It’s ALIVE!!! - Observations of a Mad Scientist (Bears shock... Everyone)

It moves! It half-lumbers, half-shuffles off the table. After all of this careful work, after intensely measuring such fragile ingredients, after successfully balancing nerve-wracking nurturing with flat-out guesswork, what is going through the mind of our triumphant Mad Scientist? Is he dancing a jig, giggling like a crazed hermit? Is he slumped in exhaustion, his head buried in his sweaty labcoat? Are his arms raised in tearful elation or folded in self-congratulatory satisfaction?

I believe that our Mad Martz is a perfectionist. I believe that the elation of watching his offense score 21 points in one half, of managing a single series that lasted over TEN minutes, of seeing his once inanimate quarterback throw FOUR touchdowns without an interception… I believe the satisfaction, joy, pride and sense of accomplishment that he felt at the end of that game lasted… only until he saw the game film.

There were some GREAT things in this game. But, there were some horrible ones too. I’m personally puzzled at how we could be so GOOD and so BAD, yet be so dominant. 

I have to believe that the first steps that our Mad Scientist’s monster took were awkward, staggering steps. You don’t teach an inanimate creation how to dance as soon as his feet slide off the table. So, like a proud new papa, we should view every step forward as a thing of beauty, no matter how much the arms flail for balance and the legs shake.

1) Playcalling

  • The box score says: 28 rushing plays, 21 passes. That is utterly inaccurate.
  • Total Pass Play ATTEMPTS: 28 (21 pass attempts, 3 scrambles, 4 sacks).
  • 22 “Planned” Rushing Plays: 14 for Forte, 7 for Taylor (1 rush was abandoned by Cutler who held onto the ball and took a loss) and 1 end-around by Hester.
  • This does not include the 3 kneel-downs on the last series.
  • This means Mad Martz swung back to an unbalanced playcall strategy favoring the PASS! Why? Probably because the Eagles were without their two best corners.

2) First Down Calls

  • On first down: 13 Rushing Plays versus just 10 Passing Plays called.
    • Two JC scrambles for +9 and +10
    • 1 breakout run by Forte for +28 and 1 good gain for +6
    • Other than that:
      • 10 plays (two each) of +2, +1, 0, -1 and -2
      • 1 run for -4
      • 1 run for +6
  • Average First Down Run Performance (not including the scrambles and the long Forte breakaway):
    • 0.16 yards per attempt
    • That’s 6 inches per rushing attempt
    • JC needs to be 7 yards away to be very effective at converting 3rd downs. Only three third downs (out of 9) were within 7 yards. Three were over 10 yards and all resulted in sacks.

3) Running back comparison

  • Rushing yardage total: 131 yards.
    • Forte: 14 rushes for 117 yards
    • Without his breakout 61 yard run, Forte still averaged 4.3 yards per carry
    • He is having a fantastic year!
    • Taylor: 6 rushes for -3 yards
    • Taylor’s average per carry:  Minus 1/2 a yard per carry!
    • Taylor’s longest rush was only 2 yards.
    • Did I happen to mention last week that Taylor is Terrible!!! (I think I did!)
    • Rushing Strategy:
      • Martz used two interesting plays to spring Forte for yardage:
      • The first was a “sweep”. It was a play designed to go outside, but it was a handoff (not a pitch). The reason for this (I think) is because the handoff gave the line more time to pull out front. Forte did a nice job of being patient and waiting for the line to engage their blocks.
      • On the 6 times they ran this play, they gained +5, +2, +28, +2, +6 and +1.
      • The second play was a 1-man counter. The Bears lined up in a staggered I-formation (with the fullback behind the guard). The line crashed right, which draws ALL THREE Eagle linebackers, and immediately after getting the handoff, Forte cuts left. On Forte’s 61-yard breakout run, Omiyale and Williams had their blocks engaged and Forte ran through a pretty narrow seam.
      • They ran this twice for +61 and +10 yards.

4) Messing with their Defense (The Game Plan):

  • Martz saw a weakness to the Eagle’s outside. I already mentioned the “Handoff-Sweep”, but they also ran a nice bubble screen to Hester.
    • The timing of that call couldn’t have been better: The Eagles had a double edge blitz called on that side. JC did a great job of getting the ball over the blitzing corner, but with enough zip that Hester caught it in stride and got upfield in a hurry.
    • The Soldier’s Field turf gets a “shout-out” on this play though because the outside linebacker slipped to his knees, and got up in time for Williams to send him flying backwards.
  • The short passing game again prevented the Eagles from blitzing as much as they wanted to, but they did a nice job of “faking” their linebacker blitzes.
    • The Eagles often pulled their LB’s up to the line, putting 6 men on the line of scrimmage. Whenever they did this, two things happened:
    • The middle opened up for quick slants and hitches to Bennett, Knox and even Forte.
    • But, at the same time, Webb was in a world of hurt. Webb missed a couple reads including one where the DE moved outside Olsen. Webb “assumed” that Olsen was going to stay in and block, so he blocked down and helped Garza. No one blocks the DE and Cutler gets killed.
  • The reality of this game is that the ultimate weakness for the Eagles is their defensive backs. Asante Samuel and Ellis Hobbs both sat out, and their backups were not very effective.
  • The key though is that the line had to give JC enough time to let his receivers cut. They did a pretty good job of this, not great but acceptable (despite the four sacks).

5) Magic Ingredient Reviewed:

  • Last week, I noticed an interesting trend. I noticed that Jay had converted 73% of his third downs as long as he was within 7 yards. So, how did he do this week?
  • Three 3rd downs were 7 yards or shorter – JC converted 2 of 3 (66%)
  • Six 3rd downs were 8 yards or more – JC converted 1 out of 6. Three resulted in sacks.
  • On the four offensive series that ended in touchdowns, NONE of them required a 3rd-down conversion. Every play on all four series was either first or second down!

6) The Story of this game is: Jay Cutler’s mobility

  • Jay Cutler is getting better and better every game.  He has become an escape artist as a scrambler. He scrambled three times for +9, +10, and +1.
  • But JC’s mobility actually resulted in two Ad Hoc plays that resulted in important gains for the offense in the second half:
    • His biggest “scramble” resulted in a great pass to Devin. Second and 8, JC is forced to scramble to his right. He runs right, draws the linebacker up, and floats one to Devin who had been covered by the LB. Devin runs down the sideline (plus a horse collar penalty) and gains 30 yards.
    • On the next series, with the Bears trying to burn clock and put the game away, they faced a 3rd and 5. Cutler is engulfed in the pocket. At the last moment, he shuffle passes LEFT-HANDED to Forte who gains six to keep the drive alive.
    • JC went 14 of 21 for 247 yards and FOUR touchdowns with NO interceptions.

7) Mad Genius Strikes:

  • I don’t think I noticed any Mad Genius “moments”, what I saw instead was a Mad Genius “strategy”. The Forte “sweeps” are not a play that’s going to work against a good contain defense. Martz must have believed that the Eagles were weak outside. Their lack of contain on Cutler, the over-pursuit by the LB’s (exposing the cutback), and the Bears ability to run outside effectively was something that he anticipated.
  • Martz has done a nice job (usually coming out of a timeout) with putting Forte in the slot and letting him run a quick route. This has been very effective.

8 ) WTF –

  • The good: The Bears offense managed a 17 play, 10:04 second drive in the 3rd quarter that absolutely dictated the outcome of this game. Best 10 minute series that ended in a field goal EVER!
  • Worst Screen Call EVER – On 2nd and 8, Martz called a screen play that confused the line. It looked like BOTH sides of the line heard a screen play call to THEIR side. Literally, both sides of the offense went sideways and let the middle defensive lineman absolutely destroy Cutler.
  • We should beware our obvious weaknesses:
    • Chester Taylor is terrible and getting worse. Forte basically has NO backup right now.
    • Webb is not picking up who he is supposed to block when the defense puts more than 4 guys on the line.
    • Omiyale was called once again for illegal shift on a 3rd down.
    • 3rd down and long is a dangerous place for our quarterback.

9) Summary

Who calls Frankenstein’s monster a beautiful being? No one. But it is. Even though it shuffles rigidly forward, its arms raised for no apparent reason… just the fact that it steps forward at all is a thing to marvel at.

I have been vehemently in the camp that believed that this was not a good team. I see the stitches and patchwork that keeps the limbs of this creature together, and I can’t help but think that surely it’s going to fall apart. Yet, it seems to be getting stronger, and more agile. Maybe there is a spirit here that I can’t see. It could be luck; it could be a favorable schedule; it could be leadership taking root where I least expected it. It could be the wisdom of a new offensive line coach and the mad genius of a new offensive coordinator.

I have been around football long enough to know that motivation and momentum are “real” things. If you believe you are good, then you are good. If you believe you can run the ball with a stitched up offensive line, then you can run. If you believe you have a great crop of young talented receivers, then you can pass. If you believe that everyone is against you, that everyone thinks you stink, but you believe you can win it all, then you have the right to try. You have the right to prove us all wrong (me included).

Nothing would make me happier than to be that wrong!

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Tags: Jay Cutler Mike Martz Observations Of A Mad Scientist Philadelphia Eagles

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