Cutler: Bears may have to tone down offense
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) - Jay Cutler might need a cheat sheet so he knows which players are lining up this week for the Chicago Bears.
They host Seattle on Sunday and figure to have a different look, particularly on the offensive line, after being hit hard by injuries.
They got Cutler back after a one-game absence due to a concussion, only to lose a slew of players in a win over Minnesota last week.
That includes stars Devin Hester (concussion) along with Matt Forte and Charles Tillman (ankle injuries), but they were dangerously thin in the trenches after losing starting guards Lance Louis and Chris Spencer to knee injuries.
They made some moves this week, most notably signing former Pro Bowl player Andre Gurode to add depth, and figure to have some different rotation on the line. Cutler believes that will impact the play calling.
"We just have to be careful what we ask those guys to do, make sure they're on the same page and protect them,'' he said Wednesday. "You don't want to do a lot of (seven-step drops) and chuck the ball 40, 50 times. They're not programmed for that. They're in new positions. Some guys haven't even played guard. We just have to be smart with it.''
The line appears to be the biggest concern at the moment.
The Bears have a capable backup for kick returner Hester in Eric Weems, and at running back in Michael Bush if Forte can't go, although it looks like he might be able to play.
"He looks fine,'' offensive coordinator Mike Tice said after Forte practiced on a limited basis. "He's going to be OK, I'm sure. I hope.''
Tillman had no noticeable limp even though he was one of six players who did not practice Wednesday.
As for the line, the Bears shook it up following a brutal performance the previous Monday at San Francisco. Chilo Rachal wound up leaving the team during the week leading up to the Vikings game, so the Bears went with Spencer at left guard.
Now, his status is unclear. If he can't go, Edwin Williams could start.
The Bears know they'll be without Louis after he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. That injury happened early in the third quarter on a blind-side hit to the head by Minnesota's Jared Allen as the Vikings' Antoine Winfield returned an interception.
The Bears were then forced to go with Gabe Carimi at right guard after he had been replaced in the lineup at right tackle by Jonathan Scott, and it appears he's going to get another look there this week.
"As of now, that's where it is,'' he said.
Carimi had never played the position but did well under the circumstances after struggling at tackle.
"Maybe this is a position for him,'' Cutler said.
Either way, tight end Matt Spaeth said, "We've got to make sure we do a good job of putting them in position to do well and not ask a lot of crazy stuff out of them. You've got Gabe that's never played right guard.''
And you had the Bears still upset about, not to mention surprised by, Allen's hit on Louis.
"He's always been a competitor, a good sport,'' receiver Brandon Marshall said. "So that shocked me, seeing that play. I know he's aggressive and plays physical so I wasn't surprised by him cracking back, but to launch at Lance's head, that was a little shocking.''
Cutler also called it out of character for Allen and added he was caught off-guard by it.
"He did all the things you shouldn't do,'' Cutler said.
As for what the Bears need to do this week, Cutler said it's clear. Committing to the run is crucial. They did it last week, carrying 39 times, and that opened up things on the outside even though they finished with just 113 yards rushing.
Cutler got rid of the ball quickly. He threw on the run. He was able to sidestep defenders and get to the outside, creating opportunities.
"Big plays come out of that,'' Cutler said. "But you've got to be able to run the ball. We stuck to the run the whole game and that kind of opened up things on the outside.''
Notes: Besides Tillman, Hester and Spencer, LB Lance Briggs (ankle), TE Kellen Davis (ankle) and WR Alshon Jeffery (knee) did not practice.
Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL
College Football Championship Week roundup: Michigan State spoils Ohio State's BCS hopes
Spartans spoil Ohio State's BCS title hopes