The Chicago Bears won their Week 7 matchup 24-18 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday in London.
Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz showed his true colors in the fourth quarter with his play calling and could have cost the Bears the victory. After a borderline brilliant first three quarters in which Bears running back Matt Forte rushed for well over 100 yards, Martz decided to start throwing the ball as opposed to running the ball and the clock.
The Bears had a first down in the red zone, leading 21-18, and ran a grand total of 25 seconds off the clock while throwing three incomplete passes. Luckily defensive back Aqib Talib decided to stick his hands in Chicago wide receiver Roy Williams' face mask, drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and automatic first down. This gave the Bears a fresh set of downs and an opportunity to run some more clock.
Chicago took the guessing out of it by emptying the backfield inside the 5-yard line. The Bears had to settle for a Robbie Gould 25-yard field goal.
Why would Martz not run the ball inside the 5 when running the clock out is an issue? Running the ball worked amazingly the whole game, with Forte rushed 25 times for 145 yards and backup running back Marion Barber adding 39 yards on six carries. They each had a touchdown.
Not only did the Bears run the ball effectively, but the Buccaneers could not stop Forte when he ran to the outside. Instead of hitting the edges, Martz decided to try and call a run play up the middle. The result: stuffed.
When a team is up as the Bears were, the clock becomes the opponent. You need to run the ball and chew down the clock. You don't empty the backfield and deplete pass protection and put the ball and the QB at risk. You don't abandon the run when it worked all day.
The Bears won despite Martz's play calling. Williams overcame a first-quarter dropped pass to have a great night, pulling in four receptions for 59 yards and a touchdown and Johnny Knox added three catches for 53 yards.
The Bears defense saved the day by picking off Bucs QB Josh Freeman four times— twice in the red zone. Safety Chris Conte picked off Freeman at the 2-yard line in the first quarter and LB Brian Urlacher came up with another pick in the fourth quarter.
On the next play after the Conte interception, the Bears spread the offense and handed the ball to Forte up the middle. The play was stuffed by Tampa's Ronde Barber, who wrapped up Forte in the end zone for a safety.
Everyone and their mother knows when you have the ball in the shadow of your end zone you run the ball to give you some room. Martz decided to go with a three receiver-single back set.
Martz's fourth-quarter play calling was extremely poor and it almost cost the Bears the victory.
Mike Martz has flashes of genius and at times he has complete and total brain farts. He had both last night and you can't blame the latter on the dog.