Fourth-and-1 from the Bengals’ 27, 8 1/2 minutes left in the game. Bengals 21, Bears 17. Traditional Bears wisdom?
Kick the field goal, of course.
Not this regime. On what Jay Cutler later referred to as a “ballsy” play call, Cutler handed off to Matt Forte. Now, I digress. Perhaps in the Lovie Smith era, the Bears would have gone for it. To please the fans, if nothing else.
It’s impossible to know for sure, but the likely result would have been a slow developing run up the middle. It would have been classic Bears: two steps behind modern day offense, not understanding that if Matt Forte has one weakness, it’s picking up a tough yard in between the tackles.
So what did new Bears head coach Marc Trestman do? What any head coach should do, based on the most basic aspect of their job description. He ran a stretch play to Forte, allowing him to use his exceptional speed and elusiveness instead of trying to use him as something he’s not: a powerful, bowling ball type that we’ve had forced down our throats the last few years.
And sure enough, Forte picked up the first down and then some. It was the most crucial moment in the Bears’ 24-21 over the talented Cincinnati Bengals, which was followed by the game-winning touchdown pass from Cutler to Brandon Marshall.
“That’s what Tres is about,” Cutler told ESPN Chicago. “He’s going to roll the dice. He believes in us and the offense. The way those two guys are playing up front, really all five of those guys, we could’ve pretty much called anything we wanted.”
What’s more: Trestman chose to run to the right side. Occupied, of course, by rookies Kyle Long at guard and Jordan Mills at tackle.
In his first game at the helm for the Bears, subject to extreme criticism from the pressing Chicago media based on the most microscopic of play calls or coaching decisions, Trestman may have made a more gutsy, calculated call than Lovie Smith ever did in his nine years with the Bears.
The call was gutsy for obvious reasons. And hindsight is 20/20, sure, but the play call was far from stupid.
As raw as he may be, Kyle Long is by far the most physically dominating presence the Bears have on their offensive line. He’s learning at a rapid place, which is scary for opposing defenses. All-world defensive tackle Geno Atkins was Long’s first assignment, by and large, and Long essentially neutralized him with the help of center Roberto Garza.
Mills, meanwhile, was relatively quiet throughout his debut contest. For an offensive tackle, that’s an extremely positive sign. J’Marcus Webb may have been the most frequently talked about Bears lineman on television broadcasts (and Twitter, for that matter) and that turned out about as well as your average Nicolas Cage film. Mills was quiet, solid, and most importantly, kept Cutler upright.
As easy as it is to drink the kool-aid, there aren’t only positives to be taken from yesterday’s game. The Bears struggled to create running lanes for Forte, Cutler had a very Cutler-esque interception which made you wonder if Rex Grossman stole a No.6 jersey for a down and the defense simply couldn’t get off the field in the first half.
Still, the negatives far outweigh the positives. For lack of a scholarly phrase, the nerd with the clipboard surpassed expectations in his first game at Chicago’s head master.
Alas, the Bears won. All is right in Chicago…. At least for the next six days.