Trestman's gaffes cost Bears the victory

Bears coach Marc Trestman made a number of poor decisions throughout today's contest against the Detroit Lions, ones that ultimately cost his team a chance to pick up a crucial NFC North win.

In every NFL game, there are decisions a head coach must make that are critical to his team's success. One wrong decision during any given contest can cost a club a victory, but when you make numerous poor decisions, it puts your team in a situation where a win becomes very unlikely.

Such was the case for Chicago Bears head coach Marc Trestman in this afternoon's game against the Detroit Lions, where multiple coaching mistakes resulted in a 21-19 defeat.

"We're trying to make decisions that are in the best interest of the team," Trestman said after the game, "and we didn't get it done."

Arguably, Trestman's first mistake came earlier in the week with the choice to play Jay Cutler, who came back from a groin injury two weeks ahead of his original diagnosis. From the start of the game, Cutler lacked mobility and while he looked great on the opening drive, he was a quarterback hampered by injury the rest of the way. On multiple occasions, Cutler could be seen grabbing his groin and limping, and by the second half, he could barely move. Yet he kept trotting back into the huddle on all but one offensive possession.

It all culminated on a third down play with less than five minutes to play in the game. With the Bears trailing by a point, Cutler lined up for a 3rd-and-11 at his own 35-yard line. He dropped back to pass but pressure collapsed the pocket, forcing Cutler to step up. Ahead of him was nothing but green grass and plenty of room for him to scramble for the first down, had he been healthy. Instead, he took a step forward and fired a wounded duck that skipped five yards in front of his receiver, forcing the Bears to punt.

"That's the cost-benefit analysis and reasoning you make when your quarterback is limited with his mobility," said Trestman. "We elected to keep him in the game and that's the price we paid for his mobility at that time."

Trestman said an ankle injury that occurred in the second quarter was the reason for Cutler's extremely limited mobility.

"His ankle injury was unrelated to his groin," Trestman said. "It got rolled up on in the second quarter. They taped him up at halftime and said he was good to go."

At no point did Cutler ever grab his ankle in this game. He had a big bump on his non-throwing hand and was visibly bothered by the groin injury, yet never once were the trainers seen examining his ankle. So take what you will about the convenient diagnosis of a new ankle injury. But from the naked eye in the press box, Cutler was physical hampered by everything but his ankle.

Yet series after series, Trestman kept sending Cutler back in the fire, which resulted in just two field goals in the second half, despite starting one drive at Detroit's 9-yard line. It was an inept performance by a quarterback operating on one leg.

So what does Trestman do? He waits until his team is down by eight points, with 2:22 left in the game, before putting in backup Josh McCown. Surprising no one, McCown immediately drove the team down for a touchdown in less than two minutes. Imagine how many touchdowns the Bears could have scored had McCown been inserted earlier in the game, when Cutler was obviously bothered by an "ankle" injury.

"At the end I took [Cutler] out because I knew we would have to run around in the two-minute drill. That's when we decided to put Josh in the game," said Trestman. "You've got to run around and make some plays. You always want your quarterback to be mobile but at the end of the day, at that point and time, I don't know if Jay could've gotten it done with the things that would have to be done in the last two minutes."

But the game wasn't over then. The Bears still needed a successful two-point conversion to send the game to overtime. After a failed first attempt, a rollout pass in which no receiver could get open, Chicago was bailed out by a roughing the passer call. With one timeout still in his pocket – one in which he could've settled down his troops and discussed with McCown the upcoming play call – Trestman immediately sent in the next call, a run play that was stuffed for a three-yard loss.

Game over.

"The second play was part of our two-point package," Trestman said. "We had a run-pass option on and the defense gave us the run and we just didn't block it. We didn't execute. With our football today, we didn't execute offensively, particularly in the running game. We just didn't get it done."

Yet Trestman's mistakes didn't end there. In the second quarter, the Bears had a 4th and 1 at the Detroit 31-yard line. With the scored tied and more than seven minutes left in the first half, Trestman chose to go for the first down instead of attempting a 48-yard field goal. Running back Michael Bush was stopped at the line of scrimmage, costing Chicago three points that could have ultimately won them the game.

"We're coming off a game where the offense of the Lions put up 500 yards and they went down the field on the first series and scored. So that possession became critically important," said Trestman. "The field position was such that if we don't get it, they've got a long field and we've eliminated a kickoff. That was part of it. Early in the game, after seeing what we saw on the first drive, and it has nothing to do with a lack of faith in the defense or anything like that, it's just that that possession became very important at the start of the football game."

Trestman's mistakes made it difficult for Chicago to pull out this victory. The good news is that he's a smart individual, one in his first year as an NFL head coach. We can't expect him to be perfect, so if he learns from his gaffes this afternoon, Bears fans won't have to sit through another game as poorly coached as this one.

Yet blame doesn't just fall on Trestman. It wasn't his holding call that reversed a Matt Forte touchdown; it was Matt Slauson.

It wasn't his slippery hands that dropped an easy first-half interception. It was Major Wright.

Trestman didn't drop two touchdowns in the second half. Alshon Jeffery did.

It wasn't Trestman who couldn't open a single hole in the run game. That's the offensive line's fault.

And Trestman was not the player who let Nick Fairley fly into the backfield on the final two-point conversion. That one also falls on Slauson, not the head coach.

So while Trestman had his worst game in charge of the Bears, he wasn't solely responsible for the loss, just mostly responsible.

Chicago now falls a game behind the Lions, who also hold the tiebreaker. So the Bears are essentially two games back with seven to play. The uphill climb begins next week against the Baltimore Ravens.


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.

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