Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Streaking and Slumping: Week 3
By Michael C. Wright
Dane Sanzenbacher has proven to be a reliable target while Mike Martz's game plan has been anything but reliable.
1. Dane Sanzenbacher, WR: Sanzenbacher didn’t rack up mega numbers against the Packers, but he caught every catchable ball thrown his way for five catches. Sanzenbacher was targeted seven times total, but two of Jay Cutler’s passes were thrown behind him. An undrafted rookie, Sanzenbacher has flashed signs that he’ll be a major contributor as the season progresses and likely for years to come. He’s certainly gained the trust of Cutler, and more encouraging is the fact that Sanzenbacher appears to completely understand the importance of executing the fine details of the offense.
2. Lance Briggs, LB: Two weeks in a row, Briggs has put on monster performances that might make the front office think again about his desire for a new contract. Briggs was credited with 14 tackles, including two for lost yardage. But it’s likely that total will hit the neighborhood of 16 stops after the coaches review the tape. In addition, Briggs forced a fumble in the second half that was recovered by Julius Peppers.
3. Brian Urlacher, LB: Quarterbacks might soon learn to stop trying to throw that quick ball down the seam with Urlacher patrolling the middle. He’s now picked off two passes on those routes, but also contributed seven tackles against the Packers, including one for lost yardage. Urlacher might be a step slower physically, but his experience has allowed the veteran to continue to produce at a high level. A seven-time Pro Bowler, Urlacher now has 22 career interceptions (including postseason).
1. Jay Cutler, QB: Blame the offensive line. Blame the lack of offensive weaponry. But too many times Cutler made errant throws against the Packers when he shouldn’t have. In the first half, Cutler received sufficient time to throw for the most part, and threw five incomplete passes -- including an interception -- that were the result of bad passes. Two incompletions were on high throws to Devin Hester and Roy Williams. The INT on the long pass to Williams was the result of an underthrown ball that travelled toward the middle of the field -- instead of outside -- where the safety could get to it. Cutler also threw behind Sanzenbacher twice more.
2. Mike Martz, offensive coordinator: A big part of the reason Cutler makes this list is a result of Martz’s play-calling. The Bears have thrown the ball 82 times over the past two weeks, while running just 24 times. That’s a decent ratio if you’re getting blown out and in comeback mode, but the Bears basically passed themselves out of contention in the past two losses. The players are only as good as the game plan, and Martz clearly isn’t putting the team in the best position to win ballgames here.
3. Brandon Meriweather, S:Craig Steltz could easily go here, too. But either way, both safeties drew tough assignments trying to match up with Packers tight end Jermichael Finley. Aaron Rodgers completed 7 of 8 passes thrown to Finley and is now 15 of 17 on attempts to the tight end. According to ESPN Stats & Info, Rodgers and Finley had the highest completion percentage (85.3 percent) of any quarterback-tight end combination in the league with at least 30 attempts since the start of last season. Still, the Bears touted Meriweather’s Pro Bowl pedigree when they acquired him. We didn’t see it.