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Offensive coordinator Mike Martz restored some balance to the Bears' offense in the team's 22-19 win over the Bills on Sunday. Chicago ran the ball 31 times, and QB Jay Cutler, who made five of those rushing attempts, attempted 30 passes and was sacked only once.
RBs Matt Forté and Chester Taylor combined to run 24 times for just 62 yards, but Taylor did have a one-yard touchdown run.
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One of the encouraging developments in the game against Buffalo was that the running game struggled and Martz didn't give up on it. The Bears had 15 rushing attempts for just 44 yards at halftime, and 31 of those yards were picked up on scampers by Cutler. Forté and Taylor ran 11 times for only 14 yards in the first half.
Martz stuck with them, though.
The two running backs combined for 13 carries in the second half.
One drive, in particular, stood out as some of Martz's best work in a while. On a nine-play, 60-yard touchdown drive that put Chicago ahead 14-7, seven of the plays were runs, including Taylor's one-yard trip into the endzone.
Forté had a two-yard run and a four-yard run, setting upa third down. Then Cutler scrambled nine yards for a first down. On the next play, the Bills' defense gave WR Devin Hester a cushion off the line, and Cutler fired the ball to him on a quick-hitting slant for seven yards. Then Earl Bennett lined up in the backfield and took a pitch from Cutler for five yards and a first down. Cutler hit underutilized TE Greg Olsen for a gain of seven, and Forté had the longest rush of the game — 22 yards — on the next play. Two short runs by Taylor later, and the Bears had their 14-7 lead.
Martz showed a great balance between his creativity — the pitch to Bennett — and a straight-ahead rushing attack on that drive, and the Bears need more of that in the second half of the season.
Sticking with the running game even if it doesn't initially produce good results can eventually pay off, and it also keeps the offensive line from getting hammered by pass rush after pass rush.
In addition to Martz remaining committed to it, the running game does need to become more effective when he rewards Forté and Taylor with opportunities. Averaging 2.6 yards per carry, as Forté and Tayor combined to do on Sunday, isn't going to cut it in most weeks.