By Steve Silverman-
(CBS) The Arizona Cardinals were dancing last Sunday after their 38-10 win over the Detroit Lions.
And why not? They had lost nine straight games and hand not won a game since a Week 4 victory over the Miami Dolphins had given them a 4-0 record.
But even though they got off to that impressive start, head coach Ken Whisenhunt knew there were plenty of issues with his team’s offense.
The quarterback play did not enable him to feel secure about his team’s future and his team’s offensive line play was downright scary. Whisenhunt knew that the team would soon be facing tough times as a result of an offensive line that could not protect its quarterbacks. Additionally, the quarterbacks were about as mobile as statues.
That’s why the Cardinals went from late September until mid-December before they got their fifth victory.
That’s why the Bears have an excellent chance to get well this Sunday. Getting well means securing a victory. Getting well does not mean earning a playoff spot. They will need some help – most likely in the form of a Baltimore Ravens victory over the New York Giants – if they are going to get a postseason berth.
But let’s get back to this week’s opponent. The Cardinals rank last in the league in offense. They are 29th in passing yards with 184.2 yards per. They are 30th in rushing with 80.0 yards per game.
While Jay Cutler has been disappointing and inconsistent, the Cardinals quarterbacks have simply been inept.
The Arizona offensive line has given up a league-worst 52 sacks this season, which is 11 more than the Bears’ shoddy offensive line has allowed.
Offensive line play is the biggest reason both teams have been so inept on offense.
Big plays have been delivered at a minimum. Here are some of the key numbers. The Bears have 19 touchdown passes; the Cardinals have but 10. The Bears have a passer rating of 79.5; the Cardinals check in at 63.3. The Bears have four passing plays of 40-plus yards; the Cardinals have a league-worst two 40-plus yard plays through the air.
Whisenhunt is having a hard time looking at his offensive line and keeping his composure. This unit appeared to be substandard at the start of the season, but they had a decent left tackle in Levi Brown. However, after Brown (torn triceps) got hurt in the preseason, the Cardinals were forced to go with two rookie offensive tackles.
That simply doesn’t work in the NFL, especially when you have quarterbacks like Kevin Kolb, John Skelton and Ryan Lindley who are limited in their movement skills.
Left tackle Nate Potter has been overmatched at the spot. He does not have the athletic ability to make a good showing and he has also been out-muscled on a regular basis. Right tackle Bobby Massie has been sloppy and a half-step behind throughout the season.
It’s not like the interior linemen are that much better. Left guard Daryn Colledge is the only acceptable blocker of the group. The former Packer is nasty and aggressive. However, rookie center Scott Wedige from Northern Illinois has been in over his head and right guard Adam Snyder is ordinary.
This should mean a big game could be at hand for the Bears’ pass rush, which has shown signs of fatigue in the second half of the season. With the Cardinals weak and inexperienced tackles, defensive ends Julius Peppers and Corey Wootton should be in line for big games.
That’s probably all it will take to get the Bears a win.
The Cardinals’ defense is their strong point and they have a chance to get the edge on the Bears’ offensive line, but the Bears’ edge on defense is greater.
Steve Silverman is an award-winning writer, covering sports since 1980. Silverman was with Pro Football Weekly for 10 years and his byline has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Playboy, NFL.com and The Sporting News. He is the author of four books, including Who’s Better, Who’s Best in Football — The Top 60 Players of All-Time. Follow him on Twitter (@profootballboy) and read more of his CBS Chicago columns here.