Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice’s mild play-calling pans out
BY ADAM L. JAHNS firstname.lastname@example.org November 26, 2012 8:38PM
Bears quarterback Jay Cutler throws a pass as center Roberto Garza blocks in the third quarter of the Chicago Bears 28-10 win over the Minnesota Vikings Sunday November 25, 2012 at Soldier Field. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
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Updated: December 28, 2012 6:27AM
The questions had to be asked because things just looked different as the Bears’ offense went to work against the Minnesota Vikings.
Whether it was all the short passes, all the runs or the play-action bootlegs, the offense kept the opposition off-balance, something you could say it hasn’t done much this season.
Who was calling the plays?
“Same guy that normally calls the plays is calling the plays, like you probably know,” coach Lovie Smith said.
Was quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates more involved?
“Not that I’m aware of,” quarterback Jay Cutler said.
So give credit where it’s due.
Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice, whose play-calling came under scrutiny after the debacle in San Francisco, had a good game plan for his makeshift line and his quarterback, who returned from a concussion. It was executed well, despite several players being injured.
“The play calling was good,” Cutler said. “When we stay committed to the run and we block well, we’re going to be successful. When you get pass-happy and divert from the run, it’s hard, especially in November and December.”
You could argue that the Vikings don’t have an elite defense. But they’re not pushovers, either. As of Monday, they ranked 11th in total defense.
It was clear the Bears wanted to protect Cutler and their offensive line, so they ran 39 times (55 percent of their plays) and used a ton of short passes. According to Pro Football Focus, Cutler was 18-for-21 on passes under 10 yards.
It kept the Vikings guessing, which paid off. The Bears went 11-for-19 (58 percent) on third down.
“Thirty-nine rushes — that right there to me was the story of the day,” Smith said. “Being in a situation where you can run the ball 39 times, you have to be good on third downs and you have to make some plays. You can’t just have one-yard gains throughout.
“Yeah, we would like to have a 300-yard rushing day, but to me that was a perfect day for the type of football game that it was and what we needed to do at the time.”
It’s also a plan that could lead to similar success against the Seattle Seahawks — who rely on a solid defense and a good running back in Marshawn Lynch and have a rookie quarterback in Russell Wilson — on Sunday at Soldier Field.
More important, it finally could be a base for stability, especially with right guard Lance Louis (torn anterior cruciate ligament) on injured reserve and running back Matt Forte hobbled by another ankle injury.
Cutler’s return was crucial. His strong arm and ability to evade pressure were huge. But so was the play calling. All of Cutler’s 12 completions to receiver Brandon Marshall came on short routes — short ins, curls, drags or slants.
“When you have a line of new guys in there, I want to get rid of the ball fast, find my first read and take it,” Cutler said. “We also want to limit sacks. Sacks really kill those guys up front. If we have to shorten things up, so be it.”
Tice also put Cutler on the move with play-action bootlegs. His touchdown strike to tight end Matt Spaeth came on such a play. He rolled left while tight end Kellen Davis forced defensive end Jared Allen to the inside.
“If we can do it, I love to do it,” Cutler said.
That might change when the Bears face the Green Bay Packers, but at least Tice showed the right adjustments and plans can be made.
“It’s the only time we played the Vikings, and they had an excellent game plan for them,” Smith said.
Was Sunday a case of the Bears finally finding an offensive rhythm?
“Coach went into the game with a good scheme,” right tackle Jonathan Scott said. “And it was a pride issue.”