Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Streaking/Slumping: Week 6
By Michael C. Wright
Johnny Knox had his first 100-yard receiving game on Sunday while Mike Martz abandoned the run.
1. Devin Hester, PR/WR: A mainstay in this section, Hester tied Brian Mitchell’s NFL record last week for combined kick-return touchdowns (13th) by zipping past Seattle defenders on the way to an 89-yard score in the fourth quarter. Interestingly, Hester tied the record in 262 career returns. Meanwhile, it took Mitchell 1,070 returns to reach that mark. Hester has now returned two punts for TDs this season. Sooner or later, special-teams coordinators around the league will finally wise up and stop kicking to him. As a receiver, Hester still needs to grow. But it appears the Bears have found the correct amount of offensive snaps for Hester without affecting his return game.
2. Johnny Knox, WR: We said last week that Knox would be back here soon. Coming off consecutive one-catch performances, Knox finished last Sunday's game with five catches for a career-high 120 yards, marking the first 100-yard receiving performance of his career. Two of Knox’s top receiving games, in terms of yardage, have come in 2010. Knox appears to be in line for more. But one of the keys to that will be shoring up communication with quarterback Jay Cutler. Obviously, better protection up front might help to alleviate some of those problems. A Pro Bowl kick returner last season, Knox still has yet to make a significant contribution in that arena.
3. Brian Iwuh, LB: Sure Chicago’s defense isn’t the same without Lance Briggs. But first-year Bear Iwuh performed well filling in for Briggs, who was out of Sunday’s game because of an ankle injury. Iwuh led the Bears with nine tackles in just his fourth career start, which really wasn’t a surprise. Playing for an identity-challenged club in Jacksonville last season (one that couldn’t figure out whether it wanted to run a 4-3 or 3-4 defense) Iwuh -- playing inside linebacker in the 3-4 -- made six stops in his first start for the Jaguars last season, which coincidentally, came against Seattle.
1. Mike Martz, OC: There’s no question Martz’s offenses have produced over the years, churning out ridiculous yardage totals that rank among the best in the league. At the same time, there’s no question the Bears fought through questionable play-calling against the Seahawks. In the first quarter, Martz called seven passes and seven runs. Then in the second quarter, that ratio flipped to 15 passes and 1 run despite the Bears trailing by just four points most of the quarter. It’s obvious the team has been unable to properly protect quarterback Jay Cutler. So why subject the quarterback, who was coming off a concussion, to even more punishment by calling 39 passes and 14 runs for the game?
2. Lovie Smith, HC: While Martz receives a share of the blame for the play-calling, ultimately, coach Lovie Smith makes the final call on what occurs on the field for the Bears. Smith has maintained since hiring Martz that the club would stick to a run-first philosophy on offense. Clearly, that hasn’t been the case for the Bears, and Cutler is the one taking the punishment for the club’s pass-heavy attack. Smith has shown he trusts his staff to make the necessary decisions to put the team in the best position to succeed. But at some point -- hopefully soon -- Smith needs to rein in Martz and steer the club back to his own core philosophy.
3. Mike Tice, OL coach: It’s no secret that Tice doesn’t have much to work with in terms of talent along the offensive line. Injuries at various positions only compounded matters. Tice has tried pretty much everything to shore up protection and add pep to the rushing attack. For the most part, nothing has worked. It’s believed the club’s relatively inexperienced line is struggling to absorb Tice’s numerous protection schemes, which seem to be constantly changing and creating confusion even among some of the veterans. So Tice, who mentioned in August the Bears have 37 protection schemes, needs to simplify things to eliminate confusion and allow the offensive line to play faster. Cutler can’t take much more punishment if the club expects him to finish the season.