Chicago Bears fans, get off Mike Martz's case

I'm sure Mike Martz would like to have that second quarter 2nd and 1 call back.  You know the one, the Bears were on the Raiders 7 yard line with just 35 seconds remaining.  Martz called that throw back pass to Kellen Davis, and the Raiders didn't bite at all.  Interception.  During the course of a game there are many plays an offensive coordinator would like to take a mulligan on.  Sometimes his counterpart makes a call that thwarts his play.  Sometimes a defensive player does something outstanding to make the stop.  Sometimes the defense audibles and stymies an offense.  And sometimes his own players fail to execute the play called.

I can almost guarantee that every time that play was run in practice at least one coach was in the quarterbacks ear saying something like, 'only throw it if he's wide open' and/or 'if it ain't there, run or throw in in the dirt'.  Hanie ran that play enough times in practice for the Bears to be comfortable with his decision making.  On the play the Bears motioned Roy Williams left to right, leaving Earl Bennett and Davis on the left side.  They had Matt Forte offset right in the backfield and Johnny Knox was lined up to the right as well.  Hanie half rolled right and he actually had Williams open on the quick out route, but he either had his mind made up to execute the throw back or he was instructed that all other receivers in the route were decoys.  It's very possible that Davis was the lone target on the play.  But the route combination from Knox and Williams is a common one, and having a backside option off the look makes more sense.  That would require the QB to read the frontside of the play before looking back at the TE. 

Oakland was in man to man defense and OLB Aaron Curry was either manned up with Chicago's Davis or he was zone/spying Hanie.  Either way he made a great read on the play and he jumped the floating pass.  Kamerion Wimbly snagged the batted ball and so goes at least a 6 point swing.

The bottom line was Caleb Hanie threw the ball before getting a good enough look at Davis, but the play was obviously the fault of Martz for putting Hanie in a position to throw at that time.  Or so I've heard.  He should have just ran the ball up the middle!  OK, so now you have to either take your final timeout or kill the clock and I'm guessing they were holding the 3rd TO to get the field goal unit on the field.  The what if's have been out if full force the last few days.

Martz has become such a convenient whipping boy for Bears fans, that he rarely gets credit even when he does something positive.  Then on a play like this one that's so easy to second guess due to the outcome, he gets drug through the coals.  He called a solid and a balanced game on Sunday.  The Raiders had a good defensive gameplan that revolved around stopping Matt Forte and the ground game.  Forte had one good run on the day that made his numbers look better than they were, and Marion Barber was clearly more effective by running tough between the tackles.   They could have ran a little more, but if Martz went really conservative and the Bears lost he'd get ripped for not trusting his 4th year QB to make a play.

When I look back at the game I'm OK with the throwback play, but I would have liked to have seen more 1st down play action passes.  Oakland was jacked to stop Forte, so the early play action would have eventually opened up some running room.  And on some of the 3rd and longs, I would have liked to have seen a few draws.  Even if the draw didn't pick up a 1st down, as long as it was a positive gainer, you now have the draw in the Raiders head.  Doing those two things early would have payed dividends in the second half.

Hindsight is never wrong, but blaming Martz for putting Hanie in position to make a mistake is faulty logic.  I'm not ready to absolve Martz 100% for the call, but it was a safe call if executed properly.  After looking to Davis and seeing the Raider defender ready to pounce, he should have simply thrown it in the dirt.  That would have set up a 3rd and 1 with about 30 seconds left.  The problem with the play wasn't the play itself, it was the execution.

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