Blame game begins with Martz stepping forward


Blame game begins with Martz stepping forward

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

By John Mullin 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'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.

Three quick fixes for some Bears woes while searching for a turnaround

Three quick fixes for some Bears woes while searching for a turnaround

Positives were difficult to find in last Thursday’s 26-10 loss to the Green Bay Packers. So maybe the place to look for improvement lies in just getting rid of a few negatives.

As far as positives, Leonard Floyd would be the obvious one, with two sacks, one a strip and fumble recovery for a TD. Ka’Deem Carey would be another, with 10 carries for 48 yards, his second straight game with high-impact running; Jordan Howard has been shackled for two weeks, so the Bears have needed another backfield-committee member contributing. Jeremy Langford may have trouble finding work when he comes back from his ankle injury.

But negatives have far outweighed positives, which is how you get to 1-6. Fixing three of those will go a long way toward improving their chances against a Minnesota Vikings team that appeared eminently beatable in losing at Philadelphia on Sunday:

Stop the penalty hemorrhaging

For the third straight game the Bears had 10 penalties walked off against them. This "streak" started after eight infractions in the win over Detroit. The 10 in Green Bay cost the Bears 108 yards in a game where their offense netted just 189. Seven of the penalties were charged to the defense, six of which gave the Packers first downs.

The three offensive penalties were mental. A wide receiver (Alshon Jeffery) lined up offsides. The quarterback (Matt Barkley) drew a delay flag. An offensive lineman (Ted Larsen) was illegally downfield.

All of which point to a discipline problem getting worse, not better. Whether the fault lies with players losing focus or coaches not instilling a mindset is a debate, but meaningless if the problem is not addressed. “There were a lot of penalties out there,” said cornerback De’Vante Bausby, who committed three of those penalties. “We had a good scheme and plan but we just didn’t finish in the second half as a group.”

Stop the dinking

While Brian Hoyer replacing Jay Cutler scaled back the downfield element of the offense, the loss of an emerging Kevin White should not be understated. The de facto rookie may not have gotten in the end zone but he was leading the team in receptions before he suffered a broken leg in the win over Detroit.

Since the loss of White, however, the offense has shrunk. The Bears averaged 7.5 yards per pass attempt through four games with White. Without White the average is 7.0, and that is including the blip in Indianapolis, which stands as a complete anomaly. The average was 5.9 in the Jacksonville loss and 5.0 in Green Bay.

Hoyer’s ball-security orientation has been a positive, but also a limiting factor. Cutler last year had one of the best ball-security seasons of his career, yet the offense was able to average 7.5 yards per attempt.

The Bears scored two of their three rushing touchdowns in games with White, who may not yet be the field-stretcher his 4.35 speed but the prospect of White arguably made for a more threatening offense than even with the contributions of Cam Meredith.

Stop the Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings have suffered injuries at a rate like the Bears’ but have overcome them. Until Sunday in Philadelphia, when the Eagles sacked Sam Bradford six times and hit him more than a dozen other times. The Vikings never sacked Carson Wentz, who wasn’t special but was good enough while Minnesota was self-destructing.

The Vikings have beaten the Bears the last three times they’ve met, the first time that’s happened since 1999 and 2000, which is also the last time the Bears started 1-6. And the Bears have lost three straight.

The Bears were able to end the first three-game skid by focusing on one game: the Lions. The result was shutting down a very good offense, the lowest yardage-allowed (263) of the season and the firmest commitment to the run game (29) attempts.

Morale inside the locker room can only be revived by a win. One game. This game.

Report: Bears looking for Jay Cutler return against Vikings; Matt Barkley on stand-by

Report: Bears looking for Jay Cutler return against Vikings; Matt Barkley on stand-by

FOX insider Jay Glazer confirmed on Sunday that the Bears expect quarterback Jay Cutler will be back from his sprained thumb and able to start against the Minnesota Vikings next Monday night in Soldier Field.

That would put Matt Barkley back where he has been pretty much his entire three-plus-year NFL career. Waiting.

That's the Bears want what every team wants – a young quarterback in the developmental pipeline – is no secret. Ryan Pace is among the NFL executives who speak of drafting a quarterback as much as every year, even if they don’t.

Could the Bears already have that player on their roster?

If Barkley, who was pressed into service when Brian Hoyer went down with a broken arm in last Thursday’s loss to the Green Bay Packers, is in fact that player, he might not be surprised. But the rest of the NFL would be.

"I'm confident that no matter where I am or what the deal is,” Barkley said, after going 6-for-15 with no TD’s and two interceptions, “I can play in this league.”

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

He may be one of the few still holding onto that belief. The Bears picked up Barkley after the Arizona Cardinals discarded him in early September. The Cardinals didn’t see Barkley as even a practice-squad option, which the Bears did and where Barkley was working before Cutler’s thumb injury forced the Bears to sign him to the active roster.

“The [Bears] personnel people thought he was a taller [6-2] guy that stood in the pocket pretty well,” said coach John Fox. “A guy that we thought we could work with, that had some experience and, hopefully, he got a little bit more experience [at Green Bay].”

Barkley has gone from possible No. 1 pick in the 2012 draft to just another touted USC quarterback who failed or were no better than just-OK at the NFL level (Todd Marinovich, Rob Johnson, Matt Leinart, Mark Sanchez), who has thrown 65 NFL passes, none for a touchdown and six that were intercepted, including two in the Bears’ 26-10 loss last Thursday in Green Bay.

The question for Barkley at this point in his career is whether Chicago is his last stop and/or chance. Fourth-round draft picks have played their ways into prominence (Kirk Cousins in Washington, Dak Prescott in Dallas, even Sonny Jurgensen and Norm Van Brocklin if you want to find Hall of Famers), but Barkley has the added challenge of being on his third team and learning yet another offense after beginning this season running Houston and Philadelphia plays for the Bears’ defense.

Barkley offered no excuses for his poor showing (18.3 passer rating). Sort of.

“It definitely would be more beneficial [to have gotten more snaps before Green Bay],” Barkley said. “I’m not going to say what Coach should do; that’s his decision and you’ve got to deal with what you’re dealt.

“Just since I’ve been here, you know, scout-team reps and trying to put our plays into what we’re seeing on cards, you try to do every little thing you can to get better no matter what you’re doing. That’s no excuse.”