On the 32 plays when Jay Cutler either dropped back or lined up in shotgun Sunday against the Vikings, the Bears protected him with six or more blockers 75 percent of the time.
This was a wise bow both to the Vikings' fierce pass rush and the Bears' blocking deficiencies.
The Bears used seven blockers seven times, including on both of Cutler's touchdown passes, and used six blockers 17 times.
Many times, the extra blockers just chipped Vikings defenders and then peeled off into routes.
Martz also called for fewer deep drops than in previous games. The Bears used only five seven-step drops. Want to know why? On those plays, the Vikings had their only sack of the night, the Bears had three incompletions and two completions that failed to gain first downs.
The five-step drop was the perfect solution against the Vikings. The Bears used it 16 times. They also ran four three-step drops and lined up in the shotgun six times.
Here is what else we learned after taking a second look.
Grading key: Grades are between 0 and 10 with 0 being complete failure and 10 being perfect.
This was the line's best performance of the year, and the blockers were assisted by coaches, the quarterback, running backs, tight ends and receivers.
Even though Jared Allen is the NFL's leading sacker, the Bears didn't help J'Marcus Webb against him much more than they helped Lance Louis with Brian Robison. They assigned a running back or tight end to help with Allen on 13 plays; they assigned one to help with Robison on 11 plays.
Bears coaches minimized some of the blockers' deficiencies in the passing game, but you really can't hide incompetence in the run game. And the coaches didn't have to. The run blocking was pretty good.
The only real negatives were the false starts by Williams and Spencer, and the strip/sack Webb allowed to Allen. It actually was a borderline coverage sack, with Cutler holding the ball a little more than four seconds.
They didn't have a huge impact on the game, but they did what was asked of them effectively. Matt Spaeth blocked Allen by himself on the Devin Hester touchdown catch. He also was solid in the run game.
The numbers weren't overwhelming, but the effect was. Forte had only three carries of more than 10 yards, but he ran brilliantly. On a few occasions, he deserved applause for getting it back to the line of scrimmage.
He followed his blockers well, made excellent cuts and refused to go down easily. On an 11-yard run, it took three Vikings to get him tackled.
The run game was so good that the Vikings had to respect play-action, which the Bears ran seven times. On those plays, Cutler threw two touchdowns and had a passer rating of 148.8.
Barber filled his role well in short-yardage situations.
The backs also played a big role in protection, especially Forte. He contributed with a chip or block in pass protection 14 times. Barber helped six times and Tyler Clutts three times.
The receivers ran good routes, created separation and got open. That enabled Cutler to get the ball out quickly and throw on timing.
Devin Hester caused the Vikings multiple problems, and none of the receivers played poorly. That includes Roy Williams, who was a presence in the middle of the field and appears to be finding himself in the Martz offense.
Cutler set the tone for the game with his excellent 48-yard touchdown pass to Hester that dropped right in Hester's hands with the perfect arc. For the rest of the game, he was pretty efficient.
He wasn't perfect though. He threw two passes that could have been intercepted — one behind Hester over the middle in the second quarter and another in the third quarter intended for Johnny Knox.
He threw three short-range passes with more mustard on them than his receivers could handle — and one of them should have been a touchdown.
The fumble was all on Cutler. He was holding the ball low and away from his body — poor technique.
Aside from the touchdown pass, his best play might have been a gutsy cut block on Allen that prevented the big DE from making a tackle.
Where has this been all season? Between pressures and sacks, the Bears affected 42 percent of the Vikings' dropbacks. That's outstanding.
And it wasn't coming from one person. Every defensive lineman who played, even Mario Addison, had a pressure or a sack.
And if a knee injury makes Julius Peppers rush the passer the way he did Sunday night, the Bears should take a baseball bat to his knees before every game.
They didn't make any flashy plays, but they were disciplined, they worked together and were effective.
Nick Roach turned in his best performance of the season, showing athleticism on some tackles and in coverage. He had a couple of quarterback hits on blitzes.
The safety play was a big improvement over a week ago, but it still wasn't anything spectacular. Chris Conte and Major Wright didn't make any killer mistakes, though both could have read and reacted better at times.
It was easy to play cornerback with a pass rush like the Bears had. D.J. Moore came close to having another pick-six on an instinctive reaction to a bubble screen, but that was the only time a cornerback had a pass breakup despite the fact the Vikings put it up 42 times.
This is a nice analysis and write up by Pompei. Even though it was against the Vikings they still have a decent defense and a very good pass rush. This shows how when you game plan well and think outside of the box a little this offense begins to hit on most if not all cylinders.
What was obvious to all of us was how much better pass protection Cutler got and if that too wasn't obvious here Pompei tells us why. Using more then the 5 down lineman to pass block 75% of the time has to be a new record for Martz. I guess we can assume that he listened to what Jay Cutler, or whoever, and made a decision to go against his usual ways and it worked even better than expected. Maybe he needs to redesign his offense some. Both Webb and Louis did well blocking one on one and Matt Spaeth did a real number on Jared Allen to allow Cutler time to complete the TD pass to Hester. We could use a little more of plays like that now that we can block for them.
With the exception of some key drops on some catches which should have been made, one on Hester and one each on Sanz and Spaeth on the goaline the receivers did a pretty good job of getting open all night. Even RWill showed what he can do in the middle of the field when he gets off his ass and plays. The Vikings don't have a great secondary but it was still a good night for Bears receivers.
I think he's being pickier about Cutler's game than he needs to be. Yeah he threw a couple of bad passes that may have been picked by other teams but this was definitely his best game of the year. When was the last time we saw a Bears QB throw a prettier deep ball than the TD pass to Hester. He never even had to adjust to the throw, which for him is probably a good thing. Cutler laid the ball right in his hands in stride. Now that he's taking shorter drops and getting the ball out quicker his receivers better get used to hanging on to those fastballs he throws. He would have had two more TD throws if Sanz and Spaeth had held on to passes on the goaline.
Forte was Forte at his best again and even though he's rushed for more yardage that was absolutely the best he's ever run behind the line. He pickes his holes and followed blocks better than I've ever seen him do and there was an elusiveness he's never shown before either. Between that and the power he's showing he's become a much better RB. Add to that his blocking and pass receiving and there's no doubt in my mind that he is an elite all purpose, 3 down back. Barber looked OK on his short yardage carries and was one ankle tackle away from breaking at least one big run. Having Clutts at FB is really helping Forte's game as well.
Stephen Paea looks like he'll be inactive far less now that he's shown that explosiveness and strength that he's been advertised to have. He shot the gap perfectly on his sack of McNabb for a safety and I watched him bullrush double team blocking and get a push several times. Henry Melton always gets pressure but falls short of the sack and up to this point he's been a liability against the run. I thought the best DT combo in this game was Paea and Okoye. Izzy had a sack, Pep had two even on a bum leg, and Okoye and Paea one each. I think we'd have had five more if Ponder wasn't as slippery as he is. That boy has Aaron Rodgers type evasiveness in the pocket.
Linebacking was about what you expect out of Briggs and Uralcher who did a nice job of bottling up AP. My theory about why teams have been gashing us with long runs proved somewhat correct. Nick Roach played far more snaps than he had been playing and played one of his best games. By staying out of nickel coverage and having 3 LB's as opposed to only two we're able to contain the run much better.
His commentary of the play of Conte and Wright is spot on. Nothing spectacular because they really weren't challenged all that much so it's hard to get a read on them. The CB's must have been playing off their guys all game since there were open receivers underneath the coverage all night but short passes do little damage compared to those bombs we've been giving up. Peanut led the team in tackles.
The ST play was..........ridiculous. The Vikings would have been better off just kicking the ball out of bounds. They can move kickoffs anywhere they want to nobody can stop Hester when he gets the fever. One thing I noticed is that his KOR blockers are finally starting to get it and it's opening holes for him that weren't there a game ago. He almost had a PR TD too but Clutts got in his way, the clutz. We're getting our $$$ worth out of Podlesh, good move there, and Robbie Gould is the very best in a long line of very good PK we've had over the years. In usually just go to the john when he sets up to kick because I'm 99% certain he won't miss.
I'm getting to that age where a lifetime warranty just doesn't mean as much to me anymore as an afternoon nap.
Honey Badger Don't Care. Honey Badger Don't Give a Shit.