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Why Martz has adapted his play calling in Chicago

Three-step routes and the running game now at the top of the game plan. Matt Bowen

Print This December 10, 2010, 06:00 AM EST

The Bears’ offense under Mike Martz has changed since the start of the season—even going back to training camp in Bourbonnais, Illinois. The seven-step drops, the multiple breaking routes, etc. That was Martz’s calling card. Use five-man protection and get five receivers out into the route scheme. Opportunities for big plays—with some big risk attached to the back end.

The results? Below average football in Chicago. Protection schemes broke down, the running game vanished and we saw QB Jay Cutler making poor decisions with the football. Not conducive to the Bears’ personnel.

Mike MartzICONThe Bears are now a more controlled offense under Martz.

However, Chicago’s offensive coordinator has adapted his play calling, his game plan and the way he approaches Sundays from my perspective. Now we are seeing Cutler make quick, easy reads. Three-step routes that get the ball out of his hands. WR Earl Bennett (7 receptions, 104-yards in win over Detroit) has become a top target because he can run the slant, the option route and work against a defender in space. From that inside alignment, Bennett can win at the line of scrimmage, run away from a defender’s leverage and produce after the catch.

Martz will still use multiple looks, personnel and alignments. Plus, we will see the shifting and pre-snap movement that becomes added window dressing to this offense. But the Bears have become a more controlled, balanced offense. And that includes the production from running back Matt Forte (748-yards, 4.2 yards per carry). Use an extra TE in the backfield to create those two-back power looks and run the basic off-tackle plays that we see in every playbook from high school to the NFL. Good, solid football that has helped the Bears to a 9-3 team atop the NFC North when we add the top tier defense of Lovie Smith and what I think is the best special teams unit in the league.

I have been asked if Martz is the same play caller as he was back in St. Louis. My answer is yes—to an extent. I have broken down an old game plan from Martz here at the NFP and we ares till seeing those route schemes. The double-slants out of the stack looks, the Hi-Lo concepts (underneath crossers), the deep 15-yard dig, the RB rail route (seam out of backfield) that I saw from Marshall Faulk when I played in St. Louis as a rookie under Martz. Those are staples, classics that are a part of his game plan every Sunday.

But, the deep ball, the vertical game has taken a back seat. Chicago has speed outside of the numbers in Devin Hester and Johnny Knox and instead of the deep post or the double-moves; we are seeing the curl, the wide receiver bubble screen, etc. Again, low risk concepts that allow Cutler to plant that foot at the top of his drop and get the ball out.

That is the Bears offense as they prepare to host New England on Sunday at Soldier Field. Martz still has those vertical route schemes that test the top of the defense in his playbook, but give him some credit for simplifying this offense in Chicago—because it is working.

Follow me on Twitter: MattBowen41

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