Reading up in the Footballoutsiders almanac it's finally great to have a book that puts into statistics all the things I have rattling around in my head from years of watching Bears football.
There seems to be a level of clarity for me in reading this book and another thing caught my eye, a statement that speaks to the level of faith the Bears' front office has in the offensive line:
Rushing is more dependent on the offensive line than people realize, but pass protection is more dependent on the quarterback himself than people realize.
Now that seems like an obvious statement, but in the mind of a lot of Bears media and fans that statement is false. Jay Cutler gets rid of the ball in plenty of time, the offensive line is just horrible. The offensive line can't run block because Matt Forte is so good, he makes the front five look better.
The problem here is in 2010 Mike Tice talked about how the offensive line was a good run blocking unit (when the Bears were struggling to run the football consistently) but he talked about how the Bears were simply missing one block here or one block there from busting things wide open.
Tice was scoffed at, at the time flash forward to now and you can see the confidence and consistency in the Bears run game.
A fine example is in the game against the Chiefs after Matt Forte goes down with his season-ending knee injury. It's a Khalil Bell 26-yard run that really shows off how well the offensive line blocks as a unit in the run game.
The play is a simple zone call that is blocked is so well blocked that a defender doesn't get a hand on Bell until he's around 20-yards down the field.
This simple zone play is power football but not in the way fans understand power football. Every player blocks the man in front of him; what could be more simple and power than that?
However Chris Spencer still has to be athletic enough to get up to the second level and cut off the linebacker in pursuit as does Edwin Williams. When you hear draftniks talking about guards getting to the second level often they're talking about being able to zone block.
That is the simplicity of zone blocking, simplicity that often gets lost in the term "zone blocking". Fans thing of zones on the other side of the football on defense and then start applying what they know about zone to the offense.
So here we see a perfect and simple eloquent example of a zone play that goes for big yards. Roberto Garza gets a good block with an angle, but to solidify it he cuts the nose tackle in pursuit. Chris Spencer gets up on the linebacker and cuts him off, Lance Louis gets a good block plays the angle and opens up the hole. Kellen Davis gets a good block on the strong side of the play and seals the edge inside; out.
The Chief in their 3-4 defense with the weak-side OLB crashing in leave themselves wide open. Another way this play can work is for Spencer to help Garza engage, then scrape up to the middle linebacker. With Garza getting the nose tackle on the ground, and Spencer immediately hammering the middle linebacker this play going for big yards.
Now some fans might be dismissive of one play, but this play is one of many examples of the Bears springing their runningbacks for big yardage. There's a reason Matt Forte had the most yards of 20-plus yards and 40-plus yards combined on the season and it's because of the offensive line.
This unit only figures to get better with the arrival of Gabe Carimi who excelled as a run blocker at Wisconsin in their simple zone scheme.
Also to consider is the J'Marcus Webb's run blocking ability as an offensive tackle compared to Chris Williams who often struggled as a run blocker as an offensive tackle.
Either way it's important to note the simple success that Mike Tice has implemented into the Bears running game that is the engine that could drive this offense forward to a record years worth of production.