Chicago Sun-Times

Time for Martz, Bears' offense to pick a lane

| 10 Comments | No TrackBacks

In Week 4 of the 1999 season, when it still seemed like it was just a matter of time before the Bears mastered the nuances of Gary Crowton's "razzle-dazzle" offense and took the NFL by storm, the Bears and Shane Matthews were getting shut out by Mike Ditka's Saints at Soldier Field late in the fourth quarter.

Suddenly, everything clicked. With 4:35 left and the Bears down 10-0, Matthews led a 10-play, 79-yard touchdown drive, hitting Curtis Conway for a 22-yard score to make it 10-7 with 1:48 left.

The Bears got the ball back with 1:08 to go and Matthews engineered an even more stunning drive, going 67 yards on six plays for the game-winning touchdown -- a six-yard pass from Matthews to Conway with seven seconds left.

The Bears won 14-10, but it was a red flag for the Crowton offense more than a celebration of it. Out of desperation, Matthews took control of the offense and called all the plays in "two-minute drill" fashion. How is it that Matthews could call plays in Crowton's offense under duress better than Crowton could during the course of the game?

That was the second seed of doubt about the Crowton offense (the first was the scoreless second half in the opener against the Chiefs). And the rest was history.

I guess it is a little ironic that on that same day, while the Bears were struggling to get their promising offense off the ground, Mike Martz and the St. Louis Rams were doing everything the Bears had hoped to do and more. In his third game as a fill-in starter, Kurt Warner threw three more touchdown passes and had a perfect 158.3 passer rating as the Rams -- who like the Bears were a 4-12, last-place team the previous season -- whipped the Bengals 38-10 to improve to 3-0 en route to an unlikely Super Bowl victory.

Ironic, because the Bears' 34-29 victory over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday at Soldier Field gave me that same feeling of doubt about Martz's offense as I had about Crowton's in 1999. Here is this offense that is supposed to drive defenses batty with a relentless passing attack (the Rams led the NFL in passing from 1999-2001 and were in the top five for six consecutive seasons) and after 21 games is resorting to the most standard of running attacks to beat a middle-of-the-pack-at-best defense.

The Bears had 224 yards rushing and 93 passing. Jay Cutler didn't throw a pass in the first quarter, threw only four in the first half and finished 9-of-17 for 102 yards and an interception for a 46.7 passer rating.

Another red flag: After nearly two years of work on a precision offense (though without an offseason in 2011), after the Bears molded their roster to give Martz players who best fit his system -- like Roy Williams and Matt Spaeth and Dane Sanzenbacher -- the biggest addition has been fullback Tyler Clutts, who was picked off the Cleveland Browns' practice squad five days before the season opener.

Clutts was on the field for most of the Bears' biggest plays against the Panthers. He was the lead blocker for 176 of Matt Forte's 205 rushing yards. He had the key block that sprang Forte for gains of 46 and 40 yards and blocked 6-2, 275-pound defensive end Charles Johnson to clear the way for a big four-yard gain on fourth-and-one in the fourth quarter.

It's true that even with ''The Greatest Show on Turf'' in St. Louis, the Rams would have similar games where the running game dominated. Two weeks after the Rams beat the Bengals in 1999, Marshall Faulk rushed for 181 yards and Warner passed for only 111 in a rout of the Falcons. But by then the offensive identity had clearly been established -- Warner had already thrown 14 touchdown passes to three interceptions and was averaging 304 passing yards a game.

That's not the case with the Bears. They look like an offense designed to use the pass to set up the run, but looks much more comfortable using the run to set up the pass. As my Sun-Times colleague Neil Hayes pointed out earlier this week, their biggest crisis on offense is not Jay Cutler, Roy Williams or the tight ends, but one of identity. Until they figure out what they do best, they're destined to muddle through this season on offense and let the defense and special teams do the heavy lifting. It worked last season, but as we can see already, it's a dicey proposition in 2011.

No TrackBacks

TrackBack URL: http://blogs.suntimes.com/cgi-bin/mt-tb.cgi/43160

10 Comments

Tyler Clutts was a nice addition, he is an effective blocker. The key here though is not only Clutts, its giving Matt Forte a lead blocker (fullback) that has helped the running game. Having a 260lb mini guard in front of Forte will make him a much more effective runner. Now Martz needs to keep running.

Chicago's offensive line simply cannot give Cutler the time in the pocket to effectively execute the 5-7 step drops Martzs would like to run, Martz needs to realize that, and it looks like he did vs the Panthers. This is a running team, that needs to be the identity, run to set up the pass.

The thing is, even running teams need to be able to pass somewhat, can the Bears? I don't know? Is the problem in the passing game the line? Lack of an effective receiver? Cutler? Maybe all 3? As far as the line, getting Gabe Carimi back will help, and guard Lance Louis has looked pretty good what little he has played this season. And as far as the receivers maybe getting Earl Bennett back will help? What worries me the most is Cutler and the way he doesn't seem to be getting better?

Let me get one thing straight here, Jay Cutler is better than Kyle Orton and especially Rex Grossman. And the way Cutler gets beat down on every pass play, I'll never question his toughness. But, the thing is, after 3 seasons in Chicago you have to wonder, is Jay Cutler an elite quarterback? I mean you can blame the line and receivers all you want, but after awhile the QB needs to be able to make some plays. Is Jay Cutler the kind of QB that can take over a game on his own and win? I don't think so. Yeah Cutler takes a lot of hits, the most of any QB the last couple seasons, but you know whos right behind him, Big Ben and Aaron Rodgers. Yes both Big Ben and Rodgers have better receivers, but Cutler has had Forte and a pretty good defense to make things happen. Also, both Big Ben and Rodgers have had some pretty bad offensive lines to work behind themselves and have still got the job done. Even Jon Kitna had back to back 4,000 yard passing seasons with Martzs back in 2006-07, and Kitna was able to complete over 60% of his passes, and his offensive line was far worse than Chicago's back then, hard to imagine but true. Cutler just seems to be getting worse, his completion percentage is down in the 50's, he just doesn't seem to be doing the things the elite QB's do? I'm not ready to run him out of town, maybe a different offensive coordinator will help? But for the first time since the trade back in 2009 I gotta wonder, when will he become one of the elite? GO BEARS!!

I'm losing faith in Martz, because it clear he doesnt know his personal. Maybe someone is in his ear, but Hester should not be on the outside. Hester should be used for no more than gadget plays, in arounds, and all his route should be in the slot going no more than 10 yards unless it a fly pattern.

Matt forte should be involve in the passing game as well with more than those dump off passes Cutler passes to him cause he's under duress. Personally I think he may have the best hands on the team.

I like what if seen out of knox this season. As long as you dont send him over the middle where he get alligator hands. And he has to just keep getting better as the season goes on.

Lastly you brougt in Roy Williams for a reason at least see what he can do he only had one target last week and kellen davis should be more invovle as well.

In my opinion, the biggest problem they have is Lovie's indecisiveness when it comes to getting rid of coaches not doing the job. When his job is on the line, he seems to deliver--not before. He is loyal to a fault, often sticking with guys well past their time to be successful. He doesn't adjust his offense after halftime, insisting (as his players are now doing) that "if we just execute OUR offense, we will be okay". Instead of recognizing and admitting what is being done isn't working and adjusting, we continue to watch them try beating a dead horse.

Players show flashes of brilliance and it seems obvious to the casual fan what needs to be done: Hester is without equal receiving, yet Lovie risks him on receiving routes where he can get creamed across the middle instead of recognizing the contribution to starting field position being more valuable being one example. The players often do things that make you wonder "why don't they do more of that?" yet Lovie continues with what he is doing.

Say what you will about Ditka, but at least you knew halftime adjustments were coming.

What's my motivation? Don't speak to me as if I am a child Mark. I played football in college in a play called All American. I really feel like I don't know who I am, I mean sometimes a feel all passy like, and other times I just want to run like the wind. Am I strong or fast, can I be both? And why are defenses so mean to me, its hard to know who you are when everyone else keeps putting you down or beating you up. Do you think I am happy about what we saw with Carolina, okay? Cam is a large powerful black man, I mean how can I the Bears offense be like that? I felt so inadequate, not like a real offense at all. And have you seen the Packers, I mean really, what am I suppose to do with that, it's like a horrible before and after pick, except I have never been in the after photo, I am always before.

I mean some things are great, like when the fans cheer me at home except its also a detriment cause I can't here myself think and then I get all confused and have to call a timeout. And I don;t want to say up cause they are cheering, but really, shut up I am trying and you are distracting me.

And its hard because everyone wants me to be the best and that's a lot of pressure and the defenses won't stop picking on us, they are so mean to me. There is just so much going on and you don't know what it is like to be with me or what I have to deal with. The other night I stayed late to study some film, and "sniffle" Martz was there and he sat down next to me and "boo hoo hoo" he said, he said you ahve pretty mouth, and then he, he aggggg, he touched my secret place and asked if I wanted to play with grandpa's magic puppet? "BOOOOO, HOOOOO, HOOOOO, OHHHHHHH!!!

I told Lovie, but he said, he said, he didn't care and I should shut my mouth and no my role. He said if I said anything about his friend he would hurt me, hurt me worse than what Martz did. He said if I told he would bring back Terry Shea and he would really show me what a QB sack looked like.

Thank goodness for that nice mister Toub, he drove me home and gave me some cocoa, warm cocoa not hot, the hot stuff is dangerous for me.

Guys I have to tell you, I am really scared about this Suh fella, he looks really scary and mean. I hope he doesn't hurt me.

Oh and then there is that Creighton fella, he makes me cry,he is like one of those trainers on "biggest looser" always being mean to those poor sweet fatty people, big honeys need lovin too Mr. Creighton. Why do you have to say all that stuff? I know how deeply flawed I am and Mark your not helping either, Okay? I love that Kevin Armstead though, he always makes me smile and talks about how great I am, he is totally my boyfriend, he buys me teddy Bears and sings to me all the time.

best comment I have read on one of these things ever. I am going to call social services on the bears.

As much as it pains me to face up to it, your analysis of Cutler is spot on. The guy has a great arm, bu from the neck up does not demonstrate the skills necessary to be considered an elite QB.

Kevin,
When will Cutler become elite? When Martz learns how to call a balanced game. We either get 224 yards rushing, or 22 yards rushing. We rarely get a 50/50, or even 55/45 split of runs and passes. Cutler may not be Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, but he is more talented than most of the QBs in this league, and is getting nothing in the form of help from his coaching staff, his arsenal of weapons, or his offensive line.

Johnny Knox started over Roy Williams on Sunday....He still ran the wrong routes, is incapable of catching with his hands, and acts like a wimp when contact is imminent. Devin Hester? Still can't manage to mold himself into a wide receiver. Dane Sanzenbacher? Are we really going to hang our hats on an undrafted rookie possession receiver? A scout was quoted a week ago saying not a single Bear offensive lineman would start on any other team in the league. Peyton Manning wouldn't be able to win with this offense, especially with Martz calling the plays.

This is a horrible fit as far as player and offense. Cutler's best year was when he played under Shanahan, where there was a commitment to the running game, a lot of play action, and utilizing Cutler's mobility on sprint-outs, bootlegs, and oh yeah, one more thing....He actually got to stand upright and throw the ball!
Martz wants him to drop straight back while surveying the field, where he can obviously see that none of his receivers can get open other than Sanzenbacher, who the defense just leaves alone because he's not a threat. They play physical with Knox and Hester, and try to knock the ball loose from Williams because he is lazy and coughs it up regularly.

Forte is his only weapon, and Martz has made him 1-dimensional. No one fears our running game, even after 224 yards in Carolina. Detroit will keep 7 in the box to stop the run Monday night, and probably stuff us on the first 3 or 4 tries. Martz will abandon the run, and Cutler will get murdered while our offensive line keeps getting beaten by simple hesitation moves.

You ask when Cutler is going to be elite? When he isn't playing 2 against 11...When Angelo and Lovie realize their best chance to win is to build around their young QB, not around their 30+ year old linebackers....I don't think they will learn that, and Cutler will either languish in mediocrity, or get hurt, or demand a ticket out of town. And he will get bashed for it, like he did with McDaniels...no one apologized to Jay when they finally realized McDaniels was a d-bag who knew nothing about coaching or personnel, and couldn't do anything without Tom Brady...And they won't apologize when Martz is selling hot dogs on a corner, and Lovie and Angelo are finally removed for how ineptly they have managed this team.

I feel badly for Jay, because he is giving it everything he has, but it will never be enough. You can't consistently win in this league when you are fielding a squad of practice squad players on offense, and your coordinator still hasn't adapted his offense since he had a HOF RB, HOF QB, and 2 All Pro Receivers...and a veteran, Pro-Bowl caliber LT and LG...He is too stubborn to learn from his mistakes, and not smart enough to change things up. So defenses cover the deep ins and outs, and don't worry about the TE. That is how you beat Mike Martz, and it appears he is the only one who doesn't get it.

You know I could answer all your question and already have multiple times. But the only reason you are asking is because you are to lazy to actually look stuff up.

Example Jon Kitna had 4000 passing yards,

So what, Jon Kitna through more interceptions than picks in the Martz offense and had a QB rating of 80. You also forgot Cutler missed a game and a half with a cuncussion. But hey don't want to mess up your point with the truth right? He also had much better recievers.

Something else you forgot to check? Attempts. To get to 4000 yards he had 596 and 561. You say their line was worse, how so? Cause it was actually better, the Bears line gave up 56 sacks on 466 drop backs, gosh the sack rate is actually higher. You just looked a number didn't you? Did you even look at who was on those line? They were actually better and more talented. Di it also never occure to you that they played in a Dome in a dome system.

You want to compare Rodgers and Big Ben to Cutler. Both men have been in taylored offenses for over 6 years. Those offenses are taylored to them, they have better talent across the board. For some reason you think Forte makes up the difference because he had one good game? But to further it, Cutle ris well known for his ability run and throw on the run. Yet he does not use a moving pocket here or naked boot legs, boot legs. Nothing like that. because Martz does not Taylor his offense to his players, have you not noticed that, he does not taylor it to anyone, and everyone is struggling. He does not adjust his offense, get it?

By the way big Ben and Cutler have about the same amount of sacks and hits. Although the reason for this is Bens line is missing several good starters. Where as the guy who replaced Louis is actually better than him, by a lot, cause Louis suckes. But let me also point out to you, Ben Was sacked 32 times last year, , but to further that, this year Bens stats look like this, Passer rating 80, TD's 3, int's 5. Wo waht numbers.

By the way the Packers line is ranked 9th in the league the Bears is 31st, so I am gonna say their line is better than the Bears line.

So basically the Comparison you want to make is "how come a QB(Cutler) who is his third offense and only his second year in this offense, is not putting up the same numbers as Rodgers and big been. Yes both those teams have better lines and more talent across the board, but Cutler has Forte so it is equal. Yes both QB's Rodgers and Ben have been in their taylored offenses for more than 3 times as long as Cutler and yes, they can audible and yes they take over play calling if they see something. Cutler is not allowed to do that but I think it is the same just because I want to look like I figured something out. Ok yes all the players look confused and out of rythem but we have Forte so that means we should win everything cause he had one big game against the second worst run defense in the league. Also Kitna led the Lions to a 3-13 record, why can't Jay do that, Kitna was awsome. We have Forte so we have more talent than all the other teams in the NFL. Webb, Louis, Garza, and Carimi are all studs who are super great at protecting, all of this is Cutlers fault. Who is this Martz guy people keep talking about?"

Now I spoke to you in the Kevin voice because I figure you will understand it better. You didn't hink out anything you wrote.


Creative post Creighton, kinda funny. Kevin, your points on Cutler are well taken and is Cutler an elite QB, no he is not and will he become one of the elite QB's maybe but as every year passes it is less likely that he will become great.

Cutler has all of the talent in the world, yet he does not prepare as well as other QB's, he makes poor decisions and throws too many interceptions on the field and in particular in the red zones his decision making has still been questionable.

Rating wise and historically Cutler is just average, was he worth the first round picks given up for him, maybe or maybe not there is still time for him to make the impact we all expect which is to lead the Bears the same way that Rodgers leads the Packers, Brees leads the Saints, Brady leads the Patriots to name just a few of the better QB's in the league.

Yes he is better than both Grossman and Orton but not by too much as a matter of fact in some comparisons these two do OK versus Cutler. My gut tells me and my perception is that Cutler is not as passionate and committed about the game of football, and in his desire to lead by example as exemplified by Manning, Brady, Brees, Ryan and Rodgers, I can name another 10 or so from past years.

I remember the passion of Walter Payton, Gale Sayers, Dick Butkus, Mike Singletary, Dan Hampton etc etc and the fact that Payton, Sayers and Butkus played on poor teams and Payton played behind some O lines that were so terrible yet he excelled because of his heart and desire.

The real problem is that my expectations of Cutler is for him to be a great one because of his physical ability, but it takes so much more and I hope he can find it within him to achieve greatness.

Your article deserved better posts than you got, Mark. I totally agree with most of what you say, but with the inconsistency of the offensive line ( sometimes protecting for passes very well and other times standing around looking confused, and then blocking beautifully for runs at times and allowing the back to get stuffed at other times ), I think it is hard for the offense to get an identity one way or the other.Kevin A.'s post makes a couple of points worth pondering, but I think Cutler's problems are generally due to two things, maybe three: no protection, receivers running wrong routes or failing to get separation the inability of the backs and/or tight ends to pick up blizes.I am looking forward to watching the Detroit game, because I think the Bears have to have a balance between running and passing in this game. Perhaps a shoot-out would be a possibility if Cutler can get some solid protection and if the defense cannot contain the Lions' passing attack, but I think a balanced approach is more likely.One of these days Williams and Hester are going to break loose for big games. Monday would be a good time to start.

Leave a comment

Twitter updates

Categories

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Mark Potash published on October 5, 2011 7:50 AM.

Bears taking a look at LB Pisa Tinoisamoa was the previous entry in this blog.

Angelo: Titans nearly drafted Hester before Bears is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.