Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Ho Sit Down! Week 12 - Mike Martz

If you're going to be anywhere near Greensboro, NC this winter you need to check out a basketball game at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. Although I've never seen a game at NC A&T personally, it was brought to my attention a couple years ago that this is officially the Crunkest Gym In America. You see, when a player on the opposing team fouls out, the Dawg Pound goes HAM Newton on them and emphatically helps them off the floor with Maceo's "Go Sit Down" as the soundtrack. While the song might not be anything special on it's own, I love the fact that the Aggies fans have adopted this tradition when somebody fouls out against them. So much so, that I decided to bring you a new weekly feature to Bear Down Chicago Bears called Ho Sit Down. Each week we will highlight one person that fucked up so bad that they deserve the Ho Sit Down treatment.

And what better person to get this thing rolling than Mike Martz?

I think it's pretty safe to assume that Martz reads BDCB because after we gassed him up last week for his play calling against the Chargers, his head returned to its normal, over-inflated levels and his creative juices squirted all over the place.

We could single out the fact that he didn't tone down his play calling for Caleb Hanie, who was making his first career start. We could focus on the Bears RB's only getting 22 rushing attempts when they averaged over 5.5 yards per carry. We could bury him for calling a trick play on 2nd and 1 at the OAK 7 yard line.

But what made me want to tell that ho to sit down more than anything on Sunday, was that when the Bears needed to march the entire field at the end of the game, Devin Hester was on the sidelines. From what I noticed, he didn't get a single snap on offense the entire game, which is stupid in its own right; but it really pissed me off that they didn't have him out there on the final drive of the game.

The Bears got the ball back with 56 seconds left in the game and down by five points. With the drive starting at their own 4 yard line, the Bears needed to go 96 yards without any timeouts. So instead of putting their best homerun threat on the field (or second best, if you're one of those Johnny Knox D-riders), they put slow ass Sam Hurd out there.

Now, I like Sam Hurd and I think he needs more offensive snaps. Even though he's not fastest WR or the best route runner, he's a big target that catches the ball when it's thrown his way. But in this scenario, his lack of speed warrants keeping him on the sidelines since you're going up against the clock and don't have time to change personnel between plays.

Obviously, Hester has his own shortcomings as a receiver and has struggled with drops this season, but he is still capable of reaching the end zone from anywhere on the field. He could slip one tackle and take it to the house on any play.

So for the simple fact that the Bears had to race down the field but chose not to line up their fastest player, we are telling Mike Martz' ho ass to sit down!



Monday, November 21, 2011

When They Talk 'Bout Me

It's been a wild ass year for the Bears in 2011. After opening strong in week one, they played inconsistently the next four games, leaving us scratching our heads while trying to figure out who these Bears were. They lost their starting RT for the season after 2 games and also cut their starting SS during the bye week. But I think they most shocking aspect to the 2011 season is the way that the national perception of Jay Cutler has completely flipped from what it used to be.

For some bizarre reason, the national media has had something against Jay Cutler for as long as he's been a Chicago Bear. He was a rising star in Denver before being traded by the short-lived Josh McDaniels regime, even making the Pro Bowl in his final year there. At the time, it was being reported that he demanded a trade and forced his way out of Denver, so the media started calling him petulant. At that point in my life, and after 23+ years on this Earth, I had never even heard the word "petulant" come out of anybody's mouth. But all of a sudden, it was the hottest buzzword in all of sports, so everybody was saying it, trying to act smart. Some of you had never heard of it either and, to this day, would struggle to use it in a sentence.

Cutler didn't have the hottest start to his Chicago Bears career. His first appearance was a nationally televised game against the Packers where Cutler did not play well and was deservedly ripped for it. The very same week, the local media starting criticizing Cutler's body language on the sideline. Now this didn't come out of nowhere... the Denver media attacked his body language near the end of his time in Denver, however the Chicago papers ran with it -- and ran hard. They kept talking about it and talking about it, and with the Bears playing in five prime time games in 2009, the national media took their cue from the local rags and pushed this angle too.

During the 2010 season, the focus didn't change much. With the Bears playing in four prime time games, ESPN and NBC ran through the same, tired storylines that they used the year before. With the Bears being an up-and-down team, it was easy for the national media to continue to negatively portray Jay Cutler. It wasn't until after Cutler got hurt in the NFC Championship game that the Chicago papers really started to support him. The national coverage was absolutely destroying Cutler, but the local writers did a good job of defending him and refuting any claims that he wasn't tough.

And then this year, something funny happened when the Bears went to DET to play on Monday Night Football. No, the offensive line didn't finally read their job descriptions which all begin with, "Protect your fucking QB." They actually did the opposite. Cutler was almost bludgeoned to death, but still managed to throw for 249 yds and a TD without throwing an INT. All of a sudden, people recognized that Cutler was behind the worst offensive line in the NFL every week, and he started getting sympathy for it.

Was it suddenly becoming the cool thing do to stand behind Jay Cutler?

It sure seemed like it. One by one, the national analysts would step up and mention how Cutler never had a chance and that he did everything he could do against the Lions. Where were those idiots the two years before that?! They were finally saying what plenty of knowledgeable Bears fans and many bloggers had been saying the whole time, "It's not Cutler. It's the offensive line."

After that game, the offensive line decided to make their 2011 debut and kept Cutler relatively clean. He finished with 267 yds, 2 TDs and no INTs and showed what he can do when he's not running for his life. More and more analysts lined up behind Cutler, waiting for their turn to say something nice.

The next week Cutler had a pretty bad game in London versus the Buccaneers. But the Bears came out with a win and they were scheduled to play on MNF the next week. Throughout the week on ESPN Radio, Row Jaworski had a commercial where he previewed the matchup, specifically talking about how great Cutler had been playing recently. So Cutler had just come off a poor outing, yet he was being praised nationally.

And that's when I realized something had changed.

This was the complete opposite of what we'd seen and heard the prior two years. During those seasons, even when Cutler played well, people like Trent Dilfer continued to bash Cutler. But now, in 2011, Cutler was being overly praised when he didn't even have a good game. He went on to have a good game versus the Eagles, but then another poor outing against the Lions in week 10. But since the Bears kept winning, all of the analysts were talking up Jay Cutler like he was carrying them to victory every single week, when it was should have been more attributed to the defense and run game.

Of course, I have no problem with the love that Cutler's been getting nationally; it's just something I'm not used to. I almost don't trust the national guys, as if they're just waiting for Cutler to slip up so they can jump off his bandwagon before everyone else does. But now that he's out for at least the next six weeks, there's a ton of media attention finally recognizing how important Jay Cutler is to to this team. And while we know that Cutler is never going to publicly admit that he notices a difference with the way he's been covered lately, I hope that, privately, he can take these next few weeks and enjoy what it's like to finally get the benefit of the doubt.


Sunday, November 20, 2011

He's on Fire!

Roy Williams bounced back this week after a zero catch, zero FDC game last week against the Lions. Although he dropped the first pass thrown his way, he made up for it by finishing with 5 catches for 62 yards. He was 75% efficient when you take his total number of first down celebrations (3) divided by his total number of first down catches (4). 75% is a respectable bounce back game, however as professional athletes the goal is always 100% efficiency. Regardless, Roy Will had a impact game, finishing second in targets (8) while leading the Bears in catches (5).

After making a first down catch in the 1st quarter, the camera jumped away from Williams after he picked himself off the ground, so we weren't able to record an FDC on this play. But in the 3rd quarter, Roy E exploded. On a 3rd and 4, he caught a quick pass for an 11 yard first down. This is when he finally recorded his 10th FDC on the season, triggering the double digit celebration bonus in his contract. According to sources, this escalator could be worth up to $7.5 million.

Williams was pretty hype at this point and signaled for his offense to hurry up and feed him the ball again. Martz, calling the great game that he did, went right back to Roy Will. Another quick pass for a 12 yard first down. He then immediately picked up his 11th FDC, right then and there.

If you've ever played NBA Jam before, you know that hitting two in a row means you're "heating up." And with Roy E feeling it, he controlled the tempo once more, hurrying the offense and demanding the ball. Three straight plays, three straight first downs. This time Roy Will picks up his 3rd FDC of the game (and 12th of the season) on an 11 yard catch from Cutler. He's on fire!

Bear Down Roy Will

Roy E Williams Career FDC count: 12

Week 12 vs OAK over/under: 2.5 FDCs



Straight Killa, No Filla

The Bears put on an impressive offensive display in their week 11 win over the San Diego Chargers. Jay Cutler made some incredible throws and three different receivers each had big games. Cutler was the clear player of the game, but I want to give some well deserved credit to Mike Martz for calling a brilliant game vs SD.

The Bears tried running the ball early, but were faced with 8 man fronts which prevented them from finding success. So Martz opened the passing game to take advantage of the defense that was keying on Forte. It was clear that the Chargers didn't want Forte to beat them, so Martz called on his receiving corps to step up and make some plays. Still, he never fully abandoned the run, making sure to control the clock after gaining first down after first down.

Martz also did a good job of mixing in short passes with the deep ones to keep the coverage honest, and put Cutler in a position to make plays downfield. He was able to spot a weakness in defense when the Bears threw for first downs on three consecutive plays in the 1st quarter. And then again in the 3rd quarter, the Bears went for three consecutive 1st downs through the air (all to Roy Williams). Martz saw the advantage his offense had at this point and went for a bomb to Johnny Knox who was tackled near the goal line.

Even though the Bears were having a lot of success, Martz stuck with that straight killa and didn't filter it out with some bullshit trick plays. This is two weeks in a row where he didn't call the wildcat at a critically bad point in the game. The Bears were able to do anything they wanted on offense versus the Chargers and Mike Martz was a big part of that.  He called a brilliant game today, so we'll see if it goes to his head. It likely will.



Friday, November 18, 2011

We Got It For Cheap

With the improved play of the offensive line over the past four games, there's an impressive side note to the way they're constructed. The two tackles that they've been running with during their win streak, J'Marcus Webb and Lance Louis, are both seventh round draft picks, making relatively low salaries for their positions. Now this could say as much good as it does bad about the way Jerry Angelo drafts. One on hand, he's gotten great value out of two late round draft picks who ended up being starters at important positions. But on the other hand, the Bears are starting two seventh rounders because of their failure to adequately address the issue sooner. But as much as I dislike the way Angelo runs this organization, I will certainly give him due credit for hitting on two draft picks that are usually throwaways that never make the 53 man roster.

J'Marcus Webb has quietly improved since the beginning of the season. While the 2010 seventh round pick struggled early with false starts, holds and flat-out whiffs against speedy pass rushers, he's improved in all of three of these areas over the past four games. He had one illegal formation penalty vs MIN, but no penalties in the next three games. He gave up a sack vs DET on a play where Cutler held on to the ball too long.

There were times earlier in the season where he looked like he didn't know which rusher he was supposed to block, leading to open season on Jay Cutler. And while he's still prone to the occasional fuck up, he seems to have a much better understanding of his assignment on every snap. Now he needs to prove that he can continue these improvements going forward before anyone will believe what the Bears have been telling us... that he could be the starting left tackle for the foreseeable future. Whether or not he can do that remains to be seen, but a starting left tackle that only is only costing you $405,000 when the average salary for a starting offensive lineman is about $1.27 million is a great bargain.

Lance Louis has been the Bears best offensive linemen in 2011. After starting the season at right guard, he's performed admirably filling in at right tackle for the injured Gabe Carimi. The 2009 seventh round draft pick has been pivotal to the Bears running success this season. Louis has very quick feet and decent size to get out in front of Matt Forte and occupy blockers. His athleticism also helps him prevent edge rushers from getting around and creating pressure on Cutler. With Carimi now on Injured Reserve, Louis will need to hold down the right tackle position for the remainder of the season.

Although he projects to move back to RG for 2012 and beyond, Lance Lou is going to need to continue his high level of play for the Bears to sustain the moderate success they've had on the offensive line. And making just $480,000 this year and $565,000 next season, he provides another good value for a starting offensive lineman. Hopefully Louis can continue to improve and be one of the o-linemen that the Bears can build with going forward.



Sunday, November 13, 2011

Let's Double Up

Since we last checked in with Roy E Williams, he's picked up another 2 first down celebrations. Week 7 saw Roy Will make his biggest impact so far this year, picking up 4 catches for 59 yards and his first TD for the Bears. Even though he had three first down catches vs TB, I'm disappointed that he only celebrated one of them.

He had a bad drop early in the game but made up for it with a score. On his TD, where we saw first hand that having a big target makes it so much easier for Cutler to hit his guy, you couldn't even tell that Roy scored by his celebration. But he was feeling good after that, so when caught another ball, he picked up his 8th FDC of the year.

Last week vs the Eagles, Williams stayed hot by grabbing three first downs (including two 3rd down conversions) and earning his 9th FDC of the season. Once again, the director of the TV broadcast chose not to show the celebration but we were able to catch a quick glimpse of it. His next two catches are where we're not so sure. It looked like he casually left-handed an FDC on his 2nd catch, but it wasn't enough for the official scorekeeper to credit him. And on his third catch, the cameraman cut away from him way too quickly for us to know if he celebrated or not.

So what should we expect this week versus DET? Johnny Knox is expected to see a higher number of snaps than he has lately, so we'll see if those will be taken away from Williams or Hester. But look for Roy Will to do what he's been doing on a consistent basis and coming out with 3 or 4 catches for 50-60 yards. But the important thing to watch is how many drops he has, because he usually doesn't celebrate on catches immediately following a drop. Williams is in a prime position to reach double digit FDCs on the year, which is probably an escalator in his contract.

Bear Down Roy Will

Roy E Williams Career FDC count: 9

Week 10 vs DET over/under: 1.5 FDCs



Saturday, November 12, 2011

Who Run It?

The gameplan to beat the Lions is simple... run the fucking ball. In the Bears three losses this season, they're averaging an underwhelming 14.7 rush attempts per game. That number is even exaggerated because they ran 24 times vs Detroit, bringing that average up. In the loss against the Packers, we all remember Martz only giving Forte 9 rush attempts and the New Orleans game was no better with the Bears only attempting 11 rushes all game.
In the Bears 5 wins this season, they are averaging 29.6 rushes for their RBs. The higher the total number of rushes, the better chance they have to win. Of course when you have the lead you have more freedom to run the ball; but the primary reason the Bears won each one of those games is their commitment to the run early. It opens their entire offense, especially play-action.
This offensive line is built to run block much better than it is to pass protect. They have good collection of size with enough quickness to get out in front of Forte and clear it out before he throws it in. When they're able to get the ground game going, it makes it so much easier for them to protect Cutler and give these WRs time to get open. But when Martz goes away from Forte and starts chucking it all over the place, that's when the offensive line gets in trouble. They need to run it early and often to keep this offense playing well. I think it's important that the Bears reach the 25 rush attempts milestone in order to win.
We have to give Martz some credit, though. It seems like he finally gets it... at least for now he does. During this three game win streak, the RBs have averaged 30.7 attempts per game. The question is, 'Will they stick with the run or will Martz get bored and start chucking?' Martz has been very creative with the run plays he's drawn up this season. He still gets to put in his motions that he loves so much and try to confuse the defense. Hopefully that will keep him interested because the only thing that can stop Matt Forte is Mike Martz.

Bears RBs combined rush attempts per game:
vs ATL - 26
vs NO - 11
vs GB - 9
vs CAR - 30
vs DET - 24
vs MIN - 28
vs TB - 31
vs PHI - 33
vs DET - 31
vs SD - 27
vs OAK - 22

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Underground Kingz

You know that feeling when you've been a die-hard fan of an underground band before they blow up and everyone jumps on their bandwagon? Even though these people are appreciating something that you really like, for some strange reason you feel resentment because this exclusive club was just taken away from you. Like you're a bigger fan than everybody else be cause you've been down from day one. I'm not really sure why it happens, we just can't help it. My absolute favorite rap group -- favorite musical act of any kind -- is UGK, or the Underground Kingz. When I tell people that, they usually don't know who I'm talking about and even though I love putting new people on to them, I get this selfish feeling like I appreciate UGK more than anybody else possibly could. It doesn't make sense.

And the same thing happens with sports. Of course the general public loves Brian Urlacher, Julius Peppers and, very recently, Jay Cutler. Those are the big names so it's easy to just say "that's my favorite player." But me personally, I've always been drawn to the players who don't get the shine that I think they deserve. When I'm at the bar watching the Bears or tailgating at a road game in Cincinnati I like to be wearing a jersey that nobody else in the place has on.

The first Bears jersey I ever got was a blue Nate Vasher and boy, did I rock the shit out of that jersey the year that he went All Pro. The next season comes around and a lot of people had gone out and bought Vasher jerseys during training camp, so my beloved #31 jersey was starting to fall out of favor with me. I couldn't really help it, Vasher was still one of my favorite players at the time, but it just didn't feel the same when everyone else had the same jersey. So I moved on.

The next jersey I copped was even hotter than the first one. I got a blue Devin Hester jersey for Christmas his rookie year, before the Bears got to the Super Bowl. We went to an incredible Super Bowl party in the Gold Coast with 100+ people at this condo. I was literally the only person in the place with a Devin Hester jersey, so you could imagine how buck I was going while he was watching himself make history. The next season? Everybody and their kid was wearing a Devin Hester jersey. So I got an Olsen. Of course the same thing eventually happened, which brings us to today.

Ever since the Bears drafted Earl Bennett, he's been one of my favorite players on the team. Even though the analysts claimed he didn't have a ton of speed, this dude was the all time leader in receptions in SEC history, so I figured he could bring a lot to the table. Even though he didn't see the field on offense his rookie year, I was looking for him to break out in 2009. I even named one of my fantasy football teams "Earl Bennett" that year. And since then, I realized how good of a WR he could become so I've liked him even more. I even get a huge kick out of the Bears playing on Sunday Night Football when he gets to introduce himself with that country ass twang, "Ear' Bennett." Listen for it the next time the Bears play on NBC.

For 2 years now I've been wanting a blue #80 jersey, especially since I can't wear my Olsen anymore, but up to this point, you couldn't find an Earl B jersey anywhere unless you custom made one. Now that Earl had what many are calling a "breakout game" (even though he was really just doing what he does) I will never get a chance to buy one because he's now become this overnight sensation. He was doing his weekly hour with Jeff Dickerson on ESPN 1000 the other night talking about how he's blowing up on Twitter, since he was trending all throughout Monday night and the followers came rushing.

And I'm happy for him; of course I'm happy for him. He's by far the Bears best WR and he deserves all of the attention he's getting, and hopefully this buzz will help him get a little bit extra on the contract extension that's imminent. But now the selfish side in me is bitter that he's gonna be another one of those Bears who even the most ignorant fan talks about. Mostly I'm pissed because this means it's way too late to grab that Earl Bennett jersey, because I guarantee it's gonna be the hot new jersey when training camp 2012 opens. But Earl deserves it because he's a hard worker, a down to earth guy and most importantly, a good ass football player. I hope you enjoy the limelight, Earl, because the Earl Bennett Fan Club just became a movement.