Remember 11 months ago when Bears' critics contended Lovie Smith was settling as he promoted Rod Marinelli to defensive coordinator and Mike Martz to offensive coordinator after long searches?
There was much gnashing of teeth when Perry Fewell, a former Bears defensive backs coach, accepted the Giants' defensive coordinator position and snubbed the Bears. Ditto when Jay Cutler's former position coach in Denver, Jeremy Bates, blew off a request to interview with the Bears and joined Pete Carroll in Seattle.
Smith and the Bears front office staff were lambasted for what some considered foot-dragging and indecisiveness.
Turns out the Bears got it right.
There's no longer any doubt that Marinelli and Martz were the best choices.
The Bears are No. 4 in the NFL in points allowed, No. 3 in rushing yards allowed and No. 10 in total yards allowed. Bears defenders have praised Marinelli for his teaching skills, and his attention to detail. While the pass rush still isn't great, it's better than it was a year ago and has helped produce a more than 50 percent increase in interceptions.
It's interesting to note where the New York's defense is under Fewell. In the past two weeks, with a playoff berth hanging in the balance, the Giants' defense has been a bust. That group, which looked so dominant destroying the Bears in Week Four, has been gouged for 83 points in losses to Philadelphia and Green Bay. The Bears have defeated both those teams, allowing a total of 43 points, although they must face the red-hot Packers again Sunday.
In seven games this season, the Giants have allowed 27 points or more. The Bears have allowed 27 or more points only twice. The Giants' defense is No. 5 in yards allowed but, in the all-important category of points allowed, it is 16th.
How has Bates done as offensive coordinator with the Seahawks? Glad you asked.
The Seahawks are dead last in the NFL in rushing yards, and quarterback Matt Hasselbeck is having the second-worst full season of his career, with a 73.2 passer rating, 12 TD passes and 17 interceptions.
Meanwhile "Mad" Mike Martz has the Bears' offensive hitting on all cylinders, rolling up 78 points in the last two games, and both phases of the attack seem to get better each week with the exception of the embarrassing loss to New England, the Bears' only loss in their last eight games. Cutler is having the best season of his NFL career and has played his best football during the playoff push.
Martz's attack has gotten a strong assist from an offensive line that is playing its best football of the season under the tutelage of Mike Tice, who was also brought onto the staff last off-season. The line, which was in transition through the first half of the season, allowed 45 sacks in the first 12 games and just 5 in the last three games.
Cincinnati Bengals quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese was another candidate who interviewed for the Bears, but he hasn't done much this season to upgrade his resume. The Bengals have gone from a playoff team to 4-11. Quarterback Carson Palmer is tied for the most interceptions in the AFC with 18 and is having his worst full season in the last six years, despite the benefit of throwing to Pro Bowl receivers Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco.
Martz hasn't thrown any passes, Marinelli hasn't been credited with any sacks, and Tice hasn't thrown any blocks. But without them, the Bears do not make the jump from 7-9 to 11-4 and the NFC North title.
Follow Bob LeGere's Bears reports via Twitter@BobLeGere. Check out his blog, Bear Essentials, at dailyherald.com.