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Tag:Jay Cutler
Posted on: October 3, 2011 12:43 am
Edited on: October 3, 2011 1:36 pm
 

Sorting the Sunday Pile: Week 4


Sorting the Sunday Pile takes all of Sunday's NFL action and figures out the most important storylines for you to digest. Send your complaints, questions and comments to Will Brinson on Twitter.Make sure and listen to our Week 4 podcast review below as well and feel free to subscribe via iTunes.



1. The bandwagon rolls on
On Sunday, the mojo disappeared for the Lions and they fell 24 points behind the Cowboys in Dallas, until Tony Romo decided to drag Detroit back from a lockjob of a defeat with a pair of pick-sixes that sparked a rally in which Matthew Stafford hit Calvin Johnson for two touchdowns and the Lions stunned Dallas 34-30 at Jerry Jones' palatial estate.

There are two ways to look at this. One, Romo is a choker again (more on that in a second) and Dallas stinks. Or, two, the Lions are very much for real. I'm inclined to believe the second narrative. So is Cowboys fan LeBron James.


I'm including this mainly because I find it absolutely hysterical that Ohio native James is a Cowboys fan. I'm sure it has nothing to do with bandwagons. But I'm also including it because James is right -- the Lions do "got swag right now."

This was mentioned after Week 2, when the Lions slammed a beatdown on the Chiefs, and it makes sense to mention now.

That's primarily because the Lions are 4-0 for the first time since 1980 and became the fourth team to start a season 4-0 a year after starting the season 0-4 since 1990. (The impressive nature of that turnaround aside, what a statement on the NFL's parity, huh?)

Take it back even further, and count preseason games and the Lions are on a 12-game winning streak, and once, again, appear to develop some of this attitude from their head coach.

"I'm glad the third best wide receiver on the Cowboys is on our team," Jim Schwartz said after the game.

Naturally you'll recall that Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan had some comments about the skills of Dez Bryant and Miles Austin versus Calvin Johnson before the game.

Schwartz' comments are a straight burn, of course, but it warrants mentioning that Dez did look otherworldly earlier in the game. But Megatron did some dirty things on his two touchdowns to the Dallas defensive backs. On the first catch, he went up in triple coverage and grabbed a ball that probably never should have been a score.

And on the second -- and most important -- score, Johnson scored when he was isolated in single coverage against Terrence Newman. Based on Ryan's theory, Newman's practice against Bryant and Austin should have prepared him for a one-on-one matchup at the goalline.

Unfortunately, Megatron's the biggest freak of nature in the NFL, arguably the best wideout in the league and slicing up some well-deserved humble pie for Ryan after the Lebowski look-a-like tried to put him in man coverage.

2. Hands on Necks
Obviously the Cowboys loss is going to be classified as a chokejob. And it should -- there's no way to classify it as anything other than that, especially when Romo packaged a pair of touchdowns and mailed it the Lions way.

"The games turn, obviously, on turnovers," Romo said. "It's the most important stat in the game. That's why you protect the ball. That's my No. 1 job and I didn't do a well enough job of that today."

The weird thing about the loss is that Dallas is now 2-0 in games where they were "gritty and tough and found a way to win" and 0-2 in games where "Romo peed his pants and threw terrible picks." Or something like that.

The point is that, yes, the Cowboys choked, but it wasn't even the worst choke on Sunday. And perhaps only the third worst -- Dallas was at least playing a very dangerous team in the Lions and even if the game was at home, we've seen Detroit do this before.

There's no real excuse for Buffalo, who was leading 21-3 against the Bengals on Sunday, to lose on a last-second field goal by Mike Nugent. Sure, it was in Cincy and, sure, it was the Bills and we should have seen something coming after buying in so heavily. But losing like that to a Bengals team with a rookie quarterback is just bad news Bears.

And yet it wasn't even the most embarrassing choke of the day. The Eagles deserve some, um, credit for their inability to hold off the 49ers in a home game where they led 23-3 as late as midway through the third quarter.

The Bills and Cowboys can at least hang their respective hats on records that aren't below .500. The Eagles have no such excuse and it's becoming increasingly clear why "offseason winners" isn't always such a nice thing to say about teams in the NFL.



3. Super Bowl champs remain under the radar

Thus far, the Packers have beaten the Saints, the Panthers, the Bears and the Broncos. It's not exactly a murderer's row of great NFL teams, but it's not the four-worst teams in the league either.

And they've looked outstanding on offense, compiling a league-high 148 points en route to a 4-0 record, and giving plenty of folks justification for selecting the Packers to repeat as Super Bowl champions in 2011.

Yet ... no one wants to talk about the success they've had this year.

This is partially because of the other storylines that are permeating the NFL this season, and partially because after last season's late run, we've come to expect this out of Aaron Rodgers and his outstanding teammates.

"Trust me, we don't have it all figured out as a football team," Mike McCarthy said Sunday. "We're 4-0, but we're very in tune with what we need to improve as a team."

The biggest issue is defense, clearly. While the Packers have arguably improved their running game from last year (James Starks looks like a legit back for their system, especially when it comes to melting the clock with a lead), the defense isn't the championship-winning caliber that showed up in the playoffs last year.

Both Kyle Orton and Cam Newton posted big numbers against Green Bay, and though there were some fantastic moments from the defenses in those games, it's difficult to justify any claim that the Packers defense is better this year than it was last year.

Having said all that, this team did a pretty good job of gelling at the right time last year, and they're off to a much better start in 2011. We should all take notice.

4. Hope you sick people are happy now
2011 has been a tough go for anyone who supports Arian Foster, whether it be Texans fans, fantasy owners or just, you now, nice people who care about other humans.

Fortunately, those people got some good karmic returns for their Foster love on Sunday, as he and the Texans took some punches from the Steelers and punched right back, eventually beating Pittsburgh 17-10 on Sunday afternoon. As my man Mike Freeman points out, everything about the win at Reliant Stadium on Sunday goes against the typical stereotype of Texans football.

More on that in a second, but first, Foster. When Gary Kubiak said he was going to bring Foster back against the Steelers, I thought he was insane. After all, the Steelers are (well, were) a top-10 rushing defense.

But Foster looked fantastic. He broke long runs, he showed tremendous burst through holes, when he got around the corner he was able to cut back upfield and pick up big yards and in general he looked like the 2010 version of himself.

"I go into every contest thinking that I'm the go-to guy," Foster said. "When the flow of the game starts going, we need certain things, and you've got to be there for your team."

Hamstrings are tricky, of course, and there's no guarantee that Foster's going to roll to another rushing title or anything. Plus, the Texans offense sputtered a bit (OK, a lot) after Andre Johnson left with a hamstring injury that really looked like a knee injury in the second quarter and that could be problematic going forward.

But at least for now, there's reason to think that the Texans offense can hop back up on Foster's back and ride him to a division title.



5. Sunday night monstrosity
The Ravens opened up on fire to begin the Sunday night game against the Jets, jumping out to a 27-7 lead before eventually winning handily. But, um, well, you see ... that was ugly.

Real ugly -- Joe Flacco limped his way to a 10 for 31 performance that generated 163 passing yards and an interception.

It would have been the ugliest performance on the field, but Mark Sanchez took full advantage of Nick Mangold's absence, and fumbled four times, three of which were lost, two of which were taken to the house by Ravens defenders and also threw a pick-six.

Things got so bad that, at one point, Rex Ryan called a timeout just to scream at the officials. It actually seemed to work, or it at least confused the Ravens and Cam Cameron, who took a 20-point lead with just a few minutes remaining in the second quarter and desperately tried to let the Jets back in the game.

That didn't matter, but it didn't make the performance of Sanchez, Flacco and their respective teams any worse or weirder. There were five defensive and special teams touchdowns in total during the game, most in NFL history and Sanchez' final pass (he finished 11 of 35, ugh) went off the heel of a defender.

What perplexes me isn't the Jets struggling, because, frankly, they were kind of due to regress a bit. I'm sure they'll start getting better, and they might start stopping the run (although I'm sure Cameron won't figure that out!) and running the ball better. They almost always do, just in time to claw their way into the playoffs.

The bigger concern is how the Ravens came out in Week 4, continuing the metronome-like performance for Flacco through a few weeks. At times (against the Steelers and the Rams) he's looked like an elite-level quarterback. And at others (Sunday and against the Titans), he's looked absolutely lost.

If he wants to truly "make the jump," he's going to need to find some consistency.

6. Goin' out east
There was no shortage of different predictions for the team that would win the NFC West. Well, except for the Seahawks. No one predicted that. The typical favorites were the Rams and Cardinals, mainly because of their quarterback play.

The 49ers should have gotten more love, but Alex Smith held them back, and Jim Harbaugh, in his first stop as an NFL head coach, is showing exactly why. His team managed to storm back against the Eagles on Sunday and move into first place in their division, with a firm command of the typically crappy NFC West.

San Francisco's 3-1, the Rams are 0-4 and the Seahawks and Cardinals are 1-3.

None of the teams out there have, unsurprisingly, looked very good. And the 49ers are the only squad with a positive point differential, which should tell you just how bad this division is. Again. But maybe Harbaugh is the difference -- look no further than his decision to house his team in Ohio for half a week in between their Week 3 game against the Bengals and Sunday's win in Philadelphia.

"Thanks Youngstown, you've been good to us," Harbaugh said in deference to Ohio. "That's as good a win as I can ever remember being a part of. I'm really proud of our players. They never flinched in a tough environment here, and there was no moment or circumstance that made them nervous in this ballgame. We kept fighting, made adjustments -- a great team victory for us."

Frank Gore gashed the Eagles for 127 yards, and Alex Smith played pretty inspired football, going 13 of 17 for 201 yards and two touchdowns in just the second half.

It's a surprising turnaround for a surprising team that stunk the joint out last year. Given the dearth of talent for Seattle, Arizona's inability to close out, and St. Louis' rough schedule ahead, Harbaugh might have this team -- surprisingly -- poised to take over their division.

7. Remember the Titans

Unless Tennessee has something to say about that anyway -- Mike Munchak picked up his third-career win on Sunday afternoon as the Titans vaulted themselves into a first-place tie with Houston in the AFC South

On The NFL Today, Charley Casserly mentioned that Matt Hasselbeck was drawn to Tennessee because of two things: Munchak's commitment to protecting the quarterback with strong line play, and Munchak's commitment to protecting the quarterback's ability to throw deep by leaving in more blockers.

This has paid tremendous dividends for Hasselbeck, who's eighth in the NFL in passing yards, sixth in passing touchdowns, third in yards per pass and first in pass plays of 40-plus yards.

"We thought he had a lot left in the tank from watching him in the playoffs last year," Munchak said. "We didn't bring him here to retire quietly. We brought him here to do exactly what he's been doing."

And he's casually doing all of this while playing for a team that doesn't have a viable No. 1 wide receiver because of Kenny Britt's season-ending injury last week.

Chris Johnson finally managed to get going a little bit in the Week 4 win over Cleveland, and provided the Hasselbeck can stay healthy (which is somewhat of a stretch, but possible), the Titans might be the surprise playoff team that no one's talking about.



8. Pay the man!
Just like 2010, Mike Martz refused to run the ball until the Bears met up with the Panthers early in the season. And just like 2010, Martz got enough criticism for his playcalling that he ran the ball a ton against Carolina. And just like 2010, Matt Forte went HAM.

Last year it was 166 rushing yards on 22 carries with two touchdowns. This year it was a career-high 205 rushing yards on 25 carries and a touchdown in the Bears 34-29 win.

This is interesting for a couple of reasons. One, the Bears are 9-0 when Forte rushes for 100 yards or more. Yet ... they don't like to run. Two, the Panthers defense is absolutely terrible. I could put up a hundo on them, and it shouldn't be too huge of a shock to see him go key largo against Carolina's beat-up defense.

That being said ... three, Forte wants a new contract, has wanted a new contract but can't get the Bears to even talk to him about getting more money.

The result, predictably, is a running back who appears to be playing with a great deal of intensity and a desire to be highly productive. Of course, for all of Forte's success against the Panthers, there wasn't that much to love about the way Chicago played. Just don't tell Lovie Smith that.

"We’re not apologizing at all about this win," Smith said. "We feel really good about it."

They shouldn't, even if this year suddenly looks like last year in terms of figuring out to run the ball and not get Jay Cutler killed. Cam Newton did a lot of damage to the Bears defense, though he made some rookie mistakes, and the Panthers were able to run pretty easily on Chicago.

Anyone can score on the Panthers, and do it at will, given the lack of depth they have on the defensive side of the ball right now. That being said, it sure does seem like the Bears might have saved themselves some money if they'd gotten Forte some cash before the season rather than waiting.

As my college football colleague Tom Fornelli likes to say, "Pay the man, Chicago."

9. Review Controversy
Could the NFL's current replay system be any less controversial? As you likely know, all scoring plays are reviewed by a booth official. That sounds simple, but it's not at all -- we've already had plenty of problems with plays that seemed like obvious needs for reviews that weren't scrutinized further by the officials.

Sunday, we saw two more examples. First, there an issue in the Chiefs and Vikings game.

With 5:01 remaining, Michael Jenkins caught a one-yard touchdown pass from Donovan McNabb. It appeared, pretty clearly, that he only got one foot inbounds. Fox didn't show any replays of the catch, and the officials at the game never reviewed it. Ultimately, it didn't matter, because the Vikings lost.

But it could have mattered and there wasn't anything Todd Haley or the Chiefs could do to get the play looked at. If Haley had thrown a challenge flag, he'd have been flagged for a delay of game penalty.

Another less controversial instance occurred during the Packers-Broncos game when Aaron Rodgers rushed for his second touchdown of the day on a third down. Rodgers was ruled down at the one-yard line, though replays showed he broke the plane of the goal line.

Mike McCarthy challenged and the Packers were given a touchdown that locked in their win against Denver. Here's the problem: "a scoring play" is only defined as a play in which the officials subjectively rule that a touchdown has happened. If that subjective ruling occurs, then the play is automatically reviewed.

If it doesn't happen, coaches are required to use a challenge.

I realize that the league can't challenge every single play that gets close to the end zone, but it seems to me that these two plays aren't that different. Something was botched by the refs and the booth wasn't available to make sure the right call was locked in. Ironically, in the non touchdown scenario, the coach has more freedom to help out his team with a red flag.

Even if the booth doesn't believe that a call should be looked at by the ref -- and in a close game like that, who's hurt by double-checking? -- there should be an option for a coach to take a stab at having a call overturned as well, if he's really adamant about what happened.

And, of course, there's the whole mess that went down in Arizona with Victor Cruz giving himself up and/or pulling the old stumble-->fumble disaster combo.

That actually seems like it was interpreted correctly, as it relates to the rule book.

"Official shall declare ball dead when a runner declares himself down by falling to ground or kneeling and making no effort to advance," reads Rule 7, Section 2, Article 1(e) of the NFL Rule Book.

In other words, it's a subjective call by the guys who look like zebras. If they believe Cruz gave himself up, then he gave himself up and that's the end of it.

10. Maybe they ARE the NFL's Heat

Whenever something good or bad happens in sports, reporters inevitably ask athletes how they feel. No, I don't know why it happens all the time either, but it rarely produces a good result.

It got a decent reaction out of Eagles quarterback Michael Vick on Sunday, though, as he expressed a high level of frustration at the fact that the Eagles just choked away a huge lead against the 49ers -- at home, no less -- that eventually led to a 24-23 loss to San Francisco.

"Do I really have to explain how I feel right now sitting here at 1-3?" Vick asked. "It's frustrating. It's tough. I can't put that in words. I take sole responsibility. Maybe it's a lot of things I can do better. And I gotta figure it out.

"It's frustrating. I'm not going to continue to use that word, but, yeah, it's tough."


That's the thing with the Eagles, though. It's not all Vick's fault.

Is some of it? Sure, of course. But he was 30 of 46 for 416 yards and two touchdowns Sunday. A bigger problem is that he led the team in rushing, with 75 yards on eight carries. When you have a weapon like LeSean McCoy, it seems silly not to utilize him more.

Then again, the lack of a good push from the offensive line causes that too.

And when you can't stop other teams from running the ball, none of it really matters. Frank Gore gashed the Eagles for 127 yards on just 15 carries and Kendall Hunter picked up 38 on nine.

The Eagles might have some really, really talented players at a couple positions, but they're also really, really weak at other positions, and their depth just isn't that impressive at all.

So, come to think of it, maybe they're more like the Miami Heat than any of us could have ever known.

Muffed Punts
Leftovers from Sunday's action ...
... What the hell was Ronnie Brown thinking? He's not even a quarterback, so trying to throw the ball while being tackled at the goal line doesn't even work as a random logical excuse.
... Johnathan Joseph had two -- TWO! -- touchdowns nullified by stupid penalties by the Texans. First there was the ridiculous block in the back by Danieal Manning when Joseph took a blocked punt to the house to end the half. And then there was the pick six he grabbed to close out the game that was negated by a J.J. Watt penalty. Welcome to Houston!
... Speaking of picks, Vince Wilfork now has two on the season after his second career INT against the Raiders.
... Just for trolling purposes: Nnamdi Asomugha only has one interception on the year.
... In one of the more insane things ever, Rex Ryan used a first-half timeout on Sunday night just to yell at the officials.

Worth 1,000 Words



Jim Irsay Pop-Culture Referencing Tweet That's Sure to Drive Colts Fans Insane of the Week
"I woke up in a So Ho doorway ... a policeman knew my name."

"Who Are You" is actually a pretty good thing to ask the Colts quarterback, no?

GIF O' THE WEEK



Hot Seat Tracker
  • Tony Sparano: It would almost be an upset if he made it past the bye at this point.
  • Jack Del Rio: Very impressive that JDR figured out a way to make Maurice Jones-Drew completely ineffective during the first half of a game that was pretty closer during the first half.
  • Leslie Frazier: It might only be his first year, but looking terrible against a terrible Chiefs team ain't helping his cause. 
  • Todd Haley: Can Minnesota visit every weekend?
  • Juan Castillo: New guy for the Eagles, their defense is a leaky ship and someone needs to take the fall.
Chasing Andrew Luck (All odds mine)
We have a new entrant in the usual suspects who are searching for the answer to their franchise woes -- the St. Louis Rams! Heretofore unlisted in this space, the Rams are 0-4 and now squarely in the hunt for Luck, even though they could get to 0-7 and somehow still win their division, based on how easy their schedule is.

What I find fascinating about this is that the Rams and Vikings, my two current faves for Luck, both drafted a "franchise quarterback" in the past two years. Would the Rams consider acquiring Luck if they got the No. 1 overall pick again? Or is Sam Bradford just that much better? Would both they and the Vikings just absolutely trade the pick to whoever was desperate enough for Luck? Because I'm not so sure.

Vikings (2:1) -- Can't imagine they actually feel like Christian Ponder's better than Luck. Right?
Dolphins (2:1) -- As AJB points out below, Miami definitely deserves inclusion here. My bust. Was too worried about Sparano's job.
Rams (3:1) -- So spicy if they get it.
Colts (3:1) -- They'd be the favorites if/when they lose to Tampa on Monday.
Broncos (4:1) -- Stanford, everyone!
Panthers (5:1) -- Fairly confident that the Panthers would acquire some assets for that pick.
Eagles (10:1) -- Andy Reid does love quarterbacks ...

MVP Watch
Stafford, my leader up to this point, did some nice things Sunday. But after Rodgers did the dirty things -- six touchdowns! -- that he did to Denver and helped propel the Packers to 4-0, it's hard not to sit up and take notice and admit that right now he's the best quarterback in the NFL.
Posted on: October 2, 2011 9:32 am
Edited on: October 2, 2011 12:59 pm
 

Report: Johnny Knox replaces Roy Williams

                                                                          (US PRESSWIRE)
Posted by Ryan Wilson

When the Bears signed wide receiver Roy Williams before training camp, the plan was to give Jay Cutler a reliable veteran to line up opposite a group of young, inexperienced wideouts. Instead, the only thing Williams has proven to be is, well, old.

In three weeks, he's played in two games, caught four passes for 55 yards, and has yet to haul in a touchdown pass. Johnny Knox, meanwhile, the third-year burner who battled Williams in training camp for reps, has nine receptions for 189 yards, but he's also looking for his first touchdown.

According to FOXSports.com's John Czarnecki, Knox will start for Williams Sunday when the Bears host the Panthers. The move is confirmation that Cutler still doesn't have a go-to receiver, which is reflected in the Bears' mediocre passing stats and high sack totals.

“It just happens over time,” Cutler said, according to the Daily Herald, when talking about developing a go-to guy, like he had in Denver with Brandon Marshall. “In games, there’s a trust factor there, where you know they’re going to be there when they’re supposed to be there and will make the catches and make the plays. It doesn’t happen overnight. You can’t just go, ‘This is our go-to guy,’ because it doesn’t work like that. You’ve got to go out there and rep it and just experience it.”

Predictably, the Bears' sputtering offense has led to questions about offensive coordinator Mike Martz's system, specifically one that appears to have little regard for the running game or the quarterback's health.

And if Chicago struggles to score points against Carolina, a defense beset by injuries and coming off a two-win season a year ago, the scrutiny will only intensify.

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Posted on: October 1, 2011 6:16 pm
 

Tributes pour out for Heimerdinger

Mike Heimerdinger, takling with V. Young, died Friday night (US Presswire).

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

After the death of longtime assistant coach Mike Heimerdinger from cancer on Friday, his former colleagues and players have released statements expressing their sadness and their condolences. Here are a few of them (you can find more of them from our Rapid Reporters):

Titans general manager Mike Reinfeldt: “We are saddened today to hear the tragic news of Mike's passing. Mike was a good man that brought a great level of dedication and professionalism to his job. He was brave in his fight over the last year and showed such a commitment to the game. Nothing was going to stop him last season from being a part of the team and having his stamp on the games. Our thoughts go out to Kathie and his kids through this difficult time. Mike and his family will always be with us.”

Titans coach Mike Munchak: “My prayers are with his family. Mike was a great football coach; and over the years, we had a great relationship. I learned a lot of football from Mike and I have a number of great memories and experiences that will always be with me. It is just hard to believe he is gone. It is a sad day for his family and for those who knew him.”

 Titans running back Chris Johnson: “He was a great coach and a tough coach. I know I wouldn’t have become the player I am without his confidence and the trust that he showed in me. My thoughts go out to his family.”

Former NFL center and NFLPA President  Kevin Mawae: “It is with great regret and sorrow that we learn of the passing of Coach Mike Heimerdinger. "Dinger", as many people knew him, was a great coach and a good man. For those who knew him and played for him, they knew Dinger was a man who loved his family, enjoyed his players, and loved the game of football. Dinger's fight with cancer was indicative of the type of person he was; determined and courageous. It was my privilege to play for Dinger while with the New York Jets and the Tennessee Titans. I am better for having known and played for him. The NFL community has lost a great member of its fraternity this week. On behalf of the National Football League Players Association, the players offer their condolences to Kathie, Alicia, Brian and the rest of the Heimerdinger family."

Redskins coach Mike Shanahan, who employed Heimerdinger as an assistant in Denver and was a roommate of Heimerdinger’s at Eastern Illinois: "We lost a very special person and my best friend in Mike Heimerdinger. I know the man upstairs needed a superstar so he took him earlier than we all wanted. His love for his family was unprecedented and I will forever miss him."

Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, who was coached by Heimerdinger with the Broncos: "Thoughts and prayers are with the Heimerdinger family. We lost a great man last night."

Houston Chronicle sports writer John McClain: “I've been covering the NFL for more than 30 years. Only one coach ever called and thanked me for covering him when he left: Mike Heimerdinger.”

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.

Posted on: September 29, 2011 7:29 pm
 

Martz: 'We have to run the ball and we will'

Does Cutler have faith in his pass protection? 'I don't have a choice.' (Getty Images)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Worry not, Bears faithful. Offensive coordinator Mike Martz wants you to know that not only is he committed to the running game, he plans to make it work, too. That's good news considering Chicago could only muster 13 yards on the ground last Sunday against the Packers.

‘‘We have to [run the ball], and we will,’’ Martz said after practice Wednesday, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. ‘‘That’s one thing we can do — we can run the football. We’ll get that right."

Martz most recently came under fire after he called pass plays on 52 of Chicago's 63 offensive snaps in a lopsided loss to the Saints. Quarterback Jay Cutler was sacked six times and spent the afternoon getting slapped around. When asked after the game if he could survive the season with weekly beatings like the one he endured in New Orleans, Cutler needed just three words to get the point across: "I don't know."

On Wednesday, Cutler was asked if he had confidence in Bears' pass-blocking schemes.

‘‘Yeah. I don’t have a choice,’’ he said. ‘‘Those are the guys we’ve got to go with, and we’ve got to get them ready and I’ve got to believe in them. So at the end of the day, they’re going to do the best possible job they can for me.’’

Which brings us back to Martz. Every season, players, fans and media inevitably question the pass-happy offensive football he favors. And following the Saints debacle two weeks ago, head coach Lovie Smith joined the chorus, admitting that "I know the balance as far as running/pass wasn't there. All I can say is we'll get it better. You can't win football games with that type of balance."

But Smith hired Martz. Shouldn't he be the one to insure that Martz isn't getting their best player maimed? Well, it's complicated. But ProFootballTalk.com's Michael David Smith broke down Smith and Martz's relationship during a recent visit to the Pick-6 Podcast.

"It's important to remember that Mike Martz was the guy who gave Lovie Smith his big break in St. Louis. Smith was not a very well known position coach with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Martz, as head coach of the Rams, liked what he saw of the Buccaneers secondary, offered Smith the defensive coordinator job.

"Lovie Smith has recently said that 'Mike Martz is the reason I am a head coach today.' So because of that, Martz now has a boss who respects him and admires him, and is going to give him a lot of leeway."

And unless something changes, that's bad news for Cutler. Upside: Chicago goes three-and-out on 41 percent of their offensive possessions. While not particularly helpful in terms of scoring points, it does improve Cutler's odds of survival.

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Posted on: September 27, 2011 1:22 pm
Edited on: September 27, 2011 3:40 pm
 

Coach Killers, Week 3: Ochocinco's rough patch

Coach Killers is your weekly look around the league at those performances, decisions and "Wait, what did he just do?!" moments that put the guy in charge squarely on the ol' hot seat. (Getty Images)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Justin King, CB, Rams. No one had a tougher day than King, who probably headed to work Sunday morning thinking, "Man, Lee Evans is out with an injury and the Ravens will have to put Torrey Smith out there against me. And he's a rookie!" By the time it was over (and it was over in record time), King would've happily taken his chances against Evans.

Instead he was torched (and we can't stress that enough) by Smith, who hauled in three first-quarter touchdowns of 18, 41 and 74 yards. Smith, who had seen limited action the first two weeks because somebody somewhere thought he wasn't comfortable enough in the offense, finished the day with five receptions for 152 yards.

To his credit, King took responsibility for what Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco and Smith did to him.

Week 3 Recap
"You know what, I just could have made the play,'' King said when asked what he could have done differently in the Rams' 37-7 loss to the Ravens on Sunday. "That's what I get paid to do. I'm paid to man-up on guys. He made (plays) and I got beat. I have to show character now and get back to work and fix the mistakes.''

King also verbalized what became apparent about two plays into the game. "I didn't give [Flacco] a reason not to throw it at me,'' he said.

No, no you didn't. But we applaud the positive attitude.

Antonio Cromartie, CB, Jets. Cromartie has been a perfectly adequate cornerback for the Jets, which would make him a really could CB on most other teams. But because he plays opposite Darrelle Revis, he's usually the guy offenses target. Eventually, that means you're due for a rough stretch, and Cromartie found it against the Raiders.

He was called for four penalties (two for pass interference and two for holding), two of which came on Oakland touchdown drives. But it was a special teams faux paus that doomed the Jets.

Following a Raiders touchdown that gave them a 24-17 lead with 40 seconds left in the third quarter, Cromartie muffed a Sebastian Janikowski kickoff that was -- you guessed it -- recovered by Oakland. Two plays later, Michael Bush scored from a yard out, the Raiders led 31-17 and the Jets' afternoon, for all intents and purposes, was over.

Making an already crappy day worse for Cromartie? He suffered bruised ribs and lungs in the loss.

Regarding the muffed kickoff, head coach Rex Ryan was able to succinctly put things into perspective. “When you look at it in hindsight … obviously, [Cromartie] should have let it go,” Ryan said. “At the time, the guy’s trying to make a play.”

Coincidentally, Raiders owner Al Davis tried to sign Cromartie prior to training camp, and reportedly offered him more than the four-year, $32 million deal he ended up signing to return to New York. On Sunday, it was almost as if Cromartie was playing for Oakland because he sure played a big role in their win.

Bears pass-catchers/running game/o-line. Basically everybody but Jay Cutler, who we've never cared much for but feel obligated to defend because he's suddenly become the poster boy for the wussification of the quarterback position. Even though, by virtue of taking 400 hits a week, might be one of the NFL's toughest players. (Michael Vick and Ben Roethlisberger may disagree, but we're quite certain they're the only QBs who'd have a legitimate gripe.)

Last week, we highlighted Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz in this space because he thought it would be a swell idea to pass the ball on 82 percent of the offensive snaps which, predictably, led to Cutler taking six sacks against the Saints, countless hits and an admission that he didn't know if he'd survive the season.

Against the Packers, Cutler's pass-catchers didn't do him any favors. Roy Williams, Johnny Knox and Kellen Davis all dropped what should've been easy receptions. And running back Matt Forte, who recently announced that the team clearly doesn't consider him an elite back sought to prove just that by rushing for two (!) yards on nine carries. (Related: Cutler led the team in rushing with 11 yards on three attempts.)

Nothing went right for Chicago, including what should have been the niftiest special teams touchdown we can remember. Unfortunately, the officials threw a flag on … something and the play was called back. We can't even blame Martz for that.


Chris Johnson, RB, Titans. This is the first time in Coach Killers history that a player from the winning team has made the list, but Johnson has been nothing short of dreadful since signing that fat contract just in time for the regular season. In three games, CJ's rushed for 98 yards on 46 carries, which works out to a mind-blowing 2.1 yards per carry. The next touchdown he scores will be his first.

We had him unofficially hitting rock bottom following the Titans' victory over the Broncos Sunday. Tennessee's two leading rushers? Johnson and … punter Brett Kern, who both galloped for 21 yards. It gets worse: Johnson needed 12 more carries than Kern, who managed to run 21 yards at one time after bobbling a poor snap during a fourth-down play in which he had every intention of punting the ball. Instead, he fielded the short-hop, ran down the sidelines, and 21 yards later, the Titans had a first down and quite possibly a new threat in the running game.

In case we haven't reminded you in 15 minutes, there's a reason you shouldn't overpay running backs. Silver lining to the dark cloud of losing Kenny Britt: Johnson did catch four passes for 54 receiving yards. Maybe the Titans should give serious consideration to splitting him out wide. It's not like he can get worse, right?

Ochocinco might not be long for New England (Getty Images)
Chad Ochocinco, WR, Patriots. If Ochocinco and Terrell Owens were Batman and Robin a year ago in Cincinnati, the 2011 Ochocinco is the NFL pass-catching equivalent of Wile E. Coyote. The man can't catch a break -- or a pass -- and on Sunday you could make the case that it played a non-trivial part in the Patriots losing to the Bills.

With Aaron Hernandez and Taylor Price out with injuries, Week 3 was supposed to be Ochocinco's opportunity to show that he had a grasp of the Patriots' offense and had earned Tom Brady's trust. Instead, he looked lost, as he often has this season, and in addition to running the wrong route (that led to one of Brady's four interceptions), he also had a huge drop in the fourth quarter that would've been an easy touchdown.

(If New England gets rid of Ochocinco -- and at this point we don't think it would surprise anyone if they did -- perhaps they can unload him on the Bears, who seem eager to corner the market on no-catching wideouts.)

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Posted on: September 24, 2011 8:08 pm
 

Will Bears' OC Martz turn to running game?

Has Mike Martz finally learned his lesson? (Getty Images)

Posted by Ryan Wilson


It is with an acute sense of "Hey, haven't we heard this before?" that we read the Dan Pompei column in the Chicago Tribune suggesting that Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz has learned a very valuable lesson from last Sunday's 30-13 loss to the Saints. A loss that included six Jay Cutler sacks, multiple Jay Cutler hits, and a post-game Jay Cutler admission that he's pretty sure he won't survive the 2011 season.

Martz called pass plays on 52 of Chicago's 63 offensive snaps (that works out to a whopping 83 percent), presumably paying no attention to beating Cutler was taking. It was so bad that Martz earned a name-check in our weekly Coach Killers column, and Bears coach Lovie Smith said that "I know the balance as far as running/pass wasn't there. All I can say is we'll get it better. You can't win football games with that type of balance."

No. No, you can't.

But Pompei thinks the Saints game will be a turning point in the Bears' season, the moment when Martz finally realizes that he needs to run the ball, too. Partly, for health reasons as they relate to Cutler but also because Matt Forte is a pretty good running back. (In related news: Forte is under the impression the Bears don't consider him an elite back. Weird.)

"The Bears probably would have lost that game no matter what plays Mike Martz called," Pompei wrote Saturday. "But because he tossed aside the run game as if it were a bill he didn't have sufficient funds to pay, he's going to have to pay interest now.

"Martz designs plays better than the large majority of coaches in his position. He has a great feel for how to attack defenses. He is one of the premier offensive minds in the modern era of football. But he needs a figurative slap in the face now and then. Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams gave him one."

That's putting it lightly.

Here's the thing: we've seen this movie before. Martz falls in love with the passing game, bad stuff happens, and he briefly pays lip service to the running game until the cycle repeats itself.

For fun, we consulted the Football Outsiders offensive efficiency rankings for the last three Martz-coached teams (all as offensive coordinators):

2010 Bears: 19th rushing, 28th passing, 28th overall;
2008 49ers: 24th rushing, 26th passing, 27th overall;
2007 Lions: 25th rushing, 19th passing, 24th overall;
2006 Lions: 32nd rushing, 20th passing, 28th overall.

Granted, some of the ineptitude listed above had to do with the personnel on those teams. But Martz has to shoulder some of the blame. More than that, if it's clear that dialing up one passing play after the next will get your quarterback killed, it doesn't require much in the way of football smarts to call running plays.

According to Football Outsiders' adjusted sack rate statistic (defined as "sacks per pass attempt adjusted for down, distance, and opponent"), the Bears ranked 32nd in 2010, the 49ers were 31st in 2008, and the Lions were 26th in 2007 and 30th in 2006.

So, sure, Martz might be the biggest brain in the room. But he's dreadful when it comes to making in-game adjustments. But who knows. Maybe this is the moment he fully commits to the running game. That said, Sunday seems like a bad time to turn over a new leaf -- the Bears are hosting the Packers.


After their second straight victory last week, the Green Bay Packers will travel to Soldier Field to take on the Chicago Bears on Sunday. NFL.com's Pat Kirwan and Jason Horowitz preview this upcoming game.

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Posted on: September 22, 2011 9:38 am
Edited on: September 22, 2011 9:39 am
 

Jay Cutler on surviving 2011: 'I don't know'

Posted by Will Brinson

Jay Cutler got the old rag-doll treatment on Sunday as Gregg Williams and the New Orleans swarmed on him, pushing the Bears into dead last in sacks allowed (11). Somewhere in the mix he was literally kicked in the throat.

Given the beatdown that Cutler's been getting this year (and the year before) because of Mike Martz offensive designs, it makes sense to ask him if he think he can survive this season. Which is exactly what Mike C. Wright of ESPN Chicago did.

"I don't know," Cutler said hoarsely, when asked if he could survive. "I don't know."

Cutler was also asked about the league-high 11 sacks and whether spending most of his time at the office on his back was making him uncomfortable.

"I'm not worried about it," he said. "We're 1-1. There's still a lot of football to be played. If this continues, then obviously we're gonna have a problem. We're gonna have to address it. But I'm looking forward to this game. I know the guys are gonna bounce back, as will I."

And Cutler, who typically gets hosed any time he makes a comment in public, might not even be using "we're gonna have a problem" to mean he'll start getting mad at his offensive line.

It's entirely possible that he's talking about "a problem" as the Bears losing lots of games. Or the offensive line managing to get their starting quarterback decapitated.

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Posted on: September 20, 2011 2:42 pm
Edited on: September 21, 2011 9:19 am
 

Fox Sports fabricated headlines for Cutler piece

Posted by Will Brinson

Remember when Jay Cutler got injured in the NFC Championship Game and everyone freaked out about him being tough? That was a big story in 2010. It's still -- for whatever reason -- kind of important.

Probably because it gets fans riled up. But that doesn't excuse FOX Sports creating fake newspaper headlines on Sunday to run as an on-screen graphic.

Per Jim Romenesko of Poynter, Fox announcer Daryl Johnston told viewers that "these are the actual headlines from the local papers in Chicago" as the following "newspaper clips" rolled across the screen:
  • Cutler Leaves With Injury
  • Cutler Lacks Courage
  • Cutler's No Leader
The Chicago Tribune saw this graphic, realized those seemed strange and "searched throughout Illinois newspapers for those headlines -- Tribune, Sun-Times, Daily Herald, every other paper in the state."

And guess what? They found no such headlines. So they asked FOX Sports about it, and FOX admitted that such newspaper headlines never existed.

"The wrong word was used,” said Dan Bell, Fox Sports spokesman. "Our attempt was to capture the overall sentiment nationwide following that game."

"It was misleading."

As Gregg Rosenthall points out at PFT, "misleading" is a bit of an understatement -- it's just, um, "lying." Or, at the very least, "purposely distorting the clear-cut truth."

The reality is that most Chicago-area papers defended Cutler following the NFC Championship Game -- it was NFL players (like, say Maurice Jones-Drew) who ripped Cutler publicly. Fox didn't have to look that hard to figure out a way to stir up some controversy with Bears fans.

And yet they did anyway, continuing an outstanding year for Rupert Murdoch-owned media properties.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com