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Numerous professional yakkers spent this week asserting that the Bears had found success the past few weeks because Mike Martz had changed. These were the people who wouldn't shut up about what a bad offensive coordinator he was, what a bad coach Lovie Smith was and what a bad general manager Jerry Angelo was (despite the team having made the NFL's final four the year before) when the team started this season 2-3.
The talkers had to try to find a way to justify the fact that if you went back and listened to what they were saying during the weeks leading up to the Bears' current four-game winning streak, you would conclude they don't know what they're talking about.
Perhaps in the aftermath of the Bears' dominant, 37-13 victory over the Lions we can get a few things straight and then maybe avoid sounding like idiots the next time the Bears suffer the horrible indignity of a couple losses in a row with the current leadership team in place.
Martz has shown during his tenure with the Bears that he calls the plays that give his personnel their best chance to succeed, whatever they may be. He did it last year after the Bears struggled mightily to protect the quarterback in the first month of the season and he has done it this year as well.
In the Bears' season-opener a few months ago, they handily defeated a decent Falcons team 30-12. Jay Cutler threw for 312 yards and finished with a 107.8 passer rating. It appeared the team was all set to move forward with the classic Martzian scheme featuring deep quarterback drops and many big throws down the field.
During the next month it became clear that the Bears' offensive line still wasn't good enough to do that and neither were their receivers, at least with Earl Bennett sidelined by a chest injury he suffered in the second game. So the plan changed. The Bears played more conservatively and when the defense or the special teams came up with big plays, like the special teams did during wins over Carolina and Minnesota (during which they also scored), they were in position to win.
When Bennett came back for the game with the Eagles last week at the same time that Lance Louis had solidified his hold on the right tackle spot - steadying the entire line in the process - the plan started to change back. The Bears were able to beat a hot team on the road despite Matt Forte's two potentially crushing fumbles.
With Louis on one side and J'Marcus Webb on the other, by the way, the Bears now appear to have two of the most valuable commodities in the NFL - young, talented offensive tackles. They were both drafted - in different seventh rounds! - in the last three years by Angelo.
So Martz isn't changing, you numbskulls. Martz is being the same guy he has always been - a very smart play-caller.
(And when the game was still in question in the first half, Cutler completed nine of 14 passes for 123 yards, i.e., the passing game was clicking.)
That said, it doesn't take a genius coordinator to lead the way when the defense is forcing six glorious turnovers like it did against overmatched Lions led by deer-in-the-headlights quarterback Matt Stafford. Let's take a quick look back at those, shall we?
1. Julius Peppers, treat yourself and your friends to all the expensive champagne you want this week. You earned it.
The Lions were moving the ball smartly down the field in their first drive of the game before Peppers absolutely man-handled Calvin "Megatron" Johnson, punching the ball out of his hands and almost decapitating him in the process. Brian Urlacher scooped up the biscuit and ran 17 yards with it; a half-dozen plays later, Matt Forte blasted into the end zone. The Bears were on their way.
2. The next time the Lions had the ball it was Tim Jennings' turn to punch a football loose, and he went ahead and recovered this one himself just before his foot touched out of bounds, leading to a Bear field goal and a two-score lead they would not relinquish the rest of the day.
3. In the second half, Major Wright made a beautiful break on a pass out wide, snatched it out of the air and romped to the end zone to start turning this contest into a rout. It was his best play as a Bear.
4. The next time the Lions had the ball, Charles Tillman expertly jammed Johnson at the line and then released him just in time to avoid penalty and free up his hands for an interception of his own. He also romped into the end zone and the game was essentially over.
5. In the fourth quarter, Jennings snagged a pick on a pass over the middle.
6. Corey Graham finished off the proceedings by leaping high in the end zone to steal a pass intended for - again - Johnson.
How about those Bear cornerbacks! In the past week, Jennings and Tillman have stepped up huge, playing more man coverage and making tons of big plays.
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