Moon: To audible or not? That's the question


Moon: To audible or not? That's the question

Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2011
6:03 PM

By John Mullin

Offensive coordinator Mike Martz doesnt want his quarterbacks to audible. But he also has the image of being willing to listen during the week and if he cocked an ear toward his starting tailback Wednesday, he would have heard some game-planning.

After the Bears lost to Seattle in Game 6 in a game where running backs were handed the ball just 12 times vs. 47 pass plays called, Matt Forte made uncharacteristically strong comments about the way the plays had been called.

In case Martz missed it the first time, Forte went public with his feelings about the need to run the ball and run it a lot.

I dont think we have a choice, Forte said. We cant go out like last time and throw the ball 40-50 times and only run 10 times. We have to have a balanced offense.

Jay Cutlers public thoughts on game planning were in stark contrast, however.

Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints threw 60 passes in their loss last weekend to the Seahawks. But Cutler gave the impression that the Seahawks more than the Bears would determine what the Bears do.

We might throw it 60 times, Cutler said. It depends on what they give us. Theyve played some man coverage. Theyve played some zone, depending on who theyre going against. So were not for sure what theyre going to do against us. Were going to figure it out in the first quarter and go from there.


Seattle coach Pete Carroll was the defensive backs coach for the Minnesota Vikings in 1985 when they faced the Bears in the turning-point game of that epic season. Indeed, it was Carrolls DBs who were victimized when Jim McMahon came off the bench in the third quarter to rally the Bears with two long TD passes on his first two snaps.

Carroll brought that game came up to Matt Hasselbeck on Wednesday. Well keep that confidential til after this game. I dont want to offend any of the 85 Bears. I think a lot of those guys. They might still come after me.

That hints at Carroll maybe, just maybe, suggesting that the Bears were lucky or whatever to have a recovery like that. Carrolls account of his account was just that we had to suffer through those matchups with them when I was with the Vikings way back when, and how dynamic those teams were in the 80s, the great players that were on them, Carroll said. We just kind of shared some stories about the old times.

Duly noted
In an indicator that he wont be active for Sundays playoff, tight end Desmond Clark was wearing a No. 17 Wednesday as he simulated wide receiver Mike Williams for the Bears defense in practice.

The Bears scouting work this week is including input from director of player personnel Tim Ruskell, who joined the Bears last offseason following five years a president of football operations for the Seattle Seahawks. We use all resources, always, Lovie Smith said. Of course, Tim knows a little more about their personnel but we can see a lot about their personnel from watching the video also.

Snow and frozen outdoor fields sent the Seahawks indoors for their practice Wednesday. The Bears did their second day of playoff prep in the Walter Payton Center.

Denial isnt just a riverJohnny Knox caught none of the eight passes thrown his way in the season-ending loss at Green Bay, ending his quest for 1,000 yards at 960. So he probably would like to forget that game.

It appears he has.

The Bears wide receiver acknowledged that there are some things that just didnt work out. One of my goals this year, to get a 1,000, just didnt work out. Most importantly, we got that win in Green Bay. We did want to knock Green Bay out so we wouldnt have to play them for a third time but getting 1,000 was a goal. Most importantly we did get the win.

No word from the NFL on whether this takes the Packers out of the playoffs retroactively.

Sick bay
Cornerback Charles Tillman was ill and unable to practice Wednesday. All other Bears were down for full participation.

Seattle was without Pro Bowl middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu, recovering from a concussion but expected to play Sunday.

John "Moon" Mullin is's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

LOOK: Charles Leno helps refuel Bears-themed bus

USA Today

LOOK: Charles Leno helps refuel Bears-themed bus

Charles Leno has had a pretty spectacular career so far. Rarely do seventh-round picks play their way to a second contract, let alone a starting job at left tackle, but Leno's overcome the odds to become one of the Bears' key offensive pieces.

He's also a pretty good guy.

Leno posted a picture on his Twitter account Wednesday of a Bears-themed bus that was stranded on the side of the road. He initially drove by. But the symbolism screamed out to him: The Bears aren't breaking down this year.

Rather than continue driving, Leno turned around and offered assistance to the Bears fans at the wheel. He shared this picture of the encounter, along with his message to fans across the country:

To be clear, Leno did little more than provide company for the bus's owners. He made sure he didn't receive all the credit for their return to the road:

Leno did a good deed looking out for those Bears fans. Now, he has to make sure he protects Mitch Trubisky's blindside on the eve the team's first training camp practice.

Tight ends and all things “timing” will change in Matt Nagy Bears West Coast offense


Tight ends and all things “timing” will change in Matt Nagy Bears West Coast offense

Second of two parts

Looking ahead to training camp and what everyone will be looking at – it will help to have even a cursory idea of the offensive elements that coach Matt Nagy is incorporating, particularly in the passing game -- because the when, where and how the Bears will be throwing the football is changing. NBC Sports Chicago focuses on a selection of specifics and their origins within that part of the offense that fans will notice, first in Bourbonnais and then in the 2018 season.

Bill Walsh wrote and always insisted that the tight end was the least understood central pillar in his offense. He viewed and used the tight end as a receiver rather than simply an extra offensive lineman, and used the position to exploit matchup problems and open areas of the field created by design.

In a bit of fortuitous timing, the Bears signed and drafted tight ends (Adam Shaheen, Dion Sims) a year in advance of Matt Nagy’s arrival. But how those tight ends project to be used will be substantially changed from their functions last year. The best indication came this offseason when yet another tight end was brought in, one that signaled a critical direction change coming to the Chicago offense.

The Bears invested heavily to land smallish ex-Philadelphia tight end Trey Burton this offseason. He fits a Nagy template.

“He understands this offense and what to do, so there’s not a lot of mistakes,” Nagy said. “When guys see that you’re a player that has experience in this offense and does things the right way, they really gravitate towards that style of leadership. It’s been everything and more with what we thought with Trey.”

In eight of the last nine years Nagy was with Reid, the tight end (Brent Celek in Philadelphia, Travis Kelce in Kansas City) was either the leading or second-leading receiver on the roster.

In the last 37 years, since Emery Moorehead (No. 2, 1985), the Bears have been led in receptions by a tight end just once (Greg Olsen, 2009) or had a tight end No. 2 in catches just three other times (Olsen, 2008, Martellus Bennett 2014-15).

Receiver additions Taylor Gabriel and Allen Robinson notwithstanding, the role of the tight end in a Bears offense is about to change. Dramatically. And it started literally before Nagy even arrived in Chicago.

“Our first conversation when [Nagy and Pace] were on the plane heading to Chicago the day that I was hired, we discussed that ‘U’ position, the position that we know in Kansas City and we use in Kansas City as kind of the wide receiver/tight end,” Nagy said. “And you play the slot position you can move around, do different things — it’s what we did with Kelce.”

New meaning for “timing” in pass game

Trubisky’s mobility creates a greater threat in action passes and within run-pass options, if only because Trubisky can and will take off with purpose, even as Nagy, Helfrich and QB coach Dave Ragone drill one phrase into the quarterback’s brain: “Get down!”

“We don’t do that all the time but that’s kind of your ‘ball control,’” Nagy said. “There is a mentality that might be a little different in how we’re trying to be aggressive, too. In the classic West Coast there were still times where they were looking to be aggressive and we want that mindset.”

More than that, however, is the threat that play-calling versatility posed by Nagy’s offense. What jumps out is the play-calling balance on first downs:


2017 first downs


Run/pass ratio (%)

Bears        Chiefs

59/41        51.1/48.9 


Yards per carry

Bears        Chiefs

4.1             4.6


Completion %

Bears        Chiefs

59.3          68.2


The Chiefs had the advantage of a more accurate quarterback (Alex Smith) than the Bears (Trubisky). Coaches are stressing accuracy along with ball security, and improving Trubisky’s accuracy is axiomatic for success in Nagy’s scheme, which is based on the West Coast foundation of high completion percentage and minimizing risk of negative plays in the passing game.

Notably, in true West Coast tradition, with the Reid/Nagy offenses forcing defenses to spread horizontally the Chiefs rushed for a half-yard more than the Bears on first downs.

More notably perhaps, the Chiefs exploited those higher-percentage positive first-down plays, which meant shorter yardage needs on second downs, with more passing, not less. And when the Chiefs did run, they were just as successful per carry.


2017 second downs


Run/pass ratio (%)

Bears        Chiefs

48/52        40.8/59.2 


Yards per carry

Bears        Chiefs

4.0             4.6


Completion %

Bears        Chiefs

62.6          72.7


West Coast systems typically operate with more drag routes, quick slants and square-in’s, requiring receivers to run precise routes and have the ability to create separation quickly as Trubisky sets up quickly and looks to throw on time.

The “on time” component is critical, because it the timing of breaks and routes are connected to footwork – Trubisky’s – in that the ball is expected to be coming out when he hits the third or fifth step of his drop. The quarterback is not going to sit waiting for a receiver to come open, as in some other programs.

“It's a wide open attack and it's a great offense because there are so many options within it,” Trubisky said. “We know our job and it all comes down to execution for us. There are so many options I can't even begin to say where it starts but Coach Nagy has brought in a great plan.

“I think the system fits the players we have. In particular I feel like it really fits my skill set with the RPO's, the quick game, stretching the ball down the field and then with the running backs we have just pounding it inside and continuously trying to establish the run game each and every game. I just feel like we've got a lot of options, can be really dynamic and on top of that how we understand it and how the coaches have taught it to us since day one is just going to allow us to play faster and execute the plays at a higher rate.”