It wouldn't be wholly unfair to say that the Chicago Bears offense is really letting the team down this year.
With the defense playing at such a high level, Jay Cutler and company haven't had to do much to influence the outcome of games this year. And it's just as well, because without the excellent play of wide receiver Brandon Marshall, Chicago's offense has been pretty woeful.
For whatever reason, and we will try to look at some of them, Marshall is by far and away the main man for the Bears. This season, he has 59 receptions for 797 yards and seven touchdowns, and is everything the Bears hoped he would be. A big, tall, dominant receiver that Jay Cutler feels comfortable throwing the ball to.
Running back Matt Forte has the second most receptions for the Bears with just 20. Alshon Jeffery has 14, Hester has 13 and Earl Bennett has 16. And what about the tight end situation? Kellen Davis has just 10 catches all year, which is pretty poor considering he was supposed to play a bigger role in the offense this season.
The problem with relying too heavily on Marshall is that if he was to suffer an injury, or face a defense that just totally shuts him down, the Bears offense would slowly grind to a halt, and as well as the defense has been playing, it does not make long term sense to count on them to win you the game.
Mike Tice has taken over the reins as offensive coordinator, and It still seems as if it's a bit of a work in progress. I for one expected Matt Forte to feature more in the passing game, seeing as he has proven he can be productive when used in that role. Weren't we promised great things from Devin Hester this year? And seeing as he is struggling to show the kind of form that made him such a dangerous return man, is it time to question his usefulness in Chicago?
Now, don't get me wrong; I think Brandon Marshall is one of the top five receivers in the NFL right now, and the Bears should feel blessed he is on their team. But whether by design or not, he is being relied on far too heavily by Jay Cutler and the offense.
If you take a look at the Atlanta Falcons, who are unbeaten at 8-0, you can see how they spread the ball around a lot more, making the offense more dynamic and more effective. Receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones have 47 and 40 receptions respectively, and tight end Tony Gonzalez leads Atlanta with 50 receptions. It's that kind of production that the Bears are missing. If one of the Falcons receivers gets injured or has a bad day, they know they can turn to someone else, and the drop-off in performance will not be that great. The same cannot be said for the Bears.
The Bears are 25th in the league with with 324.4 yards per game. They are 29th with just 195.9 passing yards each game. Yards on the ground this year has been better, with the Bears averaging 128.5 yards a game.
And that brings me nicely on to the run game. Like many, I was excited with the arrival of Michael Bush, and it looked like the Bears were going to have one of the best running back tandems in the league. But let's be honest; Bush has been desperately underused, rushing the ball 77 times for 263 yards. Michael Bush is a very good running back and could easily have the starting job on several NFL teams. The Bears should really try and find a way of incorporating him more into the game plan, and give the offense another way to move the chains.
To summarize, the Chicago Bears are an unbalanced football team. Their defense is playing at an extraordinarily high level, but it would not surprise me if they ran out of steam by the end of the year. Surely probability alone dictates they won't be able to maintain such a level for the entire season. And if that ends up being the case, the offense is just not good enough right now to get the job done.