LAKE FOREST, Ill. — The way Jay Cutler was getting drilled early on, the Chicago Bears looked like they were in for a rough afternoon in Dallas last week.
Then, everything changed.
The Bears made some big adjustments on offence and came away with a 27-20 win in which they turned as many heads with their execution on the sideline as they did with their performance on the field. Now, they’re 2-0 heading into their Monday night game against Green Bay.
The Bears came away with the win last week in large part because of the adjustments offensive co-ordinator Mike Martz and line coach Mike Tice made.
“Once you start getting co-ordinators of Mike Martz’s calibre and (Mike) Shanahan and Jeremy Bates and some of those guys — that’s what they’re able to do, is find plays that are going to be successful no matter what the circumstances are,” Cutler said.
Many wondered how Cutler and Martz would coexist.
Well, it’s been nothing but praise between the two.
It’s notable that Cutler mentioned Martz alongside two of his mentors in former Broncos coach Shanahan and Bates, his position coach and co-ordinator in Denver. It’s telling that he did not mention former Bears offensive co-ordinator Ron Turner. The two never seemed to click last season, and Cutler wound up throwing a league-leading 26 interceptions as the Bears missed the playoffs for the third straight year.
They brought in Martz in the off-season, hoping the architect of the “Greatest Show on Turf” could help Cutler limit the picks while energizing a struggling offence, and so far, the results are promising.
There are still issues on the line. Cutler again was getting hit hard in the early going as the Cowboys launched an all-out blitz, but several adjustments by the Bears paid off.
“I’m not trying to dodge (the question),” Martz said. “This isn’t about the play-calling.”
Yet to many, the decisions on the sideline played a big role in the success on the field, even if Martz insisted it was more about better execution than Xs and Os.
The Bears inserted Kevin Shaffer at left tackle after Chris Williams went down with what coach Lovie Smith called a “significant” pulled hamstring on their third possession. When it became apparent that Williams wasn’t coming back, they made another switch and moved Frank Omiyale to his spot and put Shaffer on the right side.
They also started going with quick passes to counter the blitz, like on tight end Greg Olsen’s 39-yard touchdown.
They threw in screens and went with extra blockers to help open things up and came away with a win over a team that many expected to contend for a championship.
They did all that after managing 13 yards on the first three possessions, with Cutler getting sacked once and having another wiped out by offsetting penalties. He was getting hit when he dropped back, a familiar sight after he ran for his life last season, but the Bears did something they rarely seemed to do in the past.
They adjusted successfully.
“We did a good job of adjusting over the course of the game with what we were going to try to counter attack them with, just short passes, getting the ball in guys’ hands and letting them run in space was a good adjustment for us and led to some big plays,” Olsen said.
Clearly, the Bears believe in Martz.
Olsen said they began buying into the system about as soon as the ink dried on the contract, yet he also insisted the Bears trusted Turner.
“I think we did have trust last year,” Olsen said.
“I think a lot of factors went into why we weren’t successful. Things kind of steamrolled on us a little bit, and once that happens it just got kind of out of hands and we weren’t able to get everything stopped, and I don’t think it had to do with so much of our trust in what we were doing.
“I think we felt confident each week going out, but this year I think everyone wholeheartedly, 100 per cent has bought in months ago. I think when he got here and implemented this offence in the off-season, I think guys right away said, ‘Wow, there’s a lot going on here, there’s so many opportunities that he’s going to put us in to be successful, and across the board, for all positions, everybody included.”