Chicago Bears coach Marc Trestman found no simple explanations Monday for why a team ranked second in scoring last year has dropped to the middle of the pack while losing three of their first five games.
While quarterback Jay Cutler received some blame for the Bears after suffering a second straight second-half collapse on offense Sunday in a 31-24 loss to the Carolina Panthers, Trestman and the players say they have enough mistakes for everyone to share equally in the scrutiny being brought on their offensive leader.
"You know, honestly we in the past have just been shooting ourselves in the foot, and it's like everybody takes a turn at it," tackle Michael Ola said Monday.
"It can be one person on this play and another person on this play and it's more-so just attention to detail and being focused on every snap, because you know there's drives there where we're on the field and it looks like there's not a defense and then there's drives where it's like, man, we just can't seem to get it right."
Trestman says it's not a case of the opponents figuring out a key to stopping the offense since last season, or even making second-half adjustments to outsmart the Bears' coaching staff.
"With all due respect to them (opponents), I think that if we can continue to take care of the football, as Jay said yesterday, and continue to just work at the details, we can come out of this thing," Trestman said. "We showed signs. We moved the football.
"We were on a short field yesterday, we got some things done on a short field — but we didn't manage the long field very well and we've got to do that."
Cutler completed 28 of 36 for 289 yards and two touchdowns, but threw two interceptions Sunday. In the second half of the past two games, he has a passer rating of 44.0 with 22 completions in 33 attempts for 192 yards and three interceptions with no touchdowns. He was 7 of 13 for 83 yards with two interceptions Sunday.
"First half we had a little bit of rhythm," wide receiver Brandon Marshall said. "Second half there was no rhythm at all.
"First half, it was pretty smooth out there and second, I don't know what happened."
The Bears (2-3) have been outscored in the second half of those two losses to the Panthers and Green Bay Packers, 34-3.
"We had one breakdown here, one breakdown there," Trestman said. "We had an open guy, didn't hit an open guy. We had a second-and-1, we had a pre-snap penalty. It took us to second-and-6 — we make 3 yards, instead of having a first down, and we don't convert.
"We stopped ourselves. We did on those occasions, and the turnovers as well. There were two drives obviously that were one-play or two-play drives that were turnovers. But we had opportunities in the second half to move the ball and there were ample opportunities that they were giving us defensively and we didn't get it done."
Trestman said Cutler's first interception by Roman Harper on a pass intended for Marshall against zone coverage should have been thrown to the outside and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery.
"He tried to get the ball in there, which he's done many times before into Brandon, and Brandon's made those kind of plays," Trestman said. "But just looking it over, coming off of Brandon and moving on would have been the best situation in that regard."
The other interception in the fourth quarter, which led to Carolina tying the score at 24-24, "just got away from me," Cutler said following the game. "Just got high.
"Santonio (Holmes) was sneaking around the back there on a slant and it just got high and landed right in the guy's arms. High and over the middle of the field is never good. And it happened twice (Sunday)."
Trestman said the solution is "controlling what we can control. And that's being better on fundamentals and techniques on these runs that we detail out to the Nth degree with these guys."
One solution might be trying to get Marshall the ball more. He was targeted only five times Sunday, and just six the previous week. Marshall had an ankle injury for three weeks, but Trestman said he's over it.
"We're going to go back and do some work on that to make sure we're doing all the right things in that regard," Trestman said. "We targeted him yesterday. He had a lot of calls. They took it away and Jay did the right thing by going other places.
"We want him obviously to have more productivity. When he touches the ball, good things happen. And over the last couple of weeks, we haven't been able to get that done."
Marshall seemed unhappy after the game, but didn't elaborate on the situation.
"Brandon is not happy because he's not being as productive as we'd like him to be and he's not contributing like he wants to contribute to the offense," Trestman said.
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