Lost in the criticism of the Chicago Bears' porous offensive line and Mike Martz's play-calling has been the responsibility of Jay Cutler to get the ball to the "hot" receiver, and the responsibility of those receivers to defeat one-on-one coverage.
On almost half of the Bears' 52 pass plays the Saints came with either six or seven pass rushers, meaning that most, if not all, of the Bears' receivers were singled up. In those situations there is a designated "hot" receiver, and that's where the ball is supposed to go for the best chance of making the defense pay for gambling or at least avoiding a sack.
Contrary to what it may have appeared on Sunday, running back Matt Forte is not the "hot" receiver on every play; it just looked that way because Forte had 10 catches and was targeted by Cutler 14 times. But that was usually because he had to dump the ball off anywhere before he was inundated by players in black and gold.
For most of the game, undrafted rookie Dane Sanzenbacher was the slot receiver after Earl Bennett went out with a painful chest injury that may also include some internal damage. The rookie was targeted seven times and caught three balls for 33 yards, including an 8-yard TD and a drop.
Sanzenbacher played well for a rookie, but the Bears missed Bennett, who is their most reliable and sure-handed receiver, even though he is often overlooked. Other than those two, the Bears' wideouts didn't do much to help the offense. Devin Hester was targeted nine times and had just 1 catch. He also had at least 1 drop. Johnny Knox was targeted six times and caught 2 passes for 45 yards.
Part of their ineffectiveness was due to Cutler's inaccuracy, but that was partly the result of poor protection -- and not just from the offensive line. Tight end Kellen Davis threw a "look out" block on Turk McBride. In other words, he whiffed on defensive end Turk McBride and then should have yelled "look out," to Cutler, who was blindsided, fumbled and lost the ball at the Bears' 29-yard line. The Saints scored to go up 23-13, and the Bears never got closer than that.
Getting back to Forte, he has accounted for 324 of the Bears' 623 net yards (52 percent) through two games. Whatever G.M. Jerry Angelo was offering him as a signing bonus before their contract extension talks broke off in the preseason - best guess is around $12 million - he should throw in an extra couple million right now. If Angelo doesn't get Forte signed soon, and the four-year veteran continues at his current pace, it's going to cost the Bears twice as much to sign him after the season, when he's an unrestricted free agent. Or he will go to the highest bidder, which probably won't be the Bears.
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