Previous to the Chicago Bears' bye week in week eight, a 3-0 start seemed to be slowly diminishing. Before week eight, the Bears finished 4-3, losing three out of the last four.
Who's to blame?
At first it seemed that the entrance of Mike Martz and his offensive system looked to be working for Chicago. Jay Cutler improved from last year, only throwing seven interceptions in his first six starts compared to ten from last season.
The game against the New York Giants could be considered a turning point for the Bears season, giving Chicago their first loss for the season.
What happened in that game? Chicago fans surely won't forget. The offensive line gave up nine sacks that eventually forced Cutler to leave the game after only completing eight passes and giving up an interception.
He wouldn't start the next game versus the less-than-scary Carolina Panthers but did return for the week six game against the Seattle Seahawks. In that game Cutler did not throw a touchdown or interception, but was brought down to the ground six times.
The game after that, before the Bears bye week, Cutler threw four interceptions and was also sacked four times. Before the bye, Chicago looked like they were going back to their old ways.
Quite the contrary.
7-2 is what the Bears record was after week eight. Cutler averaged an 88.9 quarterback rating and was only sacked 25 times (an average of about three a game compared to the five sacks a game in the beginning weeks.)
Something different was going on in Chicago and quickly they turned into a division winning team and a playoff contender.
How did they go on to turn their season around?
Although their offensive line looked absolutely atrocious last season, giving up 56 sacks, could one argue that they did a better job protecting Cutler? Or was it Cutler who gave up on their protection and took matter into his own hands by scrambling behind the line of scrimmage?
Well, when Cutler was under pressure, he had no other option but to scramble away and elude a sack or hit. What the o-line did after that was get to the second level and allow extra yards to be gained. One game in particular where Cutler executed this consistently was the NFC Divisional Playoff game against Seattle. He ran eight times for 43 yards and two touchdowns.
The success could also be credited to Martz's offensive system. In the second part of their season, running back Matt Forte saw the ball placed in his custody more. Forte averaged four more carries a game after week eight than he did previous to that.
How did this help? It put less pressure on Cutler to determine what the offense would do when Chicago was on their quest to the endzone and it eliminated his chances of getting sacked.
In addition, Martz drew up plays that had Cutler executing shorter drops, getting the ball in the air quicker and avoiding a trip to the turf.
The way that Martz wanted to run his system with the Bears is so that the ball would be thrown to where to receiver should be—as in where his route should be ran. This could have worked a lot better if the receivers were a bit taller and if they weren't behind the defensive backs.
Johnny Knox can be a victim to some interceptions as he let a cornerback play in front of him for the easy INT.
Either way, the argument can be credited to both sides for turning the Bears season around. Martz's system and the "improvement" of the offensive line have their successes and their failures, but in the end Chicago made it all the way to the NFC Championship and were an injury shy of making the Super Bowl.
So the question is: who do you think was the key ingredient to the Bears post-bye week turnaround?
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