The offensive lines are killing these three NFC playoff contenders

New Orleans Saints defensive end Will Smith sacks Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) during the second half of their NFL football game at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana November 2, 2009. New Orleans won the game 35-27. REUTERS/Sean Gardner (UNITED STATES SPORT FOOTBALL)

One of two things is going to happen if the Bears, Eagles and Falcons don’t get their issues along the offensive line figured out. They’re either going to get their quarterbacks killed and miss the playoffs, or they’re going to get their quarterbacks severely beaten and miss the playoffs. Either way, the season won’t end pretty for any of these teams.

It would be a gross understatement to say that the season hasn’t exactly started the way the Bears, Eagles and Falcons had envisioned. All three teams are 1-2 and are reeling at the moment. Most, not all, of their struggles can be pinned on the play of their lines. While the Bears’ front five gets scrutinized the most, the Falcons’ protection has easily been the worst in the league after three games. For those who tuned into that Sunday night game against the Eagles, you witnessed Trent Cole treat Atlanta LT Sam Baker like a revolving door to Matt Ryan.

Philadelphia has been opening up lanes for LeSean McCoy, but every lineman outside of tackle Jason Peters has struggled thus far in pass protection. Everyone knew the line was a question mark coming into the season and it certainly has been. The biggest culprit in pass protection has been rookie Jason Kelce, but it’s not like Todd Herremans and Kyle DeVan have done Michael Vick any favors either.

So what can be done? For Chicago, Mike Martz can start giving the ball more to Matt Forte. I realize that starting RT Gabe Carimi is injured and the front five hasn’t gotten much push in the running game but it’s criminal that Forte only received nine carries last Sunday. Lovie Smith had a sit-down with Martz during the team’s bye week last year and told him he needed to have a more balanced attack. The result was positive, as the Bears’ line played much better in the second half and the team wound up in the NFC Championship Game. This time, Smith may need to have that little chitchat earlier in the season.

For the Falcons, one option they have is to run the no-huddle exclusively, or at least more often. Ryan has had a ton of success running the hurry up since his rookie year and coordinator Mike Mularkey is a disciple of Sam Wyche, who ran the no-huddle with the Bengals in the mid 80s. The only time Atlanta’s offense has moved the ball in the last two weeks is when Ryan has been in the hurry up, which keeps defenses vanilla and slows down the edge rushers that have given the O-line fits. The Falcons ran the no-huddle in the first quarter last year in a win over Baltimore and had plenty of success with it. If Mularkey ran the offense more frequently, maybe the line could start to build some confidence. (It also wouldn’t hurt to bench Baker, who is clearly a bust at this point in his career.)

One of the reasons the Eagles’ line has had issues is because Vick has a tendency to hold the ball too long. But even if Vick made faster decisions it doesn’t change the fact that guys like Kelce have to grow up fast. When it comes to Philadelphia, the O-line might just need more time to gel.

In reality, allowing the line to develop cohesion might be the best thing for all of these teams. A big part of Tom Brady’s success in New England is because his line has played together for years. Unfortunately for the Bears, Eagles and Falcons, they don’t have years to wait. The health of their quarterbacks and their seasons hang in the balance.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

Related Posts