In my Tuesday post, Watch for deeper zones vs. the Martz offense, I talked about a couple ways the Bears could keep defenses honest if they set their underneath zone deeper to take away the deep dig routes that are so prevalent in the Martz offense. Bellying the dig route back under the D and running long shallow crossing routes are good ways to beat a deeper set up zone. But the best way to hurt a defense that settles into their zones a bit deeper is with the screen pass. (I'm disappointed in myself for not mentioning it on Tuesday, but I had WRs on the brain!)
And since it's also an effective way to slow down an aggressive pass rush, and the Bears offensive line dosen't seem to be too adept at pass blocking... yet, it makes perfect sense for Mike Martz to keep the screen at the forefront of the game planning.
I'll admit, I've long been jealous of the Green Bay Packers ability to gash the Bears with the screen. I've longed for the Bears and former offensive coordinator Ron Turner to perfect this basic play. While I think the wide receiver slip screen and bubble screen has a place in an NFL offense, the basic screen to a running back is something I don't remember the Bears having too much success with in recent years.
Inducing a pass rush up-field is the first part of a successful screen. Convincing a defensive lineman (they're not the sharpest tools in the shed) that he's beat his block and has an open shot at the QB isn't the most difficult thing to do. Doing so when you are actually struggling to pass block makes it even easier. So the Bears O-Line should be great at it.
Step two is the running back, or on occasion the TE, to feign his block just enough as to not give away his actual intent. Slipping out for a pass. If the back slips out to quickly a smart defender will follow him and disrupt the play, and since the screen call is usually an all or nothing play the QB is forced to throw the pass in the dirt. (Or to a waiting defensive linemen, but Jay Cutler is done with that option... we hope)
Step three is the offensive line pulling to set up their blocks for the screen. The O-Line has to know how long to hold their blocks before allowing the defense through. Hold too long, and the pursuit angles the defender has is shorter, hold the block too little and the QB is running for his life. Also if the O-Line fails to sell the initial block the D-Line may read screen all the way. Block, let the defense in, pull to set up the blocks. The Bears have a fairly athletic group of offensive linemen, and pulling is one of their strong suits.
From Yahoo Sports:
Six screen plays picked up 132 yards Sunday, execution that hasn't been seen from the Bears in a long time.
Mike Martz called for a variety of different screens, although five went to Matt Forte and one to tight end Greg Olsen. Quarterback Jay Cutler said the screens worked because the Lions were frequently playing Cover 2 and taking deeper drops in coverage.
Wait a minute, the Lions play some Cover 2 also?
"It depends on the coverage," he said. "We started off early, and we shifted them to death a little bit. They started backing off and going with a little bit of Cover 2. If you get (receivers) up on the linebackers, those screens are going to go a long way."
With the way the Bears backs can catch the ball, I'd expect the screen to be a big part of the offense. And hopefully they'll have a few more NFC Player of the week honors to come.
* If you're one of my dozen or so regular readers, you may have noticed my post is up a little earlier than usual. That's because Windy City Gridiron is debuting a new feature later today. Be sure to check it out!!!