9:01 AM CST, November 14, 2013
The decision to leave injured, inaccurate Jay Cutler in the game, a two-point conversion play that passed out of a run formation, a gift second-chance that ran out of a passing formation, going for it on fourth-and-1 in the first half of a tied game --- hoo boy, is this ever the week to pick apart some of Marc Trestman’s coaching.
So, let’s keep going.
The Bears coach, who couldn’t figure out which quarterback should be playing later in the loss to the Lions, tried to explain a decision early in the game, and it set off bull manure detectors.
Trestman opted not to have reliable Robbie Gould try a 45-yard field goal in a 7-7 game in the second quarter, choosing to go for it on fourth-and-1 at the Lions 27. Trestman had been 5-for-7 on those decisions before the Bears failed. Why not try to take the lead?
Trestman called it a “critical drive.’’ Only a touchdown would do, apparently.
“We were coming off a game in which the Lions put up 500 yards,’’ Trestman said, “and they came down the field on the first series and scored.’’
So, Trestman had no faith in his defense after the Lions had just shredded it.
“That decision had nothing to do with the defense,’’ Trestman said.
Excuse me? Of course it had something to do with the defense. Geez, it had everything to do with the defense. The defense has been awful this season and the Bears needed all the touchdowns they could get.
There was more to Trestman’s decision: “It eliminated a kickoff return.’’
So, Trestman didn’t have a lot of faith in his special teams, either.
Trestman can’t say that exactly. I get that. But it’s true. It also underscores a continuing trend requiring the offense to bail out the defense and special teams.
That’s the way the NFL wants it. The Bears are relying on side of the ball favored by the NFL’s rigged rules. That’s progress.
But three critical short-yardage situations Sunday revealed a critical problem: The Bears don’t have a go-to play.
That’s an issue when Trestman goes for it on fourth-and-short as often as he does. That’s an issue when you absolutely need to convert a two-point try to get to overtime. The Bears went three-and-out. Just to clarify: not a good thing.
On the fourth-and-1 play Sunday, Michael Bush was smothered by a stout Lions defensive front. The Bears used both starting tackles and tackle-eligible Eben Britton, but a Lions defender still got free.
Why the Bears couldn’t push forward for one measly yard is one issue; another is why Matt Forte wouldn’t be the ball-carrier the way he was the week before in Green Bay when he gained a critical first down because of his ability to cut.
On the first two-point conversion, Trestman had Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery on the sideline and tried to pass the ball anyway.
Trestman said that you have to really like your play call to line up like that. I’m sure the Lions liked not having to worry about defending the two toughest assignments in the Bears offense in a game-tying situation.
On the second two-point try, the Bears showed a passing formation but gave Josh McCown options at the line of scrimmage. He called a run, and the best runner on the play was Lions defensive tackle Nick Fairley.
Whatever explanation Trestman offered for those three critical plays, the inescapable conclusion is that the Bears don’t have a play that works no matter the defense because the Bears have better talent.
“Every team should have those gotta-have-it plays,’’ said Matt Bowen, Tribune Football Oracle and former NFL safety. “With Andy Reid, its high-low crossers. (Mike) Martz was the ‘follow’ route (tight end under, slot on the angle). The Patriots run high-low whip, etc.
“And yeah, the defense knows it’s coming, but who cares if you can execute it.’’
When the Bears needed a yard or two Sunday, they didn’t call a play that arrogantly says, “We're running this and you can’t stop us.’’ Instead, Trestman tried to get too cute for the room. You don’t do that if you have a couple plays that are near-gimmes.
Or maybe the Bears do have those plays, but don’t know it, which seems worse than failing at your second- or third-best play.
You’d think the Bears would default to the slants or fades/jump balls to their big receivers and tight end. Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett win those leverage and positional situations all the time. Opponents might know it’s coming, but the Bears still call those plays and complete the passes.
But no. The big wide receivers weren’t on the field for the first two-point try. They weren’t targeted on the second. And the Bears failed to tie the game. Connect the dots, people.
For all the wonderful calls Trestman has made this season in transforming the Bears into a big-boy offense, Sunday was a letdown. I mean, there were so many bad offensive decisions and subsequent double-talk that you’d think Lovie Smith was still coaching.
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