The red zone was Chicago’s dead zone last year, with the Bears ranking No. 27 in the NFL in scoring once they got inside the 20-yard-line. They struggled again in Sunday’s season opener, scoring three points on two trips to the 1-yard line and losing a fumble at the 12.

The red zone was Chicago’s dead zone last year, with the Bears ranking No. 27 in the NFL in scoring once they got inside the 20-yard-line.

They struggled again in Sunday’s season opener, scoring three points on two trips to the 1-yard line and losing a fumble at the 12.

But this is not the same, insisted quarterback Jay Cutler.

“We didn’t get a lot of shots from the 10 on out. We got down inside the 5. That’s where we’ve got to improve,” Cutler said.

Not just the 5. The 1. Chicago ran five plays from the 1-yard line and never gained a yard.

Sunday was the third time in 22 games the Bears have failed to score after getting a first down at the 1.

“It should be a lot easier than it is,” tight end Greg Olsen said. “But it’s not easy.

“The passing game is very limited, with only 10 yards of the end zone to work with. It’s a lot harder than it looks. But we’ve got to do a better job.

“You have four downs from the two-inch line; you’ve got to score. They should be able to put 40 guys out there and you’ve got to be able to just get a yard. That’s on us players.”

Maybe in Minnesota two years ago and Atlanta last year. This time, it’s on new offensive coordinator Mike Martz.

“That was all on me. I blame myself for that thing,” Martz said.

“We did not spend the time we need to spend on it,” Martz said. “We were trying to get all these other things ready.”

Trying to gain the last yard before the end zone is unlike trying to gain a yard anywhere else on the football field, as the Bears have so often found out. They even named a Burt Reynolds movie (and Adam Sandler remake) after that longest yard.

“That’s the toughest yard in football,” Martz said.

Martz shot a reporter an incredulous glare when asked how much things change for an offense at the goal line.

“The whole formation,” Martz said after a long pause. “It’s a whole different group of people. Everything is totally different. It’s a whole different set of plays and how you block things.

“When I saw that happen, I just knew, I just knew, I just knew, I just knew,” he said, one “I knew” for each failed play from the 1 in the fourth quarter. “You know when you have not prepared your guys well for something. That was a coaching deal.”

The Bears have tried a variety of plays from the 1, running up the middle, running around the end and even throwing a few passes. None have worked.

“We need to do those players better,” Olsen said.

They still have no plans to try a quarterback sneak because they say it won’t work against stacked defensive lines.

“Teams aren’t stupid,” Cutler said. “Once you get into third-and-short, fourth-and-short or 1-yard line situations, they are going to put two guys in the gap.”

Cutler said he’s not worried about scoring from the 1 now that the Bears have Martz calling the plays.

“He’s the creative guy,” Cutler said. “He’s going to come up with something.”

Martz, though, says scoring from the 1 has nothing to do with being creative. Just being prepared.

“You don’t need to be fancy,” Martz said. “You’ve just got to execute. Fancy has got nothing to do with it. It’s just lining up and making sure everybody does what they are supposed to do, which takes more reps and takes more time.

“Shoot, that’s me. That’s a coaching issue.”

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