Blog Entry

Will Bears' OC Martz turn to running game?

Posted on: September 24, 2011 8:08 pm
Has Mike Martz finally learned his lesson? (Getty Images)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

It is with an acute sense of "Hey, haven't we heard this before?" that we read the Dan Pompei column in the Chicago Tribune suggesting that Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz has learned a very valuable lesson from last Sunday's 30-13 loss to the Saints. A loss that included six Jay Cutler sacks, multiple Jay Cutler hits, and a post-game Jay Cutler admission that he's pretty sure he won't survive the 2011 season.

Martz called pass plays on 52 of Chicago's 63 offensive snaps (that works out to a whopping 83 percent), presumably paying no attention to beating Cutler was taking. It was so bad that Martz earned a name-check in our weekly Coach Killers column, and Bears coach Lovie Smith said that "I know the balance as far as running/pass wasn't there. All I can say is we'll get it better. You can't win football games with that type of balance."

No. No, you can't.

But Pompei thinks the Saints game will be a turning point in the Bears' season, the moment when Martz finally realizes that he needs to run the ball, too. Partly, for health reasons as they relate to Cutler but also because Matt Forte is a pretty good running back. (In related news: Forte is under the impression the Bears don't consider him an elite back. Weird.)

"The Bears probably would have lost that game no matter what plays Mike Martz called," Pompei wrote Saturday. "But because he tossed aside the run game as if it were a bill he didn't have sufficient funds to pay, he's going to have to pay interest now.

"Martz designs plays better than the large majority of coaches in his position. He has a great feel for how to attack defenses. He is one of the premier offensive minds in the modern era of football. But he needs a figurative slap in the face now and then. Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams gave him one."

That's putting it lightly.

Here's the thing: we've seen this movie before. Martz falls in love with the passing game, bad stuff happens, and he briefly pays lip service to the running game until the cycle repeats itself.

For fun, we consulted the Football Outsiders offensive efficiency rankings for the last three Martz-coached teams (all as offensive coordinators):

2010 Bears: 19th rushing, 28th passing, 28th overall;
2008 49ers: 24th rushing, 26th passing, 27th overall;
2007 Lions: 25th rushing, 19th passing, 24th overall;
2006 Lions: 32nd rushing, 20th passing, 28th overall.

Granted, some of the ineptitude listed above had to do with the personnel on those teams. But Martz has to shoulder some of the blame. More than that, if it's clear that dialing up one passing play after the next will get your quarterback killed, it doesn't require much in the way of football smarts to call running plays.

According to Football Outsiders' adjusted sack rate statistic (defined as "sacks per pass attempt adjusted for down, distance, and opponent"), the Bears ranked 32nd in 2010, the 49ers were 31st in 2008, and the Lions were 26th in 2007 and 30th in 2006.

So, sure, Martz might be the biggest brain in the room. But he's dreadful when it comes to making in-game adjustments. But who knows. Maybe this is the moment he fully commits to the running game. That said, Sunday seems like a bad time to turn over a new leaf -- the Bears are hosting the Packers.

After their second straight victory last week, the Green Bay Packers will travel to Soldier Field to take on the Chicago Bears on Sunday.'s Pat Kirwan and Jason Horowitz preview this upcoming game.

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Since: Dec 2, 2011
Posted on: January 16, 2012 4:20 am

Will Bears' OC Martz turn to running game?

Since: Dec 2, 2011
Posted on: January 1, 2012 2:56 am

Will Bears' OC Martz turn to running game?

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Posted on: December 25, 2011 5:22 am

Will Bears' OC Martz turn to running game?

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Since: Dec 2, 2011
Posted on: December 4, 2011 8:06 pm

Will Bears' OC Martz turn to running game?

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Since: Nov 28, 2011
Posted on: November 28, 2011 1:30 pm
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Since: Oct 21, 2011
Posted on: October 23, 2011 9:57 am
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Since: Jul 17, 2007
Posted on: September 25, 2011 12:05 pm

Will Bears' OC Martz turn to running game?

I think this past Sunday was a prime example of personnel trumping scheme.

When the 'Greatest Show on Turf' was lighting up the scoreboard, you had a solid OL anchored by a future Hall of Famer, and a cadre of physical, All Pro caliber receivers (2 of whom will certainly be considered for the HoF), and a future HoF do-everything back.

Over the past two seasons, the Bears have a patchwork OL and a small, decidely un-physical receiving corps that get stymied in man-coverage. The only difference to the corps this year is that the one physical downfield threat was traded away.

So OF COURSE Greg Williams is going to pin his defense's ears back.

Shuffle passes, bubble screens, tight end screens should theorhetically burn those calls on occaision... when you're 3 and 4 wide and have receivers that can't beat man, you're toast.

My ONE fear for the Bears this year is that Martz won't adjust... it's that the reason why they dialed up almost 90% pass plays is because that as bad as the Bears pass blocking is (with Lance Louis and Carimi out) their run blocking is worse.

Since: May 20, 2008
Posted on: September 25, 2011 10:20 am

Will Bears' OC Martz turn to running game?

Well said - quick slants are the way to go.  Thats what the Packers do to us all game long, every game.

Since: Oct 31, 2008
Posted on: September 25, 2011 9:39 am

Will Bears' OC Martz turn to running game?

The Bears have a perfect game plan already for beating blitzing defenses.  They just forgot about it.  In 2010 against the Cowboys the first half was blitz crazy and the Bears couldn't move the ball, and Cutler got swarmed.  The second half they came out with three step drops and quick slants, screens, hot reads and got away from 7 step drops every passing play.  Those 7 step drops are no good with this O-Line while other teams blitz. Neutralize the blitz then go back to the regular offense.

The Bears do this and they will be a great team this year that is tough to beat.   

Since: Jun 11, 2008
Posted on: September 25, 2011 8:35 am

Will Bears' OC Martz turn to running game?

This is getting really old, tell me , where have you heard this before, an offensive line that is like swiss cheese and a receiving core that features a DB as their number one option?  Hmmm, that would be the Bears from last year.  What have they done to improve themselves you ask?  Added a run-blocker through the draft on a pass first team with Martz, put a seventh round draft pick as the starting left tackle.  Don't rsign your veteran center and move a guard over to that spot and keep the same underperforming players from last season and somehow expect different results.  Devin Hester is a very nice player but not a go-to number one receiver and Johnny Knox although possessing blazing speed is small and gets jammed at the line by physical corners.  Although the o-line held up in week one, they were exposed in week two against the Saints blitzing and failed miserably in pass protection.  I know there are many Cutler haters out there who blame him exclusively for the Bears woes but I don't care if you have Marino, Montana and Brady all wrapped into one QB, if the guy has the line caving in and wearing two or three D lineman every play, what do expect.  Cutler is going to get killed at this rate, he led the league in sacks and unfortunately is on pace to break that record along with many bones.  Draft wisely on quality offensive lineman and get a true number one receiver not someone else's leftovers (Roy Williams).

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