CHICAGO -- When Mike Martz told Lovie Smith via his headset that the Bears needed to call a timeout on third-and-15 in the third quarter against the Packers, he didn't think Chester Taylor would convert because the players weren't aligned properly.
The play didn't count because Smith got an official's attention before the snap and called time out.
The Bears offense used three timeouts before the two-minute warning in the game. That might have led some to say, there goes "Mad Mike" again.
But the truth is this year Martz has been more conservative with his timeouts, as well as his run/pass ratio.
The Bears have called 23 timeouts offensively before the two-minute warning. That is one more than they called last year when Ron Turner was running a familiar offense. In 2004, when Martz was under fire for playing it loose with timeouts as head coach of the Rams, he called 40.
Many of the timeouts this year were called because the team was having problems with the communication device that transmits the call from Martz in the press box to quarterbacks coach Shane Day on the sideline to the earpiece in the helmet of quarterback Jay Cutler.
Other timeouts could be chalked up to the newness of the offense.
"Any time you have a new guy relaying a new system to a quarterback, there are going to be a few delay of games and you're going to have to burn a few timeouts," Cutler said.
Martz takes exception to being portrayed as a coach who goes through timeouts the way a three-pack-a-day smoker goes through cigarettes.
"I do mind burning them," he said. "They are not superfluous. We don't just take them. You want to keep your timeouts. But you have to weigh if there is confusion and it's a critical situation. (Then) you better clear things up because you won't get that opportunity again.
"Sometimes there is confusion because the quarterback didn't hear the play or something, we didn't get lined up right. We have had too much of that. That's just learning what we do.
"Earlier in the season, that was a bigger issue. The second half of the season we have been pretty decent. You have to stop and get control. Sometimes you take a timeout to tell the quarterback exactly what you want to do. Sometimes you take a timeout to calm things down a little bit."
The reason Martz wants to keep timeouts in his hip pocket is he might need them in a two-minute drill.
"Time is plays, and you want to have as many plays in the two-minute drill as you can," he said.
The Bears have not gotten themselves in two-minute trouble after having burned all of their timeouts. In fact, they have had one of the most effective two-minute offenses in the NFL.
According to STATS, the Bears have scored 27 points in two-minute offenses, well above the NFL average of 18 points. Only five teams have scored more, but 20 teams have had more two-minute possessions than the Bears' 19.
"Ultimately you look at the success of the two-minute drill," Martz said. "If you are successful, timeouts are not an issue."
Front office chess
When the Bears selected D.J. Moore in the fourth round of the 2009 draft, the pickings were pretty slim on the board. In Moore, they saw a cornerback who stood 5 feet 9 and ran a 4.56 40-yard dash at the combine. That wouldn't excite too many teams.
But when they sat down as a staff at Halas Hall in the months before the draft to dissect the cornerbacks, Bears scouts and coaches started to talk about Moore as a playmaker with versatility. At Vanderbilt, he had 17 takeaways in 37 career games. What's more, he wasn't just a cornerback. He also played wide receiver, running back, took some direct snaps at quarterback and returned kicks and punts.
They thought Moore was just a natural athlete. In high school, he set the South Carolina state record with a 6-6 high jump, plus he was all-state in basketball three times.
So they took a flyer on him. This year, he became their starting nickel back and began to show some of that playmaking ability with four interceptions and a forced fumble.
Moore came out of college after his junior year, so it shouldn't have been surprising to see him take a year to transition to the pro game. Now that he's established, the Bears front office has to ask itself if Moore is suited best at nickel back or if he is capable of a more important role as an every down corner.
Playing outside may expose Moore's deficiencies in height and speed. Then again, it also may highlight those playmaking abilities.
Pass 'pro' better
For the first 12 games of the season, the Bears had the worst pass protection in the NFL, according to the New York Life Protection Index, which measures pass protection using a proprietary formula that includes sacks allowed, quarterback hurries and knockdowns allowed, penalties by offensive linemen and length of pass attempts.
In fact, for the season, they still rank 32nd in the NFL. But over the last month, they protected better than seven teams even though the Bears went 2-2. In the last four games, the Bears rank 25th in the NFL with a protection index of 48.4, considerably better than their protection index of 28.3 over the first 12 games.
The Bears even did better over the last month than three playoff teams -- the Eagles (38.5), Chiefs (27.6) and Ravens (27.6).
The Bears were far from the only playoff team that had pass protection issues. Other teams that finished in the bottom 10 were the Chiefs (52.2), Steelers (51.1) and Eagles (45.1).
But the top five teams in pass protection index -- the Colts (90.7), Saints (81), Giants (80.3), Falcons (77.7) and Patriots (72.8) -- all won at least 10 games.