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Trying to 'fix' the Bears' offense

Five adjustments I would make to the game plan in Chicago. Matt Bowen

Print This September 27, 2011, 11:00 AM EST
25 Comments

From my perspective, this Bears’ offense under Mike Martz is broken. No other way to say it after seeing this unit struggle to execute, put together drives and score points in consecutive losses vs. two pressure defenses: New Orleans and Green Bay.

But how do you fix it? Because with the style of defense the Bears play under Lovie Smith, they will have opportunities. Here are five adjustments I would make this week in practice before the Panthers come to town on Sunday.

Jay CutlerICONTime to make some adjustments to the offensive game plan in Chicago.

1. Change the run game: Martz wants to use his O-Line to pull on the Stretch G (front-side guard pull strong), the Counter OF (front-side guard pull weak), etc. Why not get back to basics, run the Lead Open, Lead Strong or the quick inside trap out of the one-back look? Matt Forte can hit the hole, get up field and produce. Win up front, put a body on the linebackers and play some physical football. Quick, downhill plays.

2. Give Cutler some options: Going to take a dedication to the run game, but when you can test a defense up front, it gives the QB some opportunities to throw the vertical route tree off of play action, use the boot (or swap boot) and get outside of the pocket in the sprint game. What I am talking about here is creating opportunities to pick up explosive gains in the passing game. Isaac Bruce, Az Hakim and Torry Holt aren’t going to play for the Bears this weekend. Time to set up the WRs on this roster to make some plays.

3. Align Hester inside of the numbers: This has been talked about since Martz arrived in Chicago, but why aren’t we seeing more of it? Think about this: Hester vs. a No.3 CB from the slot. With his lateral quickness, a two-way go (work both inside and outside release) and open field ability, there is no question I would have him working inside. Run the option route, the seam and the 3-step game. That’s where he belongs in this system.

4. Forget the gadget plays: Aligning in the Wildcat, the reverses, added window dressing on route concepts, etc. I understand that offensive coordinators can’t help it when they draw up these exotic plays on the chalkboard, but this offense isn’t good enough to waste field position or to set up adverse down and distance situations. Run the offense that you have practiced since early August.

5. Set up third and manageable situations: When your offense is (consistently) in third and 8-plus, the playbook shrinks. There are three to four routes you can run to move the sticks—and the defense knows it. This offense needs to have the ability to run the 3-step route tree, throw the flat, use the running game or take a shot vs. an 8-man front. No question Cutler has to throw the ball better, but it helps when you have the entire game plan to work with on thrid downs.

How would you change this Bears’ offense? Let me know…

Follow me on Twitter: MattBowen41

Comments

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wiguyinmn
Sep 27, 2011
11:12 AM

so what you're saying matt, is that the bears should hire a new OC before sunday??

because anyone who's watched football in the past decade knows that Matrz is NOT going to do any of that.

Noots
Sep 27, 2011
11:14 AM

I always enjoy your work, Matt. Couldn't agree more that the Bears need to run the ball more, especially with faster developing run plays. I'd also like to see Cutler have the option to check to a QB draw (if they're empty) or a quick handoff up the middle if he sees the edge overloaded as he did in the Saints game. If the D is stacked outside, why not run it up the middle?

thunderspirit
Sep 27, 2011
11:15 AM

Power running? Three-step drops? QB rollouts? I can't see Mike Martz agreeing to do any of that, despite its potential relative to his personnel. His system WORKS, dammit. Just ask the mid-90s Rams.

BTW, I would *love* to see #23 playing out of the slot in the Az Hakim role.

Noots
Sep 27, 2011
11:17 AM

I always enjoy your work, Matt. Couldn't agree more that the Bears need to run the ball more, especially with faster developing run plays. I'd also like to see Cutler have the option to check to a QB draw (if they're empty) or a quick handoff up the middle if he sees the edge overloaded as he did in the Saints game. If the D is stacked outside, why not run it up the middle?

jlewing2
Sep 27, 2011
11:21 AM

Matt,

I couldn't agree more. I was so frustrated watching the game on Sunday, listening to Troy Aikman say that no Bear fan could possibly be upset that they did not run the ball more than they did due to the fact that they had no success in the limited attempts that they did have. In my head, I was screaming! I couldn't comprehend why the run game wasn't utilized more in a more simplistic fashion. The trap was the first play that came to mind for me. Getting Forte heading north and south from the mesh is key. With his quickness and burst, a simple trap play could go for big yards at any time.

Working the boot passes off play action has been something that several people have clamored for since Cutler's arrival in Chicago! Absolutely, it is imperative to get him on the edge in space, not only to give him more time, but to let him be an athlete and use his feet when it is necessary.

Great work on the article Matt! Maybe once the year is over, the Bears will give you a call to be the new OC... or maybe not, but a fan can dream, right?! ;)

zeros
Sep 27, 2011
11:56 AM

Great article Matt. I especially agree with that first point. Three of the nine Forte rushes were completely blown plays by Chris Williams as he either tried to pull and got blown up by Clay Mathews (twice) or just completely failed his assignment (at least once). The run game isn't working because they can't run the ball. It's not working because Martz isn't utilizing his personnel correctly.

philly bear
Sep 27, 2011
12:04 PM

Matt - Nice work by you. This season is beginning to remind so much of the Terry Shea era that was followed by the John Shoop era. I just don't think OFFENSE is in the Bears DNA. They trade a ton to get a (supposedly) franchise QB for a pass happy offense that Lovie insists gets "off the bus running." They have a franchise TE that caught 15 TDs from Cutler the past two years, but deal him for a 3rd round pick. They have no identity, no clue and probably no chance for the playoffs. And worst of all, I still feel that Cutler is a coach killer. He is about to get his second OC fired and yet to acknowledge that he holds the ball too long, has poor decision making and is a terrible on-field leader!

Goombar
Sep 27, 2011
12:13 PM

I think the problem is much simpler than anyone knows with regard to the running game. It's talent v talent, big guy v big guy.

Running at Raji, Pickett "the Fence", Green, and Wynn is only done to keep the defense honest. It won't win you games. I don't know if running at the that with the talent the bears have is gonna get you W alone.

Trying to do that when for most of the game you're down 2 scores? Against a prolific offense? Keep in mind the GB defense has given up big yards in the pass game too...

I could see why Martz attacked with the pass. I just don't think the bears stood a chance.

jmscooby
Sep 27, 2011
12:52 PM

I'd start by moving Carimi to LT just because I think it would lessen the chance he reinjures his right knee. JMO, but I think a healthy Barber changes the dynamic of our running game. I agree we haven't utilized Hester correctly. Make it simple, give him the ball close and let him make a play. Don't try to give him the ball way down the field. It's not his game.

Goombar
Sep 27, 2011
01:04 PM

I think the problem is much simpler than anyone knows with regard to the running game. It's talent v talent, big guy v big guy.

Running at Raji, Pickett "the Fence", Green, and Wynn is only done to keep the defense honest. It won't win you games. I don't know if running at the that with the talent the bears have is gonna get you W alone.

Trying to do that when for most of the game you're down 2 scores? Against a prolific offense? Keep in mind the GB defense has given up big yards in the pass game too...

I could see why Martz attacked with the pass. I just don't think the bears stood a chance.

DDP
Sep 27, 2011
01:27 PM

Replacing Martz is the only way you fix it as he isn't going to change. Martz has got to be the most predictable OC in the league, you go up by one score and he gives up on the run.

So it comes as no surpise that of the 14 sacks on Cutler, 11 have been in the second half of the game with 9 in the last two games. Two games that have been within one score at halftime and as a result just 5 rushing plays have been called, largely to appease Coach Smith.

So you have 11 guys defending at best a corps of WR2s that that don't scare anybody, with a line that struggles against four rushing, let alone someone blitzing off the edge. A blitz that Cutler can see coming but audible out of, and is destined to get hammered with another seven step drop while those WRs have nowhere to go. Forte cannot be the answer on every play.

Sadly Smith is now being his neoptistic usual self in supporting Martz after the media have rolled on him, despite quitting on the run under pretty much the same game circumstances the week before which lead him chewing out Martz. So the odds on any coaching change before even January are slim to none. Coach Smith doesn't fire friends..

Sirscorps
Sep 27, 2011
02:48 PM

Trading for Williams was a huge mistake.

Chicago doesn't have a #1 wr but have a bunch of #3 wr's instead.

Chicago shouldn't have spent all of this time trying to make Hester into a wr.

They should've signed James Jones.

They don't have the O-line to run Martz' offense, especially @ C & now @ LT. St. Louis had Pace & Timmerman @ the least when Martz coached there.

Trading Olsen was a mistake.

Cutler's completing 54.4% of his passes but part of that has to do w/the play-calling, O-line & lack of quality wr's. I don't think Cutler will ever be a great QB or get his team a Super Bowl win but he can be a very good QB. He needs more talent around him.

They're over-reliant on Forte. He's very good but while he has 22 catches, the next players in line have 9 & one of those players is undrafted FA, Sanzenbacher. That should tell you something.

I like what I see in Sanzenbacher so far but Chicago has enough #3 wr's.

Martz' ego is too big for him to admit he needs to change his scheme a bit to fit his personnel better.

Johnny Z
Sep 27, 2011
05:20 PM

Cut Roy Williams.

Just imagine what they could do with two Sanzenbachers. Try to sign either Chad Hall or Scotty McNight.

BearMarket
Sep 27, 2011
05:32 PM

Good stuff Matt. Heard you on The Score yesterday saying the same things. You need to be on radio more.

Fans and writers always look for the simple answer, and there is one. More on that in a minute.

Years ago, before MM, it was "why don't the Bears use the shotgun?"

Why didn't they run more on Sunday? How the hell can you run the ball when the D is on your back as he's getting the handoff? Hats off to the Packers D and your bad on the Bears' O-line. And the type of run playcalling. Better change it up. Like what you said about letting go of the pulling stuff and putting a body on a body and going back to basics in the run game.

RE the MM offense overall, the guy is a good OC but all OC's look better with Faulk, Pace, Warner, et al. Turner looked good with Aikman, Smith, Irvin and that OL. He looks good now with the playmakers he has in SD.

The simple answer is he doesn't have the playmakers he had in St. Loo. And he didn't have them in SF or Detroit either.

He's got a QB and a RB - not HOFers but plenty good enough. He's working with his third OL in three games - thanks a lot Jerry Angelo for the ton of talent to work with - his "elite" WR, Roy Williams, should be giving back his paychecks, he's not using Hester like Az Hakim, which he said he would when he first took the gig. There's more, but you get the idea.

That said, if he really is an offensive genius, and I think he's pretty damn good and his O is not that unique, as Aikman points out, then he's got to figure out a way to make plays with the players he has and not the players he wishes he had. Until they get better. then he can do more.

He changed things up last year after the bye. Better not wait that long this year.

Cutler won't get him fired. Cutler is not a coach killer and he doesn't throw teammates or coaches under the bus. He does what he's told. Time to give him a little more freedom and protection if the line can't get it done.

The season is far from over.

dogg47
Sep 27, 2011
06:05 PM

fact is jay Cutler need exceptional receivers. Remember Cutler / Marshall ? Marshall caught nearly every over and under thrown ball in his best years in Denver. The films bear out my point. Until Chicago comes up with a Marshall , Cutler will be pickin chit with the sparrows in Chicago.

defiantgiant
Sep 27, 2011
06:48 PM

Nice piece, Matt. I'd add that, once Earl Bennett's back healthy, Martz needs to find ways to get Sanzenbacher and Bennett on the field at the same time. They might be Chicago's bottom two receivers in terms of athletic gifts, but it looks like they're the top two in terms of dependability and rapport with Cutler. I'm not an expert, but from the first few games, it looks like Cutler doesn't trust Hester and Williams to be where they're supposed to be. I can't say I blame him.

If I were in Martz's position, my 3 starting receivers would be Knox, Bennett, and Sanzenbacher. Knox can provide a semi-reliable deep threat, and Sanzenbacher/Bennett can run the kind of quick-hitting routes that got Cutler to settle down during the second half of 2010. Mix in a bunch of screens to Forte, and they might actually have a reliable (if less explosive) passing attack. Like you said, they don't have a Torry Holt or an Isaac Bruce on the roster. They can draft a real #1 guy next year, but until then they need to focus on just getting something reliable going.

Goombar
Sep 28, 2011
03:39 AM

Could it just be that Chitown faced the two best teams in the NFL and came up short?

Maybe their talent is really good, just not elite. I know that's tough to swallow, but it just might be the right answer.

DaBears
Sep 28, 2011
06:21 AM

Just by what you said it make me wonder why Martz still has a job Hester in the slot should be a no brainer beyond that I think MArtz needs to update his playbook to 2011.

The bears WR aren't Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, or even Sanatana Moss in the sense that they aren't going to consistently get open and when they are they get smother, because they aren't matchup problems. You combine the fact that they dont go over the middle specifically Knox and Hester and Martz doesn't use TE you limit what you can do offensively. To put it simply the Bears need to find a why to utilize their 6'7 260 TE.

All the top pass offense you their TE and if not they have elite an elite WR. The Patriots pratically run their offense through the TE. The passing game is all about matchups and Kellen Davis with 4.5 speed is one. While Earl Bennett is out they need some one to go oover the middle and make tough grabs. In my opinon they should utilize him like Jason Witten in the short passing game to keep chains moving. Considering he 6'7 and most SS are 5'11 and LB are 6'1 why not.

kevin
Sep 28, 2011
07:59 AM

its a talent issue, not a scheme issue. the bears had to throw the ball against the packers. unfortunately they have mediocre wideouts, and greenbay rolled their defense to forte. chicago isn't good enough to beat the packers without phenomenal special teams play and some fortuitous breaks. the scheme and system are fine. they'll win at least 9 games and likely make the playoffs. the problem with the bears is the GM. they just don't have enough talent to match up with the elites.

canadapackers
Sep 28, 2011
10:29 AM

Those that can do - those that cant either talk about it or I guess tweet about it now. Seem to remember when Buck Martinez had all the answers as a Blue Jay commentator - when he finally got to do it - he was under .500 and only last 1 1/2 seasons. Know you are just doing a job - but I fully believe that this whole fiasco - called the Chicago bares - is the responsibility of the front office - letting good players and coaches go especially those that they drafted lies with the GM - Martz cant make a silk purse out of a sow's ear or maybe I should say a pork cutlet.

BearsFan
Sep 28, 2011
02:45 PM

They really need to start using Hester as more of a decoy.

I would put him in motion a lot and move him all around the field. Even though he isn't the best receiver in the league teams still respect his play making ability. They keep trying to use him like a number one receiver and that's just not what he is. Get him in the wildcat or use him on a fake reverse.

The bears don't really have that number one guy that teams have to game plan for. If they started using Hester like that more I think it really forces teams to game plan for him. If every now and then they do run that reverse play to him or if they can get him is space on a well designed screen that everyone doesn't see coming from a mile away.

BearsFan
Sep 28, 2011
02:51 PM

They really need to start using Hester as more of a decoy.

I would put him in motion a lot and move him all around the field. Even though he isn't the best receiver in the league teams still respect his play making ability. They keep trying to use him like a number one receiver and that's just not what he is. Get him in the wildcat or use him on a fake reverse.

The bears don't really have that number one guy that teams have to game plan for. If they started using Hester like that more I think it really forces teams to game plan for him. If every now and then they do run that reverse play to him or if they can get him is space on a well designed screen that everyone doesn't see coming from a mile away.

BearMarket
Sep 28, 2011
03:51 PM

@BearsFan - Cutler puts Hester in motion often - unfortunately it is motioning him to line up where he should be.

Joking aside, we know he's not a number one. Whan Martz came here he said he saw Az Hakim, and he was a 3.

They better figure out how to use him cuz he's getting frustrated in the return game. Thanks a lot NFL for the worst rules change ever.

theNetRat
Sep 29, 2011
04:03 PM

1. Mike Martz knows best what to do.

2. Anyone who thinks he does not should reread number 1.

That's Martz's motto in a nutshell. Try to tell him differently and you are tuned out.

Martz offense has ALWAYS made the OLine look bad. He takes 5 and 7 step drops, always. He throws to a spot and the WR is supposed to get there. He also will make the RB the top receiver on the team, and the top WR on the team is used as a decoy more often then not.

If everyone buys into his O it does work. If one or more does not, it looks ugly. If someone else tries to run it it looks uglier yet.

In the end, take it from this Lions fan, either the players execute the Martz O correctly or they will embarrass themselves all season long.

JCsDiabetes
Sep 30, 2011
03:26 PM

It's too late. Jay has been turned into David Carr because of all the hits he's taken behind that miserable Oline.

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