Toronto Calm - Observations of a Mad Scientist (Bears over Bills)

Sometimes, the simplistic is sublime. The Mad Scientist strives so diligently, so tirelessly every day to create something utterly new, something utterly extraordinary that his expectations of what is beautiful, what is unique is so tainted towards the exceptional that he forgets how beautiful simplicity can be. But our Mad Scientist forever teeters between madness and lucidity. And there are moments, when his calm, his patience, his embrace of the “mundane” create things of beauty even in a laboratory flashing with frenzied chaos.

Mad Mike Martz adopted an old strategy to defeat a winless foe with the worst rush defense in the league. And the calming effect that this had on Jay Cutler was palpable.

1) Playcalling

  • Balance: 27 Rushing Plays (not including Cutler’s four scrambles) versus 34 attempted passes (includes Cutler’s four scrambles)
  • Rushing yardage total: 105 yards.
    • Forte: 49 yards
    • Taylor: 39 yards
  • 1st downs:
    • 1st Half: 8 running plays and 5 pass plays.
    • 2nd Half: 8 running plays and 5 pass plays
    • 3 Rollouts, 3 Pocket passes, and 4 short slants or outs.
  • In other words:
    • “Mad” Martz scaled back his offense to use a more conservative and balanced approach.
    • He continued to run the ball even when they were behind and even though their run performance wasn’t necessarily very good.

2) The Story of this game is: Cutler calmed down

  • In the beginning, Cutler had happy feet and threw poorly:
    • His second pass attempt was a slant to Knox. It was poorly thrown behind his receiver. His feet shuffled nervously on the play and he threw without being set.
    • Next pass attempt from the pocket, left side blitz like every team has thrown at us since Williams moved to LG, and Cutler throws a hitch to Bennett who catches a badly overthrown ball.
    • Next play, Cutler rolls out overthrows his receiver by a mile.
    • Next play, Cutler throws an odd I-formation screen, Forte fights for 6 yards.
    • Next play, 3rd and 4, Bills blitz left side edge yet again, line picks it up, and Cutler hits Knox for 34 yard gain.
    • Same series, Cutler connects to Chester Taylor on heavily covered swing pass (nearly gets CT killed, but the pass was perfect).
    • At this point, you can start to feel that JC is getting into a rythmn, he seems more comfortable, confident. He starts to do some things that I haven’t seen him do so far this season:
      • Swing pass to Taylor, perfect lead and pace allows CT to prepare for the linebacker covering him. He spins and gains 5 more yards after the hit.
      • On a quick slant to Knox, the CB jumped the route. Cutler threw behind his receiver AWAY from the CB. It looked like an ugly pass, but I guarantee you it was intentional to avoid the interception. This was, I believe, a great reflex adjustment.
      • Jay rolled out a number of times, but never panicked. He rolled out and looked for his receivers; unless it was open, then he didn’t hesitate but took off running. This generated a new dimension to our much-needed run production.
      • Biggest improvement moment: Bears down 19-14. 3rd and 8, and Cutler is pressured, but his receivers are covered. He steps up and… throws out of bounds. At this point of the game, I would certainly understand if he felt pressure to “make something happen”. But, he relaxed, stayed patient and TRUSTED HIS DEFENSE! The defense rewards him two plays later with an interception.
  • Room for improvement:
    • Having said all of the above, Cutler still made some mistakes:
    • He underthrew Forte who had run past a linebacker down the sideline. The underthrown ball was easily knocked away.
    • Martz dialed up a screen pass to Olsen, and Cutler zipped him the ball from two yards away. It bounced off Olsen’s hands and we’re lucky it wasn’t intercepted.
    • He did force a couple balls into coverage and was fortunate he wasn’t intercepted.

3) Mad Genius Strikes:

  • With 1st and goal on the 9, the Bears line up with a tight end AND two Tight End flankers (5 men on the right side of the ball) and a single back. It looks like an obvious run to Martz’s (former) favorite side to run on (the right); instead Olsen pops out for a pass. Cutler misses him, but it was a nicely designed formation and play call.
  • 2nd and 3. Forte lines up as a single back (but a little closer to JC than usual). Bennett goes in motion and lines up for a split second as the back. JC fakes to Forte up the middle and back-pitches the ball to Bennett who runs wide for a first down. Another creative play.
  • As predicted, Martz puts Taylor (in FB spot) and Forte in the same backfield in the I formation, which is a bizarre concept. The play is a fake screen left, HB screen right. Chester goes one way, Forte goes other, but none of it matters because the Bills blitzed both outside linebackers and had it covered no matter which way it went. It was an odd play, typical of Martz to try to do something unusual instead of predictable. I liked it, because it was something no other offensive coordinator would have ever thought to attempt.
  • Extra point to put the game up 22-19: Mad Martz calls for a quick shuffle pass to Forte. Great call and time to use that play.

4) Offensive Line Notes

  • This game should not be considered anything other than a squeaker victory for the offensive line. The missed a ton of blocks, especially on pulling plays. But, they got better as the game progressed.
  • Run blocking issues:
    • Olin Kreutz CANNOT pull! Mike Tice, please hear me, but Olin Kreutz is now a liability when he tries to pull. He’s too slow and missed EVERY block attempt when he pulled.
    • On 1st and 10 of the third series (after two three and outs), Martz attempts an I-Right sweep right. Olin flat out missed his cut block, and Greg Olsen (lined up as the fullback) also missed his cut block attempt on a linebacker. The miss was so bad, that Olsen grabbed the LB’s leg to prevent him from getting Forte (he was fortunate there was no call).
    • The right side of the line still has issues but Williams and Omiyale did a pretty good job on the left side.
    • Illegal motion penalties are still a problem but at least this time, Frank O has some company and Greg Olsen was the biggest culprit of the game.
  • The Bills adopted the philosophy of the Giants and basically put their guys in 1 on 1 alignment against the Bears line. Whenever the Bears went to a single back set, the Bills put 6 men on the line and left 1 linebacker in the linebacker position. Whenever the Bears went empty backfield, they blitzed from the edge.
  • The Bears line, to their credit, picked up most of the blitzes and held their own. They only gave up one sack (Oh man, it was a gawd-awful wave of the hands by Omiyale). But, the mix and balance of rollouts, screens and slant calls by Martz helped keep the Bills off-guard, and…
  • By the end of the game, JC stopped panicking. He started to move in the pocket to buy some time or he rolled out when it was wide open, but he didn’t panic. And when he has time… When Jay Cutler has time in the pocket, I don’t believe there is a better quarterback.

5) WTF – “Double Receivers Again” – Once again, the Bears keep putting two receivers in the exact same spot. On the Bears first touchdown, both Olsen and Bennett ran the same route and ended up in the same location. For a split second, Bennett thought the pass was for him and that Olsen was a defender. It looked like Bennett actually tried to knock the ball OUT of Olsen’s hands. Olsen hung on because Bennett only grazed Olsen’s hands.

6) Summary

Before the bye week, I was extremely disappointed in Martz’s playcalling. Too many long-distance passes, too many pocket calls, too many passes on first down resulting in must-throw 3rd and longs. In this game, they converted 7 of 12 3rd downs (even though they still averaged a whopping 7.7 yards to go on 3rd downs).

But, Martz’s use of more runs, shorter pass attempts and the rollout helped build Jay Cutler’s confidence and patience back. Next week’s game against Minnesota will ratchet the intensity back up, put us up against an exceptional run defense, and test this new mantle of patience and lucidity. Here’s hoping Martz keeps his madness bottled up.

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