The Chicago Bears run too much. Sound crazy? Maybe. But not as crazy as joining the chorus that says they pass too much. The Bears rank higher in the NFL in rushing attempts (19th) than they do in passing attempts (21st). Their opponents have thrown 55 more passes than the Bears and run only four more times.

The Chicago Bears run too much.


Sound crazy? Maybe. But not as crazy as joining the chorus that says they pass too much.


The Bears rank higher in the NFL in rushing attempts (19th) than they do in passing attempts (21st). Their opponents have thrown 55 more passes than the Bears and run only four more times.


This doesn’t count Chicago’s 27 sacks or Jay Cutler’s 15 scrambles. Still, Chicago’s opponents are passing more than the Bears.


Were the Bears not supposed to come out throwing against Seattle’s No. 31-rated pass defense? Really?


The Bears’ problem isn’t how often they run, but how poorly they run.


When they are not playing the worst team in the NFL, Matt Forte has averaged 2.9 yards a rush or worse. In every single game.


The Bears haven’t run for more than 100 yards in a victory over a team that won at least six games in more than two years. The answer, when Matt Forte is averaging 1.4 yards as he did in Sunday’s 23-20 loss to Seattle, is not more runs. It’s more plays.


That means more first downs.


The Bears can’t run when they are playing Canadian football and punting after two downs. OK, they didn’t punt on third down against Seattle, but they may as well have, finishing 0-for-12 on third-down conversions.


“We can’t reach the place we’re trying to go until we take care of third downs,” coach Lovie Smith said.


Nice of Lovie to finally notice. The Bears were the worst team in the NFL on third down even before Sunday. Even when they ran for 218 yards against winless Carolina, they converted only three of 15 third downs. Their 17.6 season rate (13 of 74) is 49 percent worse than the No. 31 team (Buffalo).


The Bears have ranked No. 26 or lower on third down every year under Lovie Smith except the 2006 Super Bowl season. But even those bad years were often twice as good as this year.


Chicago had pass plays of 67, 58, 36 and 34 yards Sunday, but they couldn’t sustain a drive.


“We’re getting big chunks, it’s just not on a consistent basis,” Cutler said. “We get a big chunk, then we’ll get a sack for 10 (yards). Defenses will trade punches like that all game.


“It’s been kind of the theme all year. We get some big chunks, but the third-and-2s, the third-and-6s, the ones that are manageable, we struggle with those.”


The Bears didn’t get many “manageable” third downs Sunday. They passed on all 12 failed third downs, but only one of them was less than 4 yards.


“It’s very hard to get in a rhythm,” receiver Earl Bennett said of not picking up third downs. “We just have to stay composed. It’s very frustrating when you can’t capitalize. We work hard on it. We’ve just got to continue to push on it and get better.”


They’re not getting better. They’re getting worse; three for 40 the last three weeks.


“We did move the chains a lot on first and second down, but when it counted on third down, we didn’t,” receiver Devin Aromashodu said.


“I don’t even think about third down. It’s a down,” left tackle Frank Omiyale said. “I want a first down every time. Whether it makes or breaks a game, I don’t know.”


It’s breaking the Bears. And Chester Taylor knows it.


“We’ve got to do a lot better on third down,” said Taylor, who used to replace All-Pro Adrian Peterson on third downs in Minnesota. “We’ve got to execute, communicate and get first downs. That’s what it all boils down to.


“It’s very weird. Going in and getting the first down is one of my specialties.”


The Bears don’t need to run more. Nor throw deep more. They just need to find a way to gain 10 yards every three plays. More first downs, even if they are passing first downs, will eventually lead to more runs. So throw more quick slants. Or draw plays to Taylor.


But you can’t put Forte before Cutler. Trying to force feed runs with a back who can’t average 3 yards only works against the Panthers.


“You can’t look at what happened (against the Panthers) and say do that every time,” Smith said.


No, you can’t. But the Bears need to try something that works more than 17.6 percent of the time.


Matt Trowbridge can be reached at 815-987-1383 or mtrowbridge@rrstar.com.