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Bernstein: Sunday To Unmask Martz, Smith

One consequence of Jay Cutler's concussion is the chance that Sunday's game helps us learn what the Bears really think of their offense, and offense in general.

Don't buy for a second Wednesday's public self-flagellation by Mike Martz over the Bears' ineptitude at New York.  His phony confession to overloading the developing offense is too clear a divergence from his brash insistence in Bourbonnais that his system would be fully installed and fully operational.

Martz now confronts the result of his tone-deaf play calling, as fossilized practice dummy Todd Collins quarterbacks at Carolina.  We may see, now, just how crazy Martz actually is, and whether or not Lovie Smith can control him.

Upon first glance, the strategy for Sunday looks obvious:  back it down from high heat to a simmer with runs, screens, slants and three-step drops.  Play field position and clock, trust your defense to let Robbie Gould score (or maybe get some points on its own), and get the hell out of there with the win.

But nothing is obvious when Martz is involved.  He couldn't be prouder that he helped make a possible Hall-of-Famer out of Arena refugee Kurt Warner after Trent Green was injured, and he may have learned the wrong lessons from that story.  To him, players are machines that carry out specific responsibilities demanded by his system, and he relishes the chance to earn credit for piling up points regardless of who is involved.

Even if he grudgingly puts in a conservative plan (either at the behest of Smith or because of a spasm of fear), Martz is known to abandon what was practiced after a series or two, overcome by his perception of tantalizing opportunities for big chunks of yards.

This is a classic test for a coordinator who butted heads with his two previous bosses over this very situation.  We can find out more about the Martz/Smith dynamic during and after the game, if the right questions are asked later.  We'll listen carefully to hear who takes credit or blame when one of these four scenarios plays out:  an appropriate, dialed-down gameplan allows the Bears to slog out a workmanlike win, the same strategy leaves them without enough points, the first half of the last game plays out again all day, or Collins's 325-yard, four-TD day ignites the city with controversy.

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