Blame game begins with Martz stepping forward

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Blame game begins with Martz stepping forward

Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2011
Posted: 10:00 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com Bears Insider Follow @CSNMoonMullin
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My bad.

That was offensive coordinator Mike Martzs mea culpa Wednesday for the playcalling fiasco in New Orleans 52 pass plays, 12 runs that left the franchise quarterback battered and the Bears with a defeat.

Martz insisted he was not disappointed with protection issues but instead declared that we need to mix it up a lot more than we did in that game, he said. We had a lot of pressure, more pressure than I think we probably suspected. It puts a lot of pressure on some of these protections.

Martz acknowledged lots of reasons for the breakdown but none of them are justification. We went into that game thinking we were going to run the ball more. We didnt do that.

Smith was questioned last year about not reining in Martzs passing propensities and didnt appear to demand a course correction until the off week, seven games in to the season. Smith could have intervened during Sundays game but its just not how we do things, Martz said. Lovie has great trust in what were doing and understands that. I think he understood, too, a lot of the issues that we were dealing with. If youre looking for blame, blame me.

The real issue

The point in all of this is not to replay and rehash the Saints game, but rather whether Martz can be relied upon to adhere to a change in philosophy that was successful last year but was ignored under pressure Sunday.

Last season, at Green Bay in a game against a desperate Packers team needing a win for a wild-card slot, and after winning seven of the previous eight games with Jay Cutler throwing more than 30 passes just once, Martz inexplicably called 47 pass plays to 18 runs.

Cutler was sacked six times, forced to run twice and the Bears lost 10-3 at a point in the season when a successful formula appeared to have settled in place.

Blame gaming

Failed execution, i.e., player error, received blame in last Sundays debacle. But both Martz and line coach Mike Tice used phrasing that suggested that all was not player-induced and that at least in mid-week the two coaches were on, at least, close-by pages:

Ultimately, what it comes down to is we didnt coach as good as we should have, and we didnt play as good as we should have, Martz said.

Tice wasn't standing far away on the practice field but sounding a lot like his coordinator.

Everybody across the board has to do a better job, Tice said. To me, being around as long as Ive been around, the blame should go on us coaches because we have a bunch of players willing to do exactly what we want them to do. Its our job to put them in positions to be able to look good.

When we dont do that, its embarrassing to us.

Good news, and bad

The good news, if it can be called that, is that the line in particular was on its assignments. The bad news was that they failed to execute them.

Guys we were supposed to block, sometimes we didnt block them so good, Tice said. But we were on the right guy. If we can do that again this week and get better, then well take a step toward making the offense a whole lot better.

Right tackle Gabe Carimi is expected to miss up to four games with a knee injury and right guard Lance Louis is still practicing on a limited basis with his injured right ankle.

Tice has one solution: I actually lost 12 pounds and Im trying my pads on tomorrow, he joked. I dont know if Ive got anything in me but the National Anthem, but Im certainly going to give it a whirl.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

Bears defensive backs using off-field bonds to improve on-field ones

Bears defensive backs using off-field bonds to improve on-field ones

Every Thursday night, Bears defensive backs try to all get together at Tracy Porter’s house for dinner. But it’s not about the food.

"None of us can cook," said cornerback Bryce Callahan, laughing.

At the risk of channeling some inner Marc Trestman, it’s about the get-together itself, which always involves popping on some game film and doing extra study beyond the time at Halas Hall. And it’s also building something off the field that they believe they can take onto it.

One of the keys to excellence in any working group is the individuals connecting in ways that make the whole greater than just the sum of the parts. That’s the point ultimately, taking some personal connections onto the field and making the entire defensive backfield collectively better.

Relationships among players have never been recorded as intercepting or even deflecting an NFL pass.

"For me it starts off the field, getting to know one another, how that person is," said cornerback Cre’Von LeBlanc, familiar with a similar internal chemistry from his time with the New England Patriots.

"You get that feeling for every individual, and you take that on the field. It creates a close bond, and we’ve got that bond. We try to look through each other’s eyes, communicate what you were thinking and he was thinking on this play or that, and that’s the biggest thing."

Offensive lines are generally thought of as the group most benefited by camaraderie and closeness. They typically have an O-line dinner most weeks, with checks for the meal not uncommonly reaching into four-figures.

"Those boys can EAT," LeBlanc marveled. "We stick to wings or ribs."

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

But the secondary consists of four individuals rotating coverages the way a line moves with different protections or assignments. Double-teams in the defensive backfield require the same cohesion and familiarity as ones on the other side of the football.

The Bears have started the same base four defensive backs in all three games — Porter and Jacoby Glenn at the corners, Adrian Amos and Harold Jones-Quartey at the safeties — but the Bears are working in multiple rookies, and Callahan (hamstring) has been inactive along with Kyle Fuller, projected to be the starter at right corner but now on IR. Rookie safety Deon Bush was inactive the first two weeks, then played at Dallas. Rookie corner Deiondre’ Hall was pressed into action on defense for 18 plays at Houston and 28 against Philadelphia.

With the in-game mixes-and-matches necessitated by injuries, the familiarity among secondary members is looked at as nothing short of vital. Comments, right or wrong, from a friend can be taken better/more constructively than ones from a relative stranger.

"Just more of being ready to pick each other up, be ready," Amos said. "It just shows you how quick you can go from scout team to on the field, so everybody has to be talking together.

"The closer we are on and off the field, the better we are together."

LeBlanc agrees.

"We talk to each other like friends, in a unit, trying to dissect a play right after it happens, rewind and see how we can to it better.

"You can’t be out here trying to communicate and you don’t even really know the guy next to you."

Bears facing Lions with Jay Cutler likely out, Alshon Jeffery dealing with hamstring issue

Bears facing Lions with Jay Cutler likely out, Alshon Jeffery dealing with hamstring issue

The official injury designation is “doubtful” but Bears quarterback Jay Cutler is unofficially expected to be out of Sunday’s game with the Detroit Lions after not practicing on Thursday or Friday due to his injured right thumb.

“It is a pretty critical area on the quarterback, especially when it's your right thumb and you're a right handed quarterback,” Bears head coach John Fox said. “So you know we're going to get him healthy and that's our main objective and we'll see if he's any further along [Saturday].”

The designation — “questionable” — was brighter for wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, except for the mild surprise that he was limited in practice Wednesday and Thursday with a knee issue and then was limited on Friday because of a hamstring.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Jeffery missed six games last season, two separate instances, because of hamstring problems.

Besides Cutler, running backs Ka’Deem Carey (hamstring) and Jeremy Langford (ankle), nose tackle Eddie Goldman (ankle) and linebacker Danny Trevathan (thumb) also did not practice and are listed as doubtful. Carey, Cutler, Goldman and Trevathan all were inactive in Dallas, and Langford suffered his ankle sprain against the Cowboys.

Limited but listed as questionable: guard Josh Sitton (shoulder), outside linebacker Willie Young (knee); and defensive backs Sherrick McManis (hamstring), Tracy Porter (knee) and Harold Jones-Quartey (concussion, cleared).