The much-maligned play caller for the Bears deserves some credit for his game plan against the Texans last week and it should continue against the 49ers.
Since April of 2010, when the Bears traded for quarterback Jay Cutler, the most unpopular sports personality in Chicago football went from the Bears starting to quarterback to the Bears' offensive coordinator.
It's been no secret that the Bears have spent the better part of the last half century searching for a sure-fire franchise quarterback and during that time it was often said "the most popular player is the backup quarterback." Fans always tired of the terrible play of one guy and wanted to see the next guy. Nothing wrong with that because most of the QB play was just awful.
However, since Cutler arrived the onus has moved on to the play caller. Ron Turner, already an unpopular figure was more or less run out of town after Cutler led the league in picks in his first season in Chicago.
Mike Martz was brought in, much to the trepidation of many Bears fans and was subsequently sacrificed for being too stubborn and running a system that was past its time and without the right players.
So now enters Mike Tice. Tice is a first-time offensive coordinator and the offense has, no question, had its share of growing pains this year. As usual, everyone has been a critic; too many pass plays, too much TE-blocking, not enough Forte, etc.
Personally, I too have been disappointed in Tice's playcalling, however I believe that a first year offense will always have its problems. I hope that no matter what Mike Tice and the rest of the offensive staff return for next season because I think the offense will improve a lot in year two.
This article from Pro-Football Focus was in today's Den but I wanted to highlight it and show that perhaps Tice isn't as bad as he has seemed all year.
Look passed the corny headline and there is some very good stuff in there. A lot of people have said the Bears were able to beat J.J. Watt with a combination of the weather and double teams, PFF says that's not the case.
However, it’s important to point out that it wasn’t Mother Nature blocking Watt on Sunday night, it was a combination of eight different Chicago Bears. Every single member of the Chicago offensive line, plus Kellen Davis, Jonathan Scott and Matt Forte all laid a block on Watt at some point.
...I counted Watt being single teamed on 32 of the Texans’ 59 defensive snaps, with a ‘full’ double team, i.e. both blockers solely focused on blocking Watt from the outset, coming on only seven snaps.
The author goes on to write that Watt was lining himself up against multiple blockers on many plays and that at other times the Bears' scheme allowed for a free lineman to help out any blocker struggling, which turns into a double team but is not actually a called, specific double team.
On the majority of these plays the primary offensive lineman had the block controlled initially but the help still came, which would have been a point of emphasis for the coaching staff throughout the week in all likelihood – if you can get two bodies on Watt, do it.
So Tice and offensive line coach Tim Holt were drilling it into players all week, "focus on Watt when you can" but it almost wasn't necessary because the line was playing so well on its own.
In fact, Tice and Holt's scheme was so good, according to PFF, more teams might look to copy it.
Unless Reed and Barwin start showing a greater ability to win one-on-one battles outside it would be no surprise at all to see teams start to zero in on Watt with similar tactics to the Bears. Chicago proved that you don’t need to devote double teams to Watt to keep him quiet, he is simply the player that help logically gravitates toward when you hand the rest of the Texans’ pass rush one-on-one.
You may be saying "OK so the line scheme was well-executed, but so what? Tice is a known o-line guru and he can scheme a good blocking game but the rest of the offense was bad."
Yes, but I counter by saying that 1) It all starts up front. Football is won in the trenches. Yes those are two old cliches but I believe them to be true. 2) The Bears were in the game until the end, they lost by 7! Sure the offense didn't march up and down the field and put up 30 points but that was a good defense they were against. They were never out of the game. Campbell was thrown into a tough situation and I believe the Bears had a gameplan to win but were let down too much by their own players failing them.
Tice can't do it all. The players have to execute and too often last week the players didn't make plays. Dropped passes and fumbles killed the Bears more so than Tice's play calling did.
This week I expect more of the same. Campbell will play better after a full week running the gameplan and the offensive line should have a lot of confidence coming off their game last week. I think that will give the Bears as good a chance as any to win on the road Monday night.