Green Bay to Battle a Different Martz

Mike Martz (Nam Y. Huh/AP)

The defense had been leading the Chicago Bears all year long, but Sunday the offense took over and led the team to victory. The overall numbers aren't great, but Mike Martz deserves a lot of credit.

The Bears were able to defeat their oldest rival in Week 3, when they edged the Packers 20-17 at Soldier Field back when the Mike Martz offense was in its infancy.

When they face off in the rematch at Lambeau Field, the Bears will have a much more advanced attack, one that has scored a combined 78 points in back-to-back games.

That offense has been improving week by week, but it still came in to Week 16 ranked 30th in total yards, 31st in interceptions allowed, 32nd in sacks allowed, 26th in passing yards and 25th in rushing yards.

But, starting in the second quarter, it scored touchdowns on four straight possessions, not counting a one-play kneel-down at the end of the half. The offensive explosion came against the Jets, the NFL's No. 5 defense, and it was ignited by the Bears' special teams.

It all added up to 38-34 victory in an unexpected offensive shootout that moved the 11-4 Bears a step closer to the No. 2 seed in the playoffs and a first-round bye.

The Bears lock that spot up if they defeat the Packers, regardless of what the Eagles do Tuesday night against the Vikings and in Week 17.

The Bears' offense hasn't gotten a lot of respect for most of the year, and for a while it didn't deserve it.

"You could say that early on," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "I think we've been taking steps. During the course of the season, you're going to go through spells where the defense will dominate, and the offense, maybe not. Hopefully, we'll keep this going."

The Bears have scored more than 30 points in three of their last five games. After a fitful start, the offense has been major contributor to the team's recent hot streak that includes seven wins in eight games since the bye.

And they've done it with an amazingly balanced offense, especially considering that Martz is calling the plays. Against the Jets, the Bears had 27 run plays and 27 pass plays. As they commit more to the run game, it seems the Bears' air attack becomes more efficient. Quarterback Jay Cutler has posted passer ratings of over 100 in four of the last five games.

That's why Smith said he won't lose any sleep worrying about what the Eagles do.

"We control whether we get the bye or not," he said. "We have a lot of reasons to be pumped up for this game. It's our rival, and we're playing for that first-round bye. So for us, what happens with Philly really doesn't matter a lot. We want to be in this position right here."


RB Matt Forte
Nam Y. Huh/AP

LINEUP WATCH
Sunday's game was the eighth straight with the same players at the same five O-line positions. The Bears have won seven of those games. "I think they're getting a little confidence, each week getting better and better," RB Matt Forte said of the line.

BY THE NUMBERS
Forte continues to get stronger as the season goes along. In the last six games, he has rushed for 508 yards on just 97 carries, a 5.2-yard average. Forte rushed for 113 yards against the Jets, averaging 5.9 yards on 19 carries, including a 22-yard TD run. Forte also caught four passes for 56 yards.

PLAYER NOTES
Cutler's 104.2 passer rating was his fourth of better than 100 in the past five games. Cutler threw three TD passes and one interception, while completing 13 of 25 passes for 215 yards. ...

WR Johnny Knox had TD catches of 40 and 26 yards for his first two-TD game in the NFL. He had four catches for 92 yards. ...

WR Devin Hester touched the ball five times and produced 126 combined yards. He caught three passes for 48 yards, had one punt return for 38 yards and one kickoff return for 40 yards. ...

S Chris Harris' team-best fifth interception killed the Jets' final drive and preserved the Bears' 38-34 lead with 51 seconds left.


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