Audibles From the Long Snapper: Bye Week Edition

| October 25th, 2011

Mea Culpa on Matt Forte’s Contract

No one can mention the on-field performance of Matt Forte without discussing his off-field contract “negotiations”.  There are two reasons.  (1) Forte is delivering an MVP-caliber performance for the Bears, leading the world in yards from scrimmage and providing almost 50% of the Bears offensive output.  (2) Forte is playing.  How many running backs in the NFL would even suit up on Sundays without the long term security of guaranteed money?  It speaks to the caliber and professionalism of the man and it’s caused writers, analysts from across the media landscape to root for this deal to get done in short order.

And I wrong on Forte.  Dead wrong.  With successful run blocking (and he’s getting that in spades) Forte is right there with the best backs in the sports.  There is no negotiation for Jerry Angelo anymore.  The Carolina Panthers gave DeAngelo Williams 5 years, 43 million and guaranteed 21 million of that.  Forte is better than Williams.  5 years.  50 million.  25 guaranteed.  Done.

On the Prospect of Gabe Carimi’s Return…

They are not be a collection of the world’s finest pass protectors. But since the changes made in the lead up to Minnesota – exiling Frank Omiyale, sliding Lance Louis outside, starting Chris Spencer – the current crop of Bears offensive linemen are inarguably one of the best run blocking units in the sport.  They have delivered their finest back-to-back performances in two seasons.

Now Gabe Carimi, the major first round talent, is set to return to the Bears in Philadelphia following the bye.  Is it fair to question whether the Bears should immediately insert him into the starting lineup?  Shouldn’t the Bears give this current group a few more weeks together before dislodging any piece from the successful unit?  Can’t Carimi’s health be used to not only push Louis at RT but also J’Marcus Webb on the blindside?  There’s no question the Bears envision Carimi at a ten-year starting tackle.  It is fair to question whether inserting him back into the starting lineup makes the current unit better.

Don’t Count Brad Biggs Among the Chicago Media Zombies

Biggs is no David Haugh and certainly no Steve Rosenbloom.  I spend a lot of my Monday mornings reading beat writers from around the country and Biggs might the finest the NFL’s got.  His analysis/reporting of the Bears late-game offensive strategy requires no additional comment:

1. At a crucial point in the game when the Bears could have polished off the Buccaneers with ease, the run/pass ratio got out of whack again.

Plenty of explanations were offered up in the locker room by the players and all pointed to the same thing: The Bucs finally had adjusted and were taking away the wide lanes they had to run on the edges through much of the game.

The Bears pounded the Bucs for 177 yards rushing asMatt Forte ran for 145 yards on 25 carries. He had 108 of the team’s 138 at halftime, and the Bears pushed their lead to 21-5 less than five minutes into the third quarter when Marion Barber took a hand-off on a lead play and broke it through a huge hole on the back side to score on a 12-yard run.

With a 16-point lead, the Bears proceeded to have 17 pass plays called by Martz and 11 runs the rest of the way, a statistic that does not include the kneel down by quarterback Jay Cutler on the final play after nickel cornerback D.J. Moore’s interception sealed the game.

“The way they were pressuring us, we weren’t going to be able to run the ball outside and get out on the edges,” Cutler said. “Because they were shooting gaps … that’s one of the things that we started feeling, started taking pressure.”

Cutler had a pass intercepted by fill-in Bucs safetyCorey Lynch in the fourth quarter, helping the Bucs make a game of it down the stretch as they scored two touchdowns in the quarter and then had the ball at the end with a chance to win.

“Not really,” Forte said when asked if he was surprised Martz went away from the running game. “They kind of stopped a few of our runs. We had to make adjustments so we (lost) our flow. We had a couple of three-and-outs and that kind of stopped us in our game plan.”

Here’s where it didn’t add up, though. The Bears were up 21-18 and had first-and-goal at the Bucs’ 4-yard line with 3:52 remaining. Three run plays there and they have a shot at punching it in the end zone or forcing Tampa to start burning through its timeouts.

On first down, Cutler threw incomplete to Devin Hester on a quick slant. On second down, Lynch nearly picked him off again at the goal line. Blitzing cornerback Ronde Barber sacked Cutler on third down and only a facemask penalty against cornerbackAqib Talib after the play gave the Bears new life, pushed back at the 6-yard line. From there, they did try three consecutive runs, but they were stopped and ultimately settled for aRobbie Gould field goal as insurance.

Yes, the Bucs went to eight-man fronts in the second half to prevent the run. Everyone plays an eight-man front near the goal line where it’s difficult to have success throwing because the field is compacted. Safeties line up three yards in the end zone and sit on routes. You want to throw it over their heads? Go ahead and try. Defensive backs don’t have to backpedal in this part of the field. When you’ve run like the Bears had, there’s got to be a way to be a better four-minute offense – which is the mode teams go in when they’re working to grind out a victory.

So, I asked Ronde Barber — who has been around 15 seasons, well before Martz directed the Greatest Show on Turf — if he was surprised the Bears threw the ball like they did with the lead late in the game.

“No, that’s Mike Martz,” Barber said. “They’ve got a talented quarterback, they’ve got a talented runner. I think they choose to use them equally. They’re a team that wants to throw the ball so no, I am not surprised.

“We made a play when we had to, made them pay for it, I guess. That’s what they’ve shown themselves to be so you don’t expect them to be any different because they have a lead.”

OK. The Bears certainly need to be more efficient in four-minute mode, though.

Great stuff, Biggs.