LAKE FOREST, Ill. â€“ The most intriguing match-up in Sunday’s showdown between the Bears and Patriots will feature two men who won’t throw a block, make a tackle or touch the ball.
Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz will match wits with Patriots coach Bill Belichick, a defensive specialist, in what promises to be an entertaining chess match at Soldier Field.
Mike Martz has helped the Bears climb into first place in the NFC North with a 9-3 record.
â€œHe will study everything that you’ve done,â€ Martz said of Belichick. â€œHe’ll take it apart piece by piece. He’ll identify what your strengths are and he’ll try to eliminate your strengths. He will make you adjust.â€
â€œWe always have trouble against Mike,â€ Belichick said. â€œHe does a great job with the formations and the personnel groupings. His passing concepts are very difficult to defend. If you stop one, then that opens up something else.â€
Belichick won two of three meetings with Martz when the Bears offensive coordinator was head coach of the St. Louis Rams. The biggest victory came in Super Bowl XXXVI to cap the 2001 season. In that game, the Rams outgained the Patriots 427-267 but committed three turnovers that New England converted into 17 points in a 20-17 win.
â€œWe moved the ball exceptionally well,â€ Martz said. â€œIn that game, we turned the ball over three times. We had a protection error. We had a wide receiver slip and fall on the slant, and we fumbled right before the half and they got 17 points off of those three turnovers.
â€œThey were a great team, obviously. I am not taking anything away from that. I think for us in that game it was more about turning the ball over like we did that gave them those great opportunities that affected the outcome more than anything else.â€
The two teams had met earlier in the 2001 season with the Rams defeating the Patriots 24-17 in New England. Kurt Warner completed 30 of 42 passes for 401 yards with three touchdowns, two interceptions and a 105.4 passer rating.
In 2004, the Patriots beat the Rams 40-22 in St. Louis, the Rams’ worst home loss in five seasons. New England’s defense sacked Marc Bulger five times, forced a fumble and intercepted a tipped pass. Belichick called the game â€œprobably as complete a victory as I’ve ever been around.â€
Martz knows from experience that the Bears face a tough task Sunday against Belichick’s defense.
â€œThe thing about Bill, and this is something that we try to do on offense, is first of all he’s been there for so long that there is an aura of discipline that he demands out of those guys. What we’re trying to get toâ€”I say limit mistakes, get better every weekâ€”they’re that way now every week because it’s ingrained in them. When they bring somebody in, they have to buy into that.
â€œThey’re very, very disciplined. You never see them out of position. They adjust extremely well. That’s the best compliment you can give the guy, I think. They’re just very, very tuned into what they’re doing. They just don’t make errors.â€
Belichick was just as complimentary about Martz in advance of Sunday’s game.
â€œMike does a great job,â€ Belichick said. â€œHe’s a hard guy to defend. His schemes are always very creative and they give you a lot of things to worry about. Their plays complement each other, so if you’re stopping one thing, you’re probably not going to be able to stop the play that he has that goes with it.
â€œYou never feel safe when you’re playing Mike’s offense. They’re one play away from a big, explosive play.â€