Moon: Is Bill Belichick in the head of Mike Martz?

Moon: Is Bill Belichick in the head of Mike Martz?

Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2010
Posted: 9:46 p.m.

By John Mullin

Players can and do get in each others' heads. That's how, for a play, a game, a year, a career, one owns the other.
Brett Favre once owned the Bears. He was in their heads every bit as much as their end zones.

Now an ominous question facing the Bears:

Is Bill Belichick in the head of Mike Martz?

The New England Patriots coach and Bears offensive coordinator have met before this weekend, with generally catastrophic results for Martz: one initial win for Martz, then four losses for Martz with three different teams.

Martz dismisses the Bill-in-his-head thought. Over and over, as a matter of fact.

Dismisses it once: "Oh, God, no," Martz said. "You've got to be kidding me. C'mon, serious?"

Well, he's beaten you four.

"I've beaten him, too. I went up there in 2001 regular season and beat him, too. Same year, remember? In fact, after that game, I said this is a Super Bowl team, and I think they were 6-5 or something. I don't remember what it was."

Martz continues, dismissing it twice: "But oh God, no. They're just a good team. No. I don't think like that or live like that, I'm sorry, I hate to disappoint you, but those things just don't happen to me. I guess I'm screwed up. That stuff doesn't happen to me."

Make it three times in one moment: "I appreciate your question, but no."

Methinks the O.C. doth protest too much?

Ok, but ...

The St. Louis Rams of then-coach Martz defeated New England and scored 24 points in that game Martz alluded to, during Belichick's first year, 2001. The Patriots were paying attention and then shut Martz down in Super Bowl XXXVI to finish that season. The Rams were favored by 14; they scored 17 to New England's 20.

Since Belichick bested Martz in their Super Bowl, Martz has been part of exactly one winning season (before this current one). His Rams went 12-4 in 2003, one of the years since the Super Bowl in which his teams did not happen across Belichick on its schedule.

Martz is on his third job since then, with stops in Detroit and San Francisco before Chicago.

But "we always have trouble against Mike," Belichick claimed. "He does a great job with the formations, the personnel groupings. His passing concepts are very difficult to defend."
Au contraire

Maybe. But his teams in fact haven't to have much trouble with Martz at all, and Belichick is generally credited with devising creative defensive schemes that have been the virtual undoing of Martz.

The Pats put a 40-22 blowout on Martz's Rams in 2004 and held the Rams to one score over the final 35 minutes despite an injury ravaged secondary.

Martz's Detroit offense scored 21 against Belichick in 2006 but the Lions might have escaped with a win but for turnovers on their final three possessions.

Martz's San Francisco offense got out to a 14-7 lead in a 2008 Belichick game, then managed just one more score over the final 50 minutes.

(Actually, Belichick isn't just a Martz problem. His defense threw in a win over the Super Bowl-bound 2006 Bears when the Patriots held the Chicago offense to 13 points, less than half its per-game average.)

"He'll study everything that you've done, take it apart, piece-by-piece," Martz said. "He'll identify what your strengths are, and he'll try to eliminate your strengths. And he won't do anything to radically change his defense, but he will make you adjust.

"There's no question, he will make you adjust."

Martz hasn't always adjusted. Failed adjustments played factors in those four Belichick defeats. But if there is an intriguing aspect going into Sunday's game, it is that the Bears' 5-0 turnaround from their 4-3 funk is due in no small measure to Martz adjusting.

Classics meeting

Late last month the Bears prevailed in a showdown between two schemes properly considered NFL "classics:" the West Coast offense, as practiced by Philadelphia's Andy Reid vs. the Cover-2 defense, the Lovie Smith-Rod Marinelli version.

The Bears were hit with 26 points, albeit a number of them after they had built up an 18-point lead in the second half.

Now comes a rematch. Not between West Coast and Cover-2, but between the defensive mind of Belichick and the offensive scheming Martz.

And maybe both have adjusted.

Here it is 2010 and Belichick, the conservative game manager with the defensive answers, is winning with an offense that is first in the NFL in scoring at 31.6 per game. And Martz's team has won five in a row playing superior defense and with Martz's quarterback handing the ball off an average of more than two-dozen times a game.

"I'm OK with winning a game however we win it in this league -- absolutely," Belichick said. "It's a tough league to win in so we'll take them any way we can get them."

Even if it means getting in somebody's head.

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.

Hall of Fame to honor Butkus, Dent, Hampton, Sayers at Bears-Vikings game

Hall of Fame to honor Butkus, Dent, Hampton, Sayers at Bears-Vikings game

It will be a special evening for a handful of legendary Bears on Monday night.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame will honor Dick Butkus, Richard Dent, Dan Hampton and Gale Sayers with a Ring of Excellence in a halftime presentation during the Bears-Vikings game at Soldier Field.

The Ring of Excellence is one of three symbols that represents Pro Football Hall of Fame status. The Gold Jacket, the Bronzed Bust and the Ring of Excellence will all be on display during the presentation.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Each former Bear will wear their Gold Jacket and the four Bronzed Busts will be temporarily removed from the Hall of Fame for the ceremony.

Monday marks the second of three seasons in which the Ring of Excellence will be presented to the Hall of Famers.

Check out photos (provided by the Chicago Bears) of each ring below:

Vikings handling of Sam Bradford offers object lesson for Bears transition to next QB

Vikings handling of Sam Bradford offers object lesson for Bears transition to next QB

Call it variations on a theme. The Bears on Monday night will face not only the Minnesota Vikings, but also Sam Bradford, the latest quarterback opponent that hints at possibilities in the Bears’ own future far beyond what was once the norm.

That norm is what can reasonably be expected from a new quarterback, one coming into a new system, new environment, even a new league, and having near-immediate success. Quarterback changes can involve upheaval of staff, personnel and even franchise identity, as the Bears can confirm based on their last eight years with Jay Cutler.

The experiences in Dallas, Minnesota and Philadelphia point to the kinds of quarterback transitions the Bears may be in search of after the 2016 season.

Bradford arrived in Minnesota via trade just eight days before the season opener, yet has proceeded to post the best results of his career: for completion percentage (67.5), interception percentage (0.6 percent; 7 TD’s vs. 1 INT), yards per attempt (7.4) and rating (100.3, vs. a previous best of 90.9).

More important, without the Vikings’ starting left tackle (Matt Kalil) and running back (Adrian Peterson), Bradford has the Vikings leading the NFC North and tied for the NFC lead at 5-1.

“[The Vikings] had the misfortune of losing their quarterback, they go out and make a bold move to get him and they haven’t missed a beat offensively,” said Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. “He’s been getting better and better.”

This all holds particular relevance for the Bears, who saw Brian Hoyer step in and deliver four straight 300-yard passing games, something he’d never done in his career and no quarterback in Bears franchise history had done. Cutler’s personal best was two straight, for purposes of comparison.

The Bears are expected to have a new quarterback in some form or other next year. In the meantime they have been victimized by two rookie quarterbacks already this season (Carson Wentz, Philadelphia, and Dak Prescott, Dallas). The experience of Bradford, Prescott and Wentz, all new in 2017 to their situations, suggests chances of dramatic improvement over the Bears’ recent history with Cutler, for example.

“A good quarterback can influence the guys and make guys around him better,” Wentz said. “So it’s one of those things where the quarterback usually gets too much credit and too much of the blame as well. It’s just kind of the nature of the position.”

Prescott and Wentz were 2016 draft choices and had offseasons and training camps with their respective teams. Bradford had none of that, yet began his year throwing 130 passes without an interception.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

How that happens may be illustrative for the 2017 Bears. The Vikings traded for Bradford, a one-time starter for the Rams and Eagles. But because of the late-offseason timing of the deal, necessitated by the season-ending leg injury for Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, Bradford had to be eased into the new offense.

“I think that’s honestly one of the bonuses of coming during the regular season,” Bradford said on Thursday. “Obviously it would’ve been nice to have some practices in training camp. But once you get into the regular season, it’s not like you have the whole playbook in each game plan. Each game plan is very specific for that week’s opponent, so it’s considerably less than would be in your training-camp installs.

“So I think that helped a little bit. But as far as it being cut down, the volume wasn’t so much cut down as how the plays were called, naming some concepts with some things I was familiar with. That really helped me.”