl guard to compliment Kyle Long, plus the Bears added 6-foot-6, 320-pound right tackle Bobby Massie, whom they signed in the offseason to a three-year deal that includes $6.5 million in guarantees. Rookie center Cody Whitehair, who played left guard all summer before Sitton arrived, is brand new to the position, but as any inexperienced offensive lineman can attest, moving forward to open holes in the run game is preferable to the technique-driven task of protecting the quarterback.
However, through two weeks, the Bears rank 25th in rushing offense at a paltry 68.5 yards per game. And not only is the production off, the commitment to the run is suspect. The Bears have attempted 58 passes to just 38 rushing attempts.
Given their personnel, shouldn’t the Bears be a run-first team?
“We would like to be able to run the ball when we need to,” Bears offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. “We want to stay balanced, we want to play the games on our terms, and right now, we need to run the ball better to play the game on our terms.”
When discussing the ground game's issues, Loggains suggested the run game has lost out on opportunities because of the Bears' failure to convert on third down, then added, “and the offensive line gelling and coming together that way.”
Long was more candid.
“I didn’t protect well at all [on Monday night against Philadelphia] and I didn’t play well on the run either,” Long said. “You can’t have a lot of success when that happens. Cody and Josh played really well. I have to hold up my end of the bargain too.”
Long admirably is fighting through a torn labrum in his left shoulder, plus the other aches and pains inherent to being an NFL offensive lineman, but how much more can he take?
The Bears have to run to the right behind one of their best players to be successful.
Dallas is hardly a defensive force, but they rank a respectable 13th versus the run (97.5).
Something has to give Sunday night. The timing of tailback Ka’Deem Carey’s hamstring injury is unfortunate for the Bears, but Jeremy Langford and rookie Jordan Howard must carry a sizable load to escape Texas with a victory. The alternative is asking Hoyer to throw the ball 35 to 40 times, which may be the quickest path to 0-3.