Martellus Bennett is used to being the forgotten man in the Chicago offense.
With All-Pro receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery lining up on the outside, former Super Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes in the slot and do-everything running back Kyle Long in the backfield, there's a wealth of talent at the skill positions. Then there's also the credit that goes to quarterback Jay Cutler and the team's patchwork offensive line. All in all, there's a lot of praise to go around and not much of it directed toward the tight end.
Given how he played Monday night, Bennett won't be forgotten much longer. The tight end hauled in five catches for 54 yards and a pair of touchdowns, helping the Bears to a 27-19 victory over the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium. The two scores gave him four touchdowns on the season, with at least one trip to the end zone in all three games.
"(Martellus has been) really great,"Cutler said following the win. "And he's staying within the system. I think that's really helping him. He's a tough cover already because he's such a big guy. He's trusting us that we are going put him in different spots to get him open, and that's really paying off for him."
Bennett's ability to move the chains and make plays in the red zone have been key for the Bears all season, but at no time was that more apparent than in Monday's win. With the Jets' aggressive defense constantly bringing pressure from all sides, quick throws to open receivers was a key element of the Chicago attack. Three of Bennett's receptions on the night went for either touchdowns or first downs, while the other two were both gains of nine that set up 2nd-and-1 situations for the offense. The tight end also drew a holding call that extended a drive that ultimately resulted in a Robbie Gould field goal.
Following the win, Bennett said he was motivated to play hard against New York because of what he felt were disrespectful comments by Jets head coach Rex Ryan days before the contest. In a conference call with Chicago reporters to preview the game last Wednesday, Ryan went over the Bears weapons but barely mentioned Bennett, saying just, ""You've got two monsters out there in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. Those are two guys that jump out at you. And the tight end's a big dude, Bennett."
"I feel that when (Ryan) talks about me, he should talk about me with enthusiasm. He was just monotone when he mentioned me. I was upset about that,"Bennett said. "I talked to Rex Ryan before the game, and I said he should use enthusiasm when he talks about me, but he just laughed it off."
So far in 2014, Bennett has been among the best at his position. He and Marshall are tied for the NFC lead in touchdown receptions, with Denver's Julius Thomas the only player in the entire league with more. And among tight ends, only Jimmy Graham of the Saints has more receptions than Bennett's 20 this year.
Coach Marc Trestman said that Bennett is more comfortable in the Bears offense this season than he was a year ago, his first in Chicago. The tight end understands where he is supposed to be on the field and how to use his 6-6, 265-pound body to create mismatches with undersized opponents. That gives Cutler more trust in him, a reason the quarterback has looked for Bennett time and time again when in need of a big play.
"Marty has been consistent, and his demeanor has always been consistent,"Trestman said. "We are happy with the way he has been. He's been a leader on the field and in the classroom, and certainly productive on the field as well."
Cutler agreed, saying Bennet is "doing exactly what we want him to do. Getting his depths, getting to his landmarks, just staying within the system just like everyone else in this offense."
With Marshall and Jeffery not at full health, passes are going to keep going Bennett's way. With more games like the one he turned in Monday, opposing coaches won't be skimming over him in the scouting report and the tight end will no longer be the forgotten man in the Chicago offense.
"We are constantly working, "Bennett said. "Right now we are just clicking."