His voice hoarse from screaming “It’s alive”, his lungs failing him after dancing ..."/> His voice hoarse from screaming “It’s alive”, his lungs failing him after dancing ..."/>

Being in the “Now” – Observations of a Mad Scientist (Bears Labtest the Lions)


His voice hoarse from screaming “It’s alive”, his lungs failing him after dancing his happy dance, our Mad Scientist slumps bent over his control panel, gasping and depleted from his joyous self-congratulatory celebration. His “animate” creation stands before him, his head cocked sideways as if to ask “What now?”

What now? That is the question our Mad Scientist has wrestled with all week. Now that he knows his creation works, now that he knows it can function despite aggressive defenses, poor routes, bad decisions, and time outs at the oddest moments… what should he “DO” with it?

Well, it seems apparent that the first thing our Scientist is doing is examining what his creation can do. Can it run the ball up the middle {Check!}? Can it spread defenses with a long bomb attempt to Hester (ugly, but okay, sort of!)? Can it run screens (no… no, it can’t). What’s this limb over here with the number “80” on it? Can I abuse that in different directions and make it hang onto the ball (heck yeah, wow, that works!)

Our Scientist has remained lucid since the bye week. He has learned what he has with this unit and he has remained within a smaller “range” of his usual creativity. But, the “Mad” part of him still pops out at times, where he believes he can pass his way out of ANY situation, even 3rd and short at a critical time of the game… 

1) Playcalling

  • The box score says: 28 rushing plays, 26 passes.
  • But Mad Martz’s intentions were: 32 Pass attempts and 23 rushes (not including kneel downs). That’s a “balance” akin to earlier in the season.
  • Passing Performance: JC was 21 of 26 for 234 yards, 2 scrambles, 4 sacks, 1 fumble, 1 TD, 0 INTs
  • 23 “Planned” Rushing Plays: 13 for Forte, 9 for Taylor and another end around by Hester.
  • This does not include the kneel downs at the end of the first half or on the last series.
  • He’s starting to creep back into “Pass Happy” Martz mode… but against the Lion’s front four, that’s probably a good idea.

2) First Down / Third Down

  • On first down: 17 Rushing Plays versus just 10 Passing Plays.
    • Forte: 62 yards on 11 carries, average 5.64 yards. (This is statistically influenced by two runs of +17 and +14. Take those out and he still averages 3.44 yards on first down.)
    • To put that in perspective, on 11 carries on first down, he gained 3 yards or more eight times.
    • In contrast, Chester Taylor gained 9 yards on 6 carries for an average of 1.5 yards.
    • Chester had a better game on Sunday. He went from… I don’t know give me a word between “horrible” and “bad”, cause he was worse than bad, but not horrible.
    • Martz, at least, has continued to leverage the running game to move them in a position for convertible 3rd downs.
    • On third down: 5 of 9
      • Five were 3rd and 7 or less – Bears convert 3 of 5 (60%). JC was 2 of 3 passing, scrambled for a first down and was sacked once.
      • Four were 3rd and 8 or more – Bears convert 2 of 4 (50%). JC was 3 of 3 passing with one scramble (one pass did not get the first down but put the Bears close enough for Gould’s field goal).
      • Earl Bennett made the case that he is JC’s go-to guy on 3rd down on his first catch of the game, laying out to get the extra inch he needed for a 3rd and 9 conversion. He ended up converting four 3rd downs.

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

Last week, Mad Martz saw a weakness in the Philadelphia Eagles’ edge protection. They used a handoff sweep that allowed the guards and tackles to pull outside. This week, Martz attacked the MIDDLE of the Lions Defensive line.

  • Runs to Left (4), Middle (12), Right (6) – not including Hester’s end-around
  • The Lions tackles and ends do a better job containing then the Eagles, plus I have to assume he just wanted to mix things up.
  • You have to give Mike Martz credit as a coach who understands the concept of performance and confidence. Last week, when I mentioned how terrible Chester Taylor was performing, I suggested that he be moved to 3rd string. Coach Martz instead tried to give Chester MORE opportunities with the ball. Instead of benching him, Martz is trying to give him the chance to build his confidence back up. And I think he had some stirrings of success.
    • Chester Taylor scores the Bears first touchdown with a nice off-tackle run that he bounced (wisely) outside.
    • He found a nice cutback lane and gained 6 yards, when the Lions over-pursued.
    • He also caught a couple of HB release passes from Cutler for nice gains and a couple first downs
    • But, don’t get me wrong; he’s still bad. He miss-reads blocks, slips on cuts, and hesitates constantly.
  • The Lions “dared” Cutler to pass. They lined up 8 in the box most of the game. And, JC made them pay with quick hitches, slants and HB releases on every blitz.
    • Cutler’s odd backpedal plus throwing motion is becoming an advantage. His quick release while backpedaling makes those quick-hitch pass plays effective.
    • Cutler’s vision of the blitz and silent connection with the receivers has improved dramatically since the Giants game. Their pre-snap reads are becoming clearer and they are not missing their reads as much anymore.
    • Cutler made an interesting adjustment in throwing his quick hitches. After having one of them batted down. On the next one, Cutler jumped up in the air… to get it above the defensive lineman. Don’t know that that’s a good habit to maintain.
    • Another exception is Olsen and when he blocks versus when he doesn’t block. Most of the issues with our sacks are a direct result of when Olsen lines up as a TE next to Webb. When this happens, the defense overloads that side. Olsen typically darts off the line avoiding any contact to improve his speed upfield; but Webb cannot block two guys, and this usually leaves an untouched defender steamrolling Cutler.

4) The Story of this game is: Earl Bennett is emerging as a stud

  • Seven receptions for 104 yards
  • Converted four 3rd downs!
  • Turned a 3rd and 1 into a 33 yard gain.
  • He delivered a perfect option pitch to Forte out of the Wildcat formation.

5) Mad Genius Strikes:

  • Mad Genius Moment #1 – Martz lined Chester up as a FB with Forte as the TB in an I-formation. He motions Forte out wide, looking like one of those down the sideline pass play opportunities with Forte against a LB. But it turns into a harmless, FB dive up the middle. But, this is how our Genius Scientist messes with your head! Later, with first and 10 on the 14 yard line and after Bennett just delivered 33 yards off his 3rd and 1. Same I-formation, but this time Cutler faked the FB dive and pitched a naked sweep to Forte on the left side. No one’s there and Forte scurries in for the touchdown.
    • This is a perfect example of setting up the defense!
    • Olsen {yes, Olsen} gets a shout-out for his perfect blocking in the second level against a DB, which is what turned that from a 7-yard gain to a 14-yard touchdown!
  • Mad Genius Moment #2 – First and 10 on our 20, there’s 5:17 left in the game. You’ve run the middle 10 times, and you want to keep the ball on the ground to burn up the clock. What play do you call? Martz calls a pitch sweep left. He hasn’t called this play in at least two games (he used the handoff sweep last week, not the pitch) and he had run left only 3 times before this. Detroit must have overloaded the other side, ‘cause there was no contain, and Forte gets 10 yards, and wakes the Lions up to the fact that they have to cover the run, inside and outside.
  • Mad Genius Moment(s) #3 – So, after this 10 yard sweep, what does Martz do, he calls two straight pass plays (completions), an end-around to Hestor and another quick slant pass to Knox. Most offensive coordinators become very conservative when they’re trying to run out the clock, but our Mad Scientist doesn’t think like them others. He thinks about “what is the defense giving you”. And at that moment, with them close and tight on the line, he thought “prevent corner coverage” equals open quick slants.

6) WTF?

  • Timeouts! We called our first timeout on the 3rd play of the game! Really?!? We called our second timeout on the next drive on 2nd and 5. Really?!? Really?!? Two timeouts burned in the first two series. WTF!
  • Clock Management (Risk versus Reward)
    • Having only 1 timeout really burned us in this game, and this is once again an example of Lovie’s bad timeout / clock management and Martz relying too much on the pass.
    • With 1:30 left in the first half, we are at 3rd and two, the clock is running because we don’t want to use our last timeout in case we need it for later in the drive.
    • At 1:30 left, he should be thinking about managing the clock and the time we leave our opponents if we “don’t” make the first down. In other words, there is absolutely NO REASON to PASS on that play. If we make it with the run, we spike the ball to save the clock. If we miss it, we run the clock down or force a timeout.
    • Running in the middle of the line, our offense gained over 2 yards on 8 of 12 rushes, and Forte was much better at it than Chester.  We should have run the ball!
    • Instead, we throw a batted incompletion and are forced to punt (without running any more time off the clock). With 1:05, the Lions run two plays and score a lead-changing touchdown.

7) Summary

Mad Martz played an interesting game of Simon Says to figure out how good his offense can react to everything he asked of it. And its response was good. Down 7-0, ball on the 24, the O drives downfield and ties the game. Down 7-10, ball on the 17, O drives down the field and scores again. Start of the second half, time for the offense to take control of the game… sack, fumble, uh oh. Okay, settle down, and try something else.

The NFL doesn’t reward “style points”. Analysts do, which is why they all look at Green Bay and say “best team in the NFC North”. But, this team, our team, has a mindset that thinks: if we don’t focus on the here and now, if we think ahead of ourselves, we will lose, because we’re not THAT good. This concept of thinking about only the “NOW” is a brilliant place to be. Being in the “NOW” means that every player thinks I don’t have to win the game, I only have to beat you on this play…. and this play… and this play. Do you think the Vikings and the Cowboys wish they had a “being in the NOW” mentality at the beginning of the season instead of the “Super Bowl or bust” mentality they came into the season with? Do you think the gyrating, finger-waving, retro-gesture wannabe-contender Lions had the “being in the Now” mentality with all their feigned motivational dance moves?

This Bears offense is starting to show poise and grit. They don’t win every play. But they’re starting to win most of the plays. And it doesn’t matter if it’s the Lions this week or the Pats next week. Their “faceless” opponent is just an obstacle to learning what limits they can overcome.