With the Chicago Bears nursing a four-point lead with just under four minutes to play in the fourth quarter of tonight's contest against the Green Bay Packers, Marc Trestman called a timeout. His offense was facing a fourth and inches at their own 34-yard line. Trestman initially sent his punt unit on the field but, after calling a timeout, changed his mind and sent the offense back into the huddle.
The play was a pitch left, one in which the blocking wasn't great, yet running back Matt Forte made a few guys missed and plowed his way forward for a crucial yard. A few minutes later, the Bears capped an 18-play drive that took almost nine minutes off the clock with a Robbie Gould field goal that put the game out of reach.
Under the nine-year reign of former head coach Lovie Smith, the team would have punted the ball in that fourth-down situation 100 percent of the time. Yet Trestman had the guts to put the outcome of the game in the hands of his offense, instead of relying on a defense that has been inconsistent all season. And the offense came through.
"We were over there talking and I was just letting Marc process it," Josh McCown said after the game. "You sit there going, ‘man if we can't get an inch to put this game away then we've got bigger problems than that.' We needed to get it. It was a gutsy call by Marc. We did it together and got the first down and it was awesome."
For his part, Trestman said it came down to a gut feeling.
"I can't say there was great analytical reasoning involved. It was a sense that we needed to stay on the field and I thought that we could. That's what we did," said Trestman. "I knew one way or the other that I wouldn't look back and have any regrets on the decision that was made."
It was a call that showed the type of coach Trestman is, one who is going to take every opportunity to earn a win, instead of hoping it falls in his lap. He's not a conservative coach by any means, one who knows how hard it is to secure victories in the NFL.
Yet Trestman's presence in tonight's game went beyond one fourth-down call. His work with McCown, a journeyman quarterback who hasn't started a game since 2011, just shows Trestman's acumen as quarterback coach. McCown showed poise and comfort in the pocket, working through his progressions and delivering the ball on target. He finished the game 22 of 41 for 272 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions.
Trestman designed an outstanding game plan that got the ball out quickly to the club's playmakers. Think about it, Trestman outcoached Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers from start to finish. I can say with confidence that has never happened since Capers took over in Green Bay in 2009.
Beyond McCown, Trestman's presence was felt in the discipline and game awareness his players showed. The offensive line did not incur a single penalty, neither before nor after the snap. And during that final drive, Forte made a concerted effort on a first-down run near the sidelines to stay in bounds and keep the clock running – bringing back memories of Marion Barber in 2011.
Chicago's defense had its best game of the year but make no mistake, this game was won by the offense and Trestman's ability to consistently move the ball down the field, particularly when it mattered most. And it was all done with his backup quarterback in charge.
The performance by McCown raises questions about Jay Cutler's future in Chicago – for if Trestman can work magic with McCown, what could he do with a young, hand-picked signal caller – but we'll let those rest for now and let Bears fans enjoy one of the team's most improbable victories in years. The win puts Chicago in a three-way tie for first place in the NFC North with the Packers and the Detroit Lions.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his third season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.