After all the long work, after all the tweaks and settings, the Mad Scientist reaches a point where it’s time to pull the switch, to unleash the lightning-infused energy and see if he can bring LIFE to his inanimate creation. The Mad Scientist can’t breathe, waiting to see if his creature stirs. He waits and he waits, desperate to cry out “It lives”! But does it truly live? It’s only when the Mad Scientist’s back is turned that the fingers twitch ever so slightly.
The lucid Mad Mike Martz stayed with us this week. In fact, I would go so far as to say the Mad Scientist almost reached “Zen Master” status with this game. He showed incredible patience, maintained commitment to his rather conservative game plan, and once again unveiled flashes of brilliance that make me wonder how we ever lived with Ron Turner for so long!
Martz’s creation definitely stirred this week, showing the potential of a dare-I-say “good” offensive football team. Of course, the glass is half-empty perspective is: are the Vikings really a good football team? And did we just beat another lousy team? Does it matter? The Bears are 6-3. And they look poised to take their first step forward as a living, animate contender.
I believe that somehow, through this process, the creation has taught our Mad Scientist some lessons on how to adapt to life’s limitations. And by embracing these limitations, the Mad Scientist has learned how to overcome them.
1) Playcalling – You won’t believe your eyes edition!
- Unbalanced Playcalling on First Down favoring the RUSH: 17 Rushing Plays versus just 8 Passing Plays on first down!!!
- Overall Balance: (I count playcalls, not executed plays, meaning that if Cutler scrambled, I register that as a pass attempt, since the playcall was a pass play)
- First Half: 21 Pass Plays versus 14 Rush Plays
- Second Half: 17 Pass Plays versus 17 Rush Plays
- Total: 38 Pass Attempts versus 31 Rush Attempts
- JC’s Performance:
- Cutler: 22 for 35, 237 yards, 3 TD’s, 2 INT’s
- On 3rd Down: 11 of 19 for 58%
- Rushing yardage total: 130 yards.
- Forte: 21 rushes for 69 yards (3.3 average)
- Taylor: 11 rushes for 33 yards (3.0 average)
- Even though the rushing averages are 3.3 and 3.0, there’s some deception in the numbers:
- 13 out of 34 Rushes went for over 4 yards.
- Only four rushes went for negative yards.
2) The impact of the Game Plan:
- “Mad” Martz re-tuned his entire offensive game plan, going with lots of first down runs, shorter routes, and rollouts instead of 7 step drops.
- The result of this was that Jay had more time to see his receiver’s break. So, instead of trusting and anticipating a decision, he was able to watch the cut and react with confidence.
- Martz also mixed up his playcalls, using runs on pretty obvious passing downs, and passing out of running formations:
- On the very first play of the game, where I expected him to run, he called a pass play.
- On the next play, now a long 2nd and 10, he called a handoff (and gained 4 yards).
- As a result, the defense couldn’t “tee-off”, focusing their energy on pass rushing. This meant the Vikings usually only rushed 4 or at most 5 guys. And the Bears line (I can’t believe I’m saying this) handled them really well!
3) How this affected Minnesota blitz schemes:
- It’s possible that Minnesota trusts its front four too much this year. But, it’s also possible that Martz’s rush first strategy forced Minnesota to minimize its blitz attempts. (Blitzing from the edge while a team rushes off-tackle makes for an empty second level and huge gains).
- What Minnesota didn’t do was blitz very often and rarely with more than 1 linebacker or cornerback. This allowed the offensive line to have to make 1 less read (most of the time).
- But, I will say this, they are reading blitzes better overall, AND so are the backs: Example, Shotgun formation with two backs on either side of Cutler (Olsen to his left and Taylor to his right). The Vikings blitz with a LB AND a CB from the left edge. Olsen steps inside to help pick up the linebacker, and Taylor crosses in front of Cutler to pick up the cornerback. Cutler rolls a little to his right and hits Knox for a 10 yard pickup.
- While we’re talking about the line, I think I should mention that Omiyale had a damn good game against Allen. And Webb is turning into a pretty good lineman. This unit seems to finally be “gellin”.
4) The Story of this game is: the Bears Football “Culture” changed Martz; Martz realized he couldn’t change Bears Culture (at least in 1 year… and not with this personnel).
- Some very creative run ideas:
- Rolled Bennett into motion and handed him the ball, got four yards around end. I think he runs that play much better than Devon.
- Martz put Forte in the slot, put him in motion and handed him the ball behind the quarterback. (Play was called back for holding but was a great idea!)
- Martz called a DRAW! (an Actual DRAW!) – not a delayed handoff, Cutler actually faked a dropback and handed Forte the ball as a draw, and gained 5 yards!
- He continues to mix Taylor and Forte. #22 is having a much better season, but Taylor looked pretty pumped up to play against his old team.
- Martz used the same “out” pattern with 5 different receivers. Bennett, Knox (multiple times), Rashied Davis, Hester AND Forte all did the same exact five yard fake in and out route, and they were ALL successful! What’s brilliant about this is that the formations were all different, so the defense couldn’t pick up that it was coming. And that type of consistency of timing and location gives Cutler a rhythm that helps him be more consistent.
5) Miscellaneous Thought:
- I wonder if JC doesn’t like Earl Bennett:
- In the Buffalo game, #80 caught a very high fastball from JC and got killed by the LB and CB covering him.
- On 3rd and 6 on the first possession of this game, JC throws to Earl high AGAIN. And, as expected, he gets killed by a DB and LB.
- I think Earl needs to go out drinking with JC on the off-season.
6) Mad Genius Strikes:
- With 3rd and a ½ yard, the Bears release Kellen Davis over the middle and Cutler hits him for an easy completion and touchdown. The playcall was perfectly set up by the balance of rushing and passing plays through the game.
- Hester at kickoff return. Don’t know what triggered that idea, but Devon definitely has his confidence back. He gave the Bears great field position throughout the game, and now teams have to worry about the field position game.
7) WTF – “None for the Bears”
- Bernard Berrian calls himself out of the game during warm-ups! You gotta love that $42 Million investment the Vikings made in their “#1” Receiver. LMAO!
- Fox Announcers – those guys ONLY talked about the Minnesota Vikings and Brett Favre. At the beginning of the game it was “how important this game was to the Vikings” and “how talented they are”. When the Bears started to pull away, it was “because of all the mistakes the Vikings are making”. What I have noticed is a BIG issue with the sport media is that they can’t break away from narratives that started at the beginning of the season:
- Cowboys are expected to go to Super Bowl in their home stadium. No, they’re just a BAD team
- Vikings and the return of Favre for one LAST chance to go to the Super Bowl. Ahem, excuse me but you still have to play ALL the games. You can’t just show up and win!
- At the mid-point of the season, the sports media should have their narratives adjusted to the new reality and the incredible parity available this season.
8 ) Summary
Which leads me back to the Bears… what should their “narrative” be? Are they contenders? Should they now be considered a playoff bound team? Are they all “fixed” and ready for primetime?
As much as I, like the Mad Scientist, would like to yell “It’s ALIVE!!!” I can’t help but look at our meltdown games against Seattle and Washington and wonder if this team has turned a corner or if this is just an average team beating bad teams.
The Bears have a very tough schedule coming up (although playing Miami’s 3rd string quarterback on Thursday helps delay that fact for a week). But Philadelphia, New England, and the Jets await, along with away games at Detroit, Minnesota and the finale at Green Bay. They’ll need 10 wins to make the playoffs. They have to win the games they should win, starting with this Thursday.
Let’s hope Martz has found a formula that he can live with, and he doesn’t flake into la-la land, believing that the Bears are something more than they are. If he can do that! If he can take what his offense can give him, then he will prove to everyone that he is truly a Genius.