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Comparing the Greatest Show on Turf to the 2010 Bears - Part 1: The Backfield

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Love Martz or hate him, agree with his hiring or not, once the the man was hired we all hoped we would see the Bears become "The Greatest Show on Sloppy Grass and Mud".  There were a rash of posts discussing the similarities between the weapons that made up the "Greatest Show on Turf" St Louis Rams of 1999-2001 and the 2010 Chicago Bears.  But with it all said and done, how did those key players stack up against the Rams record setting offense?  Follow me to the clearing at the end of the jump for a comparison of the 1999 Rams and the 2010 Bears quarterbacks and primary rushers.

Quarterback: Of course it all starts with the Quarterback, so first we'll start there, too
Kurt Warner's breakout year was a thing of beauty.  He was efficient and made smart choices, yet made plays consistently with his arm.  He ended the regular season with 325 completions on 499 attempts for 4353 yard(65.1% completion), 41 passing TDs to just 13 INTs, 8.7 yards per attempt, and unbelievable 8.2 TD%, and a quarterback rating of 109.2.  Warner was protected pretty well by Martzfense standards, being sacked all of 29 times, but Warner did cough up the ball for 9 fumbles.  He also rushed for 92 yards on 23 attempts and added 1 TD on the ground.

Jay Cutler entered his 3rd offensive system in three years, and improved under Mike Martz.  But he had nowhere near the success Warner had.  He recorded 261 completions on 432 attempts for 3274 yards and a 60.2 comp%, threw 23 passing TDs to 16 INTs, 7.6 yards per attempt, a pretty good 5.3 TD%, and a quarterback rating of 86.3.  Of course, we know that my daughters could have done a better job of protecting Jay and he was downed 52 times, and coughed up the ball 10 times.  But he also threw in 232 yards on 50 attempts and added a TD on the ground.

Jay grew this year as a decision maker, but he was nowhere near the level of a Kurt Warner.  To be fair though, there's a big difference between having a young Orlando Pace defending your blind side and having Frank Omiyale.  Warner didn't have to run for his life.  Cutler literally did.

Warner also had something else that Cutler didn't.  Marshall Faulk.  And while Forte is a more than adequate substitute, Martz has to decide to use him as he did Faulk in the Greatest Show.  Unfortunately, Martz forgot that aspect of the game for most of the first half of the season.  Speaking of Faulk and Forte......

Running Back:  

Marshall Faulk was the ideal RB for this type of offense.  Ungodly speed.  Hands like Payton.  Agility near Sanders.  That season Faulk became only the second person to ever rush and receive for over 1000 yards each.  He was every bit as important to the Rams offense as Warner was, and maybe more so.  The threat he posed every time his hands touched the ball kept defenses honest, opening up the game for Warner and the receivers.  Faulk finished 1999 with 253 carries for 1381 yards and 7 TDs to go along with 87 receptions for 1048 yards and 5 TDs.  Faulk fumbled only twice in 340 touches.  

Matt Forte was no slouch, make no mistake about it.  He may not have put up the kinds of numbers that Faulk did, but he was every bit as important to the 2010 Bears.  He improved almost every facet of his game under Martz, and ended the season with 237 carries for 1069 yards and 6 TDs to compliment 51 receptions for 547 yards and 3 TDs.  And Forte lost the rock only 3 times in 288 touches.

Forte flourished under Martz and his system (once Martz figured out that Forte was in fact a Bear) and Forte only figures to get better.  He had his best yards per carry average of his career even behind the worst offensive line in the game.  Had Martz figured out that Forte was more than a receiver out of the backfield before the bye week, Jay Cutler might not have been injured against the Giants and Forte's numbers would have been significantly higher in the rushing category.  Forte will never be Faulk.  Marshall Faulk was a once in a lifetime back.  But Forte is everything the Bears need to run this system.  Let's just hope that Martz remembers how instrumental Faulk was when he's calling plays next year for Forte.

Come back again later this week as we take a look at the receiving corps and the tight ends.