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Bears' Martz needs to be more patient with ground game

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Dan Parr
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Posted Sept. 19, 2011 @ 7:03 p.m. ET
By Dan Parr

There was bad news for the banged-up Bears on Monday, as first-round pick Gabe Carimi reportedly suffered a knee injury in the second quarter Sunday that will keep him out for at least a couple of games.

Heading into a Week Three battle against the Packers, the Bears may be starting a whole new right side of the offensive line from the one that took the field in the season opener. Frank Omiyale is likely to fill in for Carimi at right tackle, and Chris Spencer could get his second straight start at right guard if Lance Louis is still sidelined by an ankle sprain.

It's not quite clear how the starting O-line will shake out vs. the Packers due to the injuries, but there's a very good chance defensive coordinator Dom Capers will come after the Bears with blitzes, much as Gregg Williams of the Saints did on Sunday.

Mike Martz might be tempted to air the ball out, considering the Packers have allowed more than 400 yards passing in each of their first two games.

So, will it be the Martz of the second half of last season who shows up on Sunday? The one who stopped trying to make the Bears into something they weren't — a pass-first team — and maintained a balance in his play-calling between the pass and the run. Or, will it be the other guy? The one who gave RB Matt Forté 10 carries against the Saints Sunday, with only three of them coming after the first quarter, and similarly underutilized the running game in the first half of last season.

The Bears were down by only six at halftime Sunday and didn't trail by more than 10 until early in the fourth quarter — it's not as if they had to throw their way back into the game. The size of the deficit didn't call for an air show until the final quarter. There was plenty of time to stay patient and use the formula that has worked so well for the Bears, but they ran the ball only twice in the second half.

It's true that aside from one big run, a 42-yarder by Forté, the Bears couldn't get anything going on the ground in the first quarter vs. the Saints. Running the ball isn't a cure-all. But why so quickly abandon a mix between the pass and run that has become a key to success for the Bears' offense? There doesn't have to be an obsession with the ground game, but there does need to be more patience with it.

Since the start of the 2010 season, Martz's first with the Bears, they are 10-2 when Forté has 14 carries or more, including the playoffs. They are 3-5 when he has 13 carries or fewer, and they're 1-4 when he has 10 carries or fewer.

It's pretty clear what works for the Bears. Martz needs to game-plan for the Packers accordingly, and Lovie Smith needs to make sure Martz sticks to that plan during games, even if it doesn't produce the kind of result the team is looking for right off the bat.

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