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Bears need steady hand from Martz post-bye

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Dan Parr

dparr@pfwmedia.com
Associate editor

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Posted Oct. 24, 2011 @ 5:45 p.m. ET
By Dan Parr

After a rocky and often tense seven weeks, the Bears head into their bye after winning back-to-back games for the first time this season. They built a 16-point second-half lead Sunday in London against the Buccaneers, but the Bucs rallied in the fourth quarter and had a chance to win the game with a late touchdown before QB Josh Freeman threw his fourth interception of the game. His pass was picked off by CB D.J. Moore, sealing the victory and improving the Bears' record to 4-3.

It's the same record they had at this point one year ago. That team went on a 7-2 run to end the season, capturing a division title before losing to the Packers in the NFC championship game.

Chicago, positioned to compete for a wild-card spot this season, will try to start a similar run in their next game — a Monday-night matchup with the Eagles in Philadelphia on Nov. 7.

The PFW Spin

Even in a win, the Bears managed to give those who are skeptical about their team some fodder in the final quarter.

Chicago scored only three points in the final 25:32 while the Bucs battled back into the game despite losing several players — they were down to their third-string running back, center and left guard and lost their top fullback, too — to injuries earlier in the game.

Despite playing with a substantial lead for most of the second half, offensive coordinator Mike Martz called only 14 run plays and 21 pass plays in the second half after calling 18 runs and 14 passes in the first half. Leading by three with 3:52 to play, the Bears had 1st-and-goal from the Bucs' 4-yard line and Martz dialed up two pass plays, both resulting in incompletions, before CB Ronde Barber timed up a blitz perfectly and sacked Jay Cutler for a loss of six yards. A stupid penalty by CB Aqib Talib — he stuck his hand in Roy Williams' facemask — on that play gave the Bears a fresh set of downs and the Bears ran three times, losing yardage on two of three plays, before PK Robbie Gould made a 25-yard field goal.

The Bears didn't have much more success running it than they did throwing in that sequence, but the play selection didn't exactly quiet the questioning of Martz's management of the offense.

Martz has not been quick to make the necessary adjustments to his play-calling in each of his seasons with the Bears and while he appeared to fully grasp it against the struggling Vikings in Week Six, there's still reason to worry that he will stray too far from what seems to work.

Making a post-bye run similar to the one the Bears made last season will only be possible if Martz keeps the offense balanced and helps his offensive line keep Cutler upright.

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