On the NFL
7:22 PM CST, December 2, 2012
Lovie Smith was wrong.
About being wrong, that is.
The situation: The Bears had a seven-point lead and were faced with a fourth-and-half-a-yard to go on the Seahawks' 15 on their first possession of the second quarter.
To the delight of the Soldier Field crowd and his sideline, Smith passed up the field-goal attempt and went for it. Michael Bush was stuffed for no gain on the play, and the second guessing began before Bush got off the ground.
Even Smith joined the chorus.
"Some decisions I made really hurt us early on," he said. "I should have taken the field goal in a game like that. I feel like we had momentum and wanted to really kind of knock them out and get them on their heels a little bit. That was the big play of the game."
The Bears didn't lose the game because they went for it. They lost the game because they missed a one-foot putt.
That play was a gimme. If everyone could have just fallen forward, Bears win.
Bush, all 245 pounds of him, was brought to Chicago, if not put on this earth, to make a half-yard.
And the Bears have had enough success in short-yardage situations that they shouldn't have been shy about being aggressive. Going into this game, the Bears faced 23 third- or fourth-and-1 situations and converted 15 of them.
The risk was minimal, and certainly worth the potential reward — taking the Seahawks out of the game early in the second quarter.
The Bears want to be a power offense. They want to play with a physical mentality. They can't look in the mirror and like what they see unless they take on challenges like that fourth-and-1.
After his mea culpa, Smith acknowledged he would go for it again in the same situation, and he should.
"I feel like if you're going to win and be able to get in the playoffs and play good football this time of season, you've got to be able to pick up fourth-and-short like that," he said.
And if they can't, they don't deserve to win the game.
"We have the guys that can make the plays," wide receiver Brandon Marshall said. "We have been really successful on fourth downs, third-and-shorts, fourth-and-shorts. So I liked the call and I was one of the guys that was lobbying for it. We just have to make the play."
That was the overriding sentiment in the Bears locker room.
"I liked that call as a lineman," guard Gabe Carimi said. "We have a strong offensive line group, an intense group. I feel we should be able to make those plays."
The Bears went with their heavy package, sending in 306-pound James Brown at tight end to pair with Matt Spaeth, and subbing Bush in for Matt Forte. Brown and Spaeth lined up on the left side of the formation, which ended up being the back side of the play.
Bush said the play was called "Strike," and he was supposed to go wherever he saw a push. And that's where the problem started. There wasn't enough of a push anywhere.
"It's on the offensive line," leader and center Roberto Garza said. "We have to be able to convert that. It's squarely on our shoulders and it's unacceptable."
Carimi had similar feelings. "We should get that every time," he said. "We didn't move the line as well as we could have, and we didn't get up on the linebacker to make the play."
Bush went up the middle to the right of the line. Carimi, playing right guard, blocked the three technique tackle. A pull from the left side of the line failed to reach Seahawks middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, who met Bush head on.
"I saw (Bush) about to jump so I met him before he got forward momentum," Wagner said. "He kind of left his feet, and I left mine too."
Bush averaged 5.6 yards per carry for the game, but couldn't get a half-yard on the game's most important play.
"They did a good job of stalemating the line, "Bush said. "There was nothing I could do. I didn't have any place to squeeze in."
If we could borrow the Neuralyzer from "Men in Black" to erase our memory of that one play, we would be praising the offensive line for its play Sunday. With two new starters, and a third starting his second game, the line kept Jay Cutler clean and helped the backs average 3.7 yards per carry.
But on that one play, the Bears missed injured Lance Louis, the guard who had become the team's best run blocker.
What they did not miss on was the play call. It was the right one.
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