On a lot of the no gains or negative plays the Vikings made, it was more due to a good defensive call as opposed to poor line play. The Bears line played much better than I thought. Also on some plays where one player graded out poor, there was a trickle [down] effect that caused problems among the group.To start the year, and even as recently as three weeks ago (4 sacks against Detroit), the offensive line has not been terribly impressive.
How big of a difference could an improved line make? A big difference.
According to Football Outsiders, the Bears have the 2nd worst run-blocking o-line and the absolute worst pass protection through Week 15. Their adjusted sack rate has the o-line surrendering a sack 10% of the time. League average is ~6%.
If Cutler averages about 30 passing attempts per game, a 10% rate means at least 3 sacks per game. If they clamber down to just league average, that drops to 1.8 sacks (which is closer to how they performed these last two weeks). The difference between 1.8 and 3 sacks can be enormous -- it can change the result of an offense drive and the mindset of quarterback. Consider these two scenarios:
2nd and 8 -- Cutler sacked for -5 yards. Therefore...
3rd and 13 -- An obvious and difficult passing situation.
2nd and 8 -- Cutler checks down to Forte for a 3 yard gain...
3rd and 5 -- Creating a flexible situation in which Mike Martz can realistically call a power, a draw, a pass play, or a screen.
Even if Cutler is only able to hit the check-down route or scramble for a few yards, the difference in the resulting situation is huge. It can easily be the difference between a punting and a point-making drive. One sack can easily change the outcome of a one-score game.
Let's hope this line finds their groove because I'm tired of spelling the Bears O-Line "LOL."