- Jeff Dickerson, ESPN Staff Writer
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Personal milestones mean little in the grand scheme of things, but it's interesting to note Mike Martz has lost four straight times to Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots.
The string of bad luck for Martz began Feb. 3, 2002 when the Patriots upset the heavily favored St. Louis Rams 20-17 to win Super Bowl XXXVI. Martz's offense, however, performed fairly well and racked up 427 total yards, but the Rams turned the ball over three times.
"We had a protection error, we had a receiver slip and fall on a slant, and we fumbled right before the half, and they got 17 points off of those three turnovers," Martz said. "They were a great team, obviously. I’m not taking anything away from that. But for us in that game, it was about turning the ball over like we did that gave them those great opportunities that affected the outcome more than anything else."
Martz went on to lose to Belichick in 2004 (40-22), 2006 (Patriots 28, Lions 21) and 2008 (Patriots 30, 49ers 21). The former head coach and current offensive coordinator will try and snap that streak when the Bears (9-3) battle the Patriots (10-2) Sunday at Soldier Field.
"The thing about Bill, and this is something we try to do on offense, first of all, he’s been there so long, there’s an aura of discipline that he demands out of those guys, where we’re trying to get to," Martz said. "I say eliminate mistakes, get better every week. They’re that way every week because it’s ingrained there.
"And when they bring somebody in, they have to buy into that. They’re very, very disciplined. Never see them out of position. They adjust extremely well, and they just don’t make mistakes. And that gives you the best chance to win. So that’s the best compliment you can give somebody, I think. Those guys are tuned into what they’re doing, and they just don’t make errors."
For his part, Belichick -- 173-99 lifetime in New England with three Super Bowl titles -- speaks highly of Martz, who despite the Bears being ranked No. 29 in total offense, has made significant strides toward improving the unit the past five weeks.
"We always have trouble against Mike," Belichick said. "He does a great job with the formations, the personnel groupings. His passing concepts are very difficult to defend. If you stop one, then that opens up something else. They complement each other well. Of course, it all goes through the quarterback.
"When a quarterback like Jay Cutler is making the kind of decisions and has the throwing accuracy that he’s displayed, and then in addition to that, makes plays that he’s covered on defensively, he’s able to break you down with his legs and the scrambles, either to run or to buy more time and let the receivers get open. That’s another element to the game that is difficult to defend and just stresses your defense even more."
Belichick added: "I think Mike does a great job. He’s a hard guy to defend. His teams are always very creative, and they give you a lot of things to worry about, and again, their plays complement each other. If you’re stopping one thing, you’re probably not going to be able to stop the play that he has that goes with it. You never feel safe when you’re playing Mike’s offense. They’re one play away from a big, explosive play."
Similar to the Bears' offense, the Patriots' defense ranks near the bottom on many statistical categories, including total defense (No. 31) and passing defense (No. 31). Still, with Belichick calling the shots, the Pats' defense poses certain unique challenges every single season.
"He’ll study everything that you’ve done, take it apart, piece-by-piece," Martz said. "He’ll identify what your strengths are, and he’ll try to eliminate your strengths. And he won’t do anything to radically change his defense, but he will make you adjust. There’s no question, he will make you adjust."
Although Martz clearly respects Belichick, he scoffed when a reporter asked if the Patriots coach had somehow gotten inside the Martz's head.
"Oh, God, no," Martz said. You’ve got to be kidding me. C’mon, serious? I’ve beaten him, too. I went up there on Sunday night and beat him, too. Same year , remember? In fact, after that game, I said this is a Super Bowl team, and I think they were 6-5 or something. I don’t remember what it was. But oh God, no. They’re just a good team. No. I don’t think like that or live like that, I’m sorry, I hate to disappoint you, but those things just don’t happen to me. I guess I’m screwed up. That stuff doesn’t happen to me."
Mike Martz's teams have lost the last four games against Bill Belichick's Pats.