That’s the problem with Mad Scientists. When you first meet one, you think “Oh, he’s just quirky!” or “Sure, he’s playing with flammable substances and toying with the laws of nature, but really he’s just harmless!” And then you realize that all this time, he’s been ingesting his own concoctions of chemically-imbalanced, delirium-inducing kool-aid, all the while thinking that these liquids will “expand his mind” or “open new channels“ or “transmogrify his transcendence into the transcendental”! And THIS, boys and girls, is the moment when Dr. Jekyll becomes Mr. Hyde.
The question that I struggled with this morning after the Sack-fest in the Meadowlands is: Did Martz over-indulge with the kool-aid and start believing that JC is indestructible? Or, did Martz’s zany offense finally cause Jay Cutler’s head to explode? Or, did Igor (otherwise known as Mike Tice) fill his Frankenstein line with “Abby Normal” brains? My fear was that the answer was all of the above; what I found, however, surprised me and will surprise you too.
In reviewing the first half playcalling, I really expected to find that Mad Martz was at fault for calling too many pass plays early, or for calling 7-step drops against obvious blitz packages, or for not trying to protect his quarterback by calling quicker pass plays. What I found was that Martz actually used a balanced attack plan. The issue was with the players, including most of all Jay Cutler. They failed to execute, and JC paid the price.
1) Penalties (WTF #1)
- First play of the game, Bears use multi-shift progression to try and throw off defense, instead throws off our Left Tackle. Omiyale false start puts us in 1st and 15.
- Fourth Series, Bears in decent shape at 2nd and 6 after okay Chester Taylor run. They again use multi-shift progression and Omiyale false starts, moving them back to 2nd and long.
- Sixth Series in first half, Forte gets around end on first down for nice 8 yard pickup. Second and two, Bears in a tight I formation, and Olsen jumps… back to 2nd and long.
- The offense looked tight, acted tight, and struggled early, but not necessarily because they were outmatched. The Giants defensive scheme had something to do with that…
2) Giants Defensive Scheme – Perry Fewell challenged the Bear’s offensive line from the get-go. His game plan was to put his defensive lineman in 1 on 1 situations across the line. His philosophy seemed to be that he felt his guys were better than the Bears O lineman and if they were forced into 1 v 1’s, his guys would win most of those battles, which they did:
- Giants blitzed CB on first two plays of the game, and throughout the game. They averaged 1 CB blitz on every series.
- Third play of the game, Giants used a “fake” MLB blitz. Giants MLB actually moves up and hits Olin, but then drops back into a short zone immediately. This forces Bears tackles to take on Giants DE’s 1 on 1 and, lo and behold, they both lose. Cutler is sacked.
- Throughout the game, the Giants blitz the bunch-side (whichever side had more receivers) with either a cornerback or a linebacker out there.
- The key to this success was that the Giants seem to use a deeper zone package because the Bears were constantly in 2nd or 3rd and long. The linebackers (that didn’t blitz) were in 10 yard plus coverage, the corners were at 20 yard coverage, and the safeties were over the top. In other words, the Giants Zone went to the depth of Cutler receivers. The only thing available were underneath routes, which as has been said here before JC DOESN’T SEE!!!
3) First Half Playcalling – First downs – There were three types of calls on first down (runs, quick passes – that are really runs – and longer range passes). There were nine 1st down plays:
- Four were handoffs – they resulted in +3, -1, +4, and +8 yards. (That’s not terrible production on first down, setting you up with decent shorter 2nd and 3rd down opportunities). Unfortunately, the +3 was on 1st and 15, the +8 play was nullified with a -5 yard false start penalty on the next play.
- Two were quick slants or hitches – they resulted in +7 yards to Bennett and +7 yards to Olsen
- Three were 7-step drops and ALL resulted in sacks – The first one was a legitimate breakdown by the offensive line. On the next two, however, it was clear that JC had time, but he was LOOKING downfield (not underneath). When they weren’t open, he froze and paid the price.
4) First Half Playcalling – Mixing it up – In addition to the first down run attempts and short passes, Martz tried to protect JC with screens and swing passes:
- 2nd play from scrimmage, Hester lined up as a RB and took a swing pass; he’s tackled by 1 arm. My gawd, he’s a wuss!
- Next series, 2nd and 3, swing pass to Forte for 5 yards and first down.
- Same Series, quick slant to Bennett
- Fourth Series, Martz calls rollout but Olsen blows backside block and DE crushes Cutler. In my opinion, this is the play where JC breaks down mentally. Up to this point, JC was not holding onto the ball too long, but after this he starts seeing 15 fingers on each hand and blurred armies of defensive lineman.
5) Cutler is merely human – Jay Cutler had a horrible game. He has proven to be an anti-big game player. When he has to play at night… in primetime… on the road, he has never played well. He missed Hester with an underthrown ball that would have been a touchdown if he had set his feet and led his receiver. He missed numerous underneath routes. He CAN throw slants and hitches as well as anyone, but when he’s looking for a downfield throw, then he can’t seem to check down fast enough. He also missed seeing blitzes. He really needs to develop the fake audibles or hike calls that the best QB’a use, so they can see where the blitzes are coming from.
6) Mad Genius Strikes – I wouldn’t put this in the class of “genius” but you have to give Martz credit for understanding the game and anticipating the aggressiveness of a defense. In the 2nd quarter with the Bears pinned down on their 5 yard line, instead of handing off, they play-action fake and slip Olsen, who lined up as a fullback, out into the flat. Good quick pass for 5 yards and gives them some breathing room.
7) WTF #2 – With 1:06 left in the second quarter from our own 18 yard line and 8 sacks in the books, AND the Giants out of timeouts, WHY oh WHY would you call another pass play??? Martz called another pass on 1st and 10, Giants blitz a CB AGAIN, and Cutler ends up with a concussion. There was NO chance to drive down the field, the score was only 3-0. What were you thinking, Mike Martz!!!
As much as I wanted to blame Mad Martz last night for the debacle that we saw, I do think he tried to help Jay as much as he could. The Giants schemed well, the line didn’t execute well (plus had injuries coming into the game), and Jay melted down. BUT, that last pass play with 1:06 seconds left is just inexcusable and will probably be the WORST decision of the season, especially if Cutler is unable to return.