On Sunday, the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions went at it for the division lead. Each at 5-3, this game would send one into first place unanimously and give them the chance to control their own destiny for the rest of the season. In a game where Jay Cutler surprisingly got the nod and returned from a groin tear early, the Bears did not look the same on offense.
Throughout the game, Cutler looked injured. Yet, head coach Marc Trestman kept him in. Ultimately, this would be one of the decisions he made that doomed the Bears.
Ask any professional athlete who feels as though they aren’t quite 100 percent, but healthy enough to practice. They want to play. Of course they’re going to give it a shot, and, fight as hard as they can in order to keep themselves in the game. Cutler has such a strong will to win — that, for some reason, is still questioned — that he fought through immense pain.
The blame goes strictly on Trestman for keeping him in so long. Immediately when Josh McCown replaced Cutler on the Bears’ last drive, you could see the playbook being opened back up. McCown was more mobile, because he was healthy of course. He was able to step into his throws and plant his rear foot. It was an obvious upgrade at the quarterback position.
Cutler was in pain throughout the day, and it was blatant. Between snaps and walking off the field, Cutler would hold a hand down near his groin and grimace. He could not take off and run at any point in time Sunday — something he’s done at will during certain stretches this year. Each time he got hit, Cutler looked to be in more and more pain.
The misery should have been ended long before Cutler was knocked to the ground several times. But, instead, Trestman decided to let his quarterback stay in the game.
To put it simply: If Trestman had went with McCown to begin with, the Bears could be the ones looking at a 6-3 record and sitting atop the NFC North. The Bears’ defense actually played a very good game in comparison to how they played the previous weeks. Holding a potent Lions offense to just 21 points is an accomplishment for this group.
All season long, Trestman has been lauded for his intelligence and his play calling. Today, I questioned it for the first time. Not only did he leave Cutler in the game, but when the Bears were looking to tie it up late with a two-point conversion, Trestman made two bonehead play calls.
On the first two-point conversion, before getting a second chance due to another Lions’ penalty, Trestman left Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery on the sideline and instead used three tight ends and a shotgun set. I’m almost at a loss for words here. Marshall and Jeffery had been the go-to guys all day long, tearing the Lions’ defense up, and yet they’re on the sidelines.
McCown was forced out of the pocket and tossed an incompletion. The Lions, right on cue, were called for roughing the passer.
In their second attempt, the Bears went with a run up the middle with Matt Forte — who hadn’t done anything all game in the run game, especially up the middle. Forte was stuffed, and the game was essentially over.
Trestman has been incredibly smart all season long, and Bears fans have enjoyed this breath of fresh air with how the offense has looked. But, this game was lost, first and foremost, due to the lack of intelligence by Trestman. A couple of key decisions harmed the Bears in the end, thus dropping to 5-4 on the season.