Look for Bears to turn to running game
October 10, 2010
BY MARK POTASH email@example.com
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The aftermath of the Bears' 17-3 loss last Sunday to the New York Giants was a perfect illustration of how a football team's perspective differs from our own.
We saw 10 sacks.
Oh, those ugly memories
They saw one loss.
So while the pass-protection debacle was as bad as it looked and confirmed a whole lot of things about the Bears we don't like -- basically, their failure to evaluate, draft and develop offensive linemen or even put the right guy in the right place -- the Bears are refusing to panic. They never do, even when they should.
We're demanding answers. They're ignoring questions.
Coach Lovie Smith is, at least. He was in rare form last week when he was asked how crucial it is for the offensive line to show up today against the Carolina Panthers, considering backup Todd Collins isn't as mobile as Jay Cutler.
''They've been showing up each week,'' Smith said, ''and they'll show up again this week with Todd and the rest of the group.''
Thanks, Coach. Sorry to bother you with a question about your offensive line a week after one of the worst displays of pass protection in the history of the NFL.
Maybe we should remind him that while he sees one loss, we see two quarterbacks knocked out of the game, including Cutler, the franchise. You can lose more than one game and make the playoffs. But I'm pretty sure you can't lose even one Cutler and make them.
Martz has been here before
That's a problem. But they're working on it.
''We just had a bad game,'' guard Lance Louis said. ''We missed some things that easily could be corrected.''
''Like technique, feet,'' Louis said. ''That's a big part, feet not being right. You miss a step or two, and you get beat.
''You can get them corrected. But things happen. This is the NFL. It happens.''
Offensive coordinator Mike Martz isn't panicking, either. But he has a little more credibility because he has cleaned up his own mess before.
When Martz was the offensive coordinator of the Detroit Lions in 2008, Jon Kitna was sacked nine times by the Philadelphia Eagles in a 56-21 loss that pretty much took the starch out of a 2-0 start.
It was a familiar refrain.
''They got us on a scheme where they really got us,'' Martz said after that game. ''There were some things that just happened. We've addressed all of that. We'll fix it and move on.''
The next week, the Lions played the Bears, who had 10 sacks in their first three games. Brian Urlacher had three, Tommie Harris two and Mark Anderson two to give him 15½ in his first 22 NFL games.
Martz knew he needed to run the ball, but it looked like a bad move against the Bears. The Bears already had shut down LaDainian Tomlinson (17 carries, 25 yards) and Larry Johnson (16 carries, 55 yards). And they were vulnerable through the air without injured cornerbacks Charles Tillman and Nathan Vasher. So it looked as though Martz was in a pickle: His best chance to win was through the air, but it might get his quarterback killed.
It's going to happen
So what happened? Martz took his 29th-ranked running game and went right at the Bears. Kevin Jones and Tatum Bell netted only 40 yards on 15 carries, but the wear-and-tear on the Bears' defense paid off.
The Lions, who had 97 yards in the first half (3.2 per play), amassed 213 in the second half (8.5 per play) and won 37-27. Kitna was sacked six times but was 11-for-12 for 165 yards and two touchdowns in the second half to finish with a 137.3 passer rating.
(That same day, the Eagles, who had sacked Kitna nine times the week before, were paid back by the Giants, who sacked Donovan McNabb 12 times in a 16-3 victory. That tied the record for most sacks in an NFL game. No team had come close to that mark until the Giants batted Cutler around like a rag doll last Sunday.)
So even with the 31st-ranked rushing offense in the NFL, there's a good chance Martz will throw caution to the wind today and run more than he has this season.
''We will run the ball a little bit,'' Smith said. ''But you've got to do a little more than just run.''
When Smith downplays his cherished running game, you know it's going to happen.