Martz Offense Gets Thumbs-Up So Far

Suddenly, the Chicago Bears have one of the more explosive offenses in the NFL and seem to be able to sling the pigskin up and down the field at will. Is Mike Martz really more genius than madman?

Now that the Bears offense has rolled up 771 yards of total offense in the first two weeks of the season, the Mike Martz bandwagon is filled to capacity.

But players say they've had confidence in the new offensive coordinator's scheme for a long time, despite an inauspicious preseason.

"I think everyone wholeheartedly, 100 percent bought in months ago," tight end Greg Olsen said. "When he got here and implemented this offense in the offseason, guys right away said, 'Wow, there's a lot going on here.' There's so many opportunities that he's going to put us in to be successful, and across the board, for all positions, everybody included."

The Packers defense will provide more resistance than either of the Bears' first two opponents when the most-played rivalry in NFL history resumes Monday night at Soldier Field, with both NFC North rivals at 2-0.

But so far, Martz's offense has provided the diversity that it promised back in the summer. Running back Matt Forte leads the Bears in catches and receiving yards thanks to his seven-catch, 151-yard, two-touchdown effort in the opener. But wide receiver Johnny Knox is second with seven catches and 138 yards. The proof that Martz's is an equal opportunity offense is that five players are tied for third on the team with five catches apiece: wide receivers Devin Hester, Devin Aromashodu and Earl Bennett, Olsen and running back Chester Taylor.

Forte says he isn't surprised at the numbers he's produced in the first two games, having watched film of the Rams' "Greatest Show on Turf" that was directed by Martz.

"I knew coming into the 'Greatest Show on Turf,' with Marshall Faulk and those guys, that the running back is a big part of the offense," Forte said. "I'm not surprised that we get a lot of touches out of the backfield, whether it's handoffs or screen passes or down-the-field passes."

It's been all of those things, as Forte's touchdowns demonstrate. He went 89 yards with a screen pass and caught a 28-yard TD on a deep flag pattern vs. the Lions and then secured a short flip for a 3-yard score in Dallas.

Studying Martz's Rams teams gave the offense encouragement from Day 1, and the results from the first two weeks have reinforced what Forte believed from the beginning.

"You watch those Rams teams, and I don't think anyone can say this offense doesn't work," he said. "In [Martz's] history, I don't think offense has ever been a problem with the teams he's been a part of. They've just continued to put up big numbers, they continue to have players be successful, so I don't think that was ever a question in anyone's mind."

RB Matt Forte
Jonathan Daniel/Getty

The explosiveness of Martz's offense in the early going has been impossible to ignore. The Bears have five receivers averaging more than 14.0 yards per catch. Last year they had none.

Once it became apparent that the Cowboys were going all-out on the blitz, Bears adjustments immediately produced back-to-back completions of 19 and 39 yards to Hester and Olsen on passes that traveled less than 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage.

"That's what football is about: adjustments," Forte said. "They're not going to line up exactly like you want them to line up each play. So we've got to go to the sidelines, look at pictures and make adjustments. Our coaches did a great job of that. They get us in the best possible position to make a play."

Much is made of D.J. Moore's lack of size. He's listed at 5-9 and 183 pounds, which seems generous. But to him, size is not as issue.

"It ain't really about size because somebody's always bigger than somebody else, and somebody's always stronger than somebody else," he said. "Somebody's always jumping higher or doing something. Everybody has a part of them that you say, 'Oh, he can't play.' So I don't really pay it any mind. I played football in one of the best college conferences (SEC). Now we play Green Bay and Minnesota. So, undersized [or not], just tackle. Technique overrides everything."

Moore had a better chance of getting splinters from the bench last year than hurt in a game, since he barely played. He said it was important to maintain his ultra-high level of confidence, which he did by visualizing how he would play.

"If you don't visualize it the night before the game, you don't know what you're going to do," he said. "If I was a reporter, I'd be thinking about a question I'm going to ask the night before."

But did he ever visualize two interceptions in the same game?

"No, maybe one," he said with a big smile. "You don't want to go overboard."

In the postgame locker room, Moore was mistakenly given credit for forcing a fourth-quarter fumble that Charles Tillman punched out of Roy Williams' grasp.

"That was Charles," Moore said. "He's around the ball, and he's punching everything out. I felt like he punched out one of my kidneys in practice once." ...

The old us-against-the-world theme is one of the most overused in sports, but in the Bears' case it actually works, since they entered the season with low expectations from outsiders.

"We haven't had many positive things said about many of us," Olsen said. "That's the nature of the game we play. We don't let anyone else define what we're able to do. If we win enough games, that will speak for itself."

The underdog role is one that most teams welcome, and the Bears are no different.

"Nobody is picking us to win," safety Chris Harris said. "We like it like that. That's fine with us, because in the locker room we're all we have anyway. We don't let outside forces, outside voices dictate how we play." ...

Lost amid the big win over the Cowboys were a couple statistical failings that didn't escape coach Lovie Smith's scrutiny.

"Third downs, of course, on both sides, both offensively and defensively, we weren't as good as we need to be," Smith said. "That will be a definite area for us to concentrate on this week."

Offensively, the Bears were a horrendous 1-for-11, a 9-percent conversion rate. On defense, the Bears allowed the Cowboys to convert six of 13 opportunities (46 percent).

The NFL average last year on third-down conversions was 38.6 percent. Offensively, the Bears were 25th at 37.3 percent. Defensively, they were 24th, allowing a 41.2 percent success rate. ...

The Bears have yet to establish a presence in the run game.

Forte averaged the same 2.9 yards per carry in each of the first two games and, as a team, the Bears are averaging 2.8 yards per carry, which would have been the worst in the league last season by a wide margin.

"The running game, of course, you would like to see a little bit more production from it," Smith said. "But sometimes when a team is focused so much on stopping it, it opens up lanes for the passing game, which it did."

"I think if we just continue to go out and play well and win games, everything will take care of itself. That's been our philosophy from the beginning of the year. Articles written and things said don't really have any [bearing on the] outcome. Wins and losses at the end of the year determine who makes the playoffs." – TE Greg Olsen on the lukewarm response from fans to the Bears' 2-0 start.

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