9:58 AM CDT, September 13, 2011
The Choice (and remember, death is not an option): Mike Martz’s end-around to Dane Sanzenbacher with the game still in doubt or Mike Martz’s bootleg for Jay Cutler with the game already decided?
But wait, other than those two curious calls, I thought Martz had himself a game against the Falcons. This wasn’t last season’s start when Martz stubbornly called plays no matter how many lives were endangered. Nope, this was last season’s balanced offense when the Bears took off.
On Sunday, Martz called plays with an actual idea of what kind of speed his players have and what kind of protection his line could provide. Pretty basic, huh? Yes, for sane people, it is pretty basic.
Last season, however, Martz stubbornly called plays that he liked and apparently had worked a long ago in a galaxy far, far away, but weren’t close to working with the Bears, only nobody told Martz until the bye week. I’ve been hard on Martz, but on Sunday he called the game that was in front of him.
The conventional screen to Forte that went for a touchdown was perfectly timed. The flanker screen to Devin Hester played to his unit’s strength. Both plays provided evidence that Martz has made the Bears a terrific screen team.
What’s more, Martz recognized that the Bears include another important unit, using enough running plays early to get the defense some rest against Atlanta’s sometimes-exhausting no-huddle offense.
And look at that: The offensive line showed it could block at least some of the signature deep drops of the Martz du Soleil philosophy. That’s big, and here’s why: Last season Martz seemed to call plays based on what kind of protection his line absolutely, positively had to provide, seemingly oblivious that the line absolutely, positively couldn’t. On Sunday, Cutler had time to take seven-step drops and turn them into some of the six 20-yard-plus plays the offense rang up.
Funny thing is, Martz’s best call went for nothing when Cutler missed Kellen Davis on that throwback screen that was wide open. Wide. Open. How do you overthrow a 6-foot, 7-inch guy?
No matter. The play was there. Easily there. That’s key.
Sure, the Bears offense still had problems: five sacks, an interception, and just 1-of-3 in the red zone. The red zone failures become more acute this season after the league legislated Bears kickoff return scores out of existence. So, the Bears offense has to get more touchdowns.
After one game, anyway, plays for those touchdowns were there. The options for those touchdowns were greater than a year ago. That’s progress. Encouraging and necessary progress. On Sunday, Martz righted his greatest crime from last season: He put his players in position to succeed.
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