LAKE FOREST – A bye this weekend offers the Bears an opportunity to take a timeout.
That means no diving catches. No crunching hits. And, finally, no penalty flags.
Despite a 4-1 record and a share of first place in the NFC North, the Bears have committed 37 penalties, which is tied for sixth most in the NFL. That is an average of 7.4 penalties a game and puts them on pace to draw 118 penalties during the course of the regular season.
Not since 2004 have the Bears been called for that many violations.
The main culprit is second-year right tackle Gabe Carimi, who might have cost a touchdown Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars by committing back-to-back false starts on third-and-goal in the third quarter. Carimi also was called for a holding penalty in the first half.
On Tuesday, Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice offered support for Carimi.
“It’s football,” Tice said. “Gabe plays extremely hard. We had 74 plays in the game – the glaring plays, the real critical ones that he had, are going to stand out.
“But then you have to look at his overall body of work. He was extremely physical and did a lot of great things in that football game. He had the [holding] penalty, two offsides and the sack. You can’t have those things, but he’s a smart player. …
“The offsides penalties, I can’t handle. Once in a while, you’re going to get a holding call and you’re going to give up a sack. But the offsides, he’s got to eliminate.”
Here is a look at the Bears’ worst offenders when it comes to penalty flags:
• Carimi, 6
Most of the concern about the Bears’ offensive line focused on left tackle J’Marcus Webb during training camp in Bourbonnais, but Carimi has been a mess.
Carimi was whistled for a false start in Week 1, holding and unnecessary roughness in Week 2, and a pair of false starts to go along with a holding penalty in Week 5.
Add it together, and Carimi’s six-pack of penalties have cost the Bears 47 yards and led to three stalled drives on offense. Only two players in the NFL have committed more penalties than Carimi: Pittsburgh Steelers left guard Willie Colon (eight) and Seattle Seahawks left tackle Russell Okung (seven).
• Kellen Davis, 3
Give Davis credit for improving after an especially shaky start to the season.
He drew a holding penalty in Week 1 that wiped out a 21-yard gain and led to a stalled drive. He followed that with a false start in Week 2 that led to another stalled drive, and he committed his third penalty with a false start Sunday.
A spate of penalties is a new and unwelcome facet to Davis’ game. He already has matched his penalty total from the 2011 season and exceeded his totals from both 2009 and 2010.
• The remainders
Eight Bears players have committed two penalties apiece, including J’Marcus Webb (false start, holding), Chilo Rachal (two false starts) and Corey Wootton (neutral zone infractions). The list also includes Geno Hayes, Sherrick McManis, Nick Roach and Jay Cutler, who deserves less blame than others because he is tagged for delay-of-game penalties.
Fourteen Bears players have been called for one penalty apiece. Two of those were personal fouls, including a 15-yard facemask against Eric Weems in Week 2 and a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty against Julius Peppers in Week 3. Peppers claimed not to hear the whistle before hitting St. Louis running back Daryl Richardson at the end of a play.