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SportsMonday: The Bears' 10-Second Saga

A dumpster fire of a game like that ends and the main thing people are bitching about is the coach should have refused the 10-second runoff? Really? I'll let you in on a little secret: that wasn't even in the top five grievances after this brutal 37-34 loss to the lousy Lions in Detroit. In fact, I'm going to argue it isn't even a legitimate beef.

Question the Bears ultra-conservative play-calling in overtime, even after they had piled up 34 points in regulation and should have been able to move the ball down the field with no problem with a few imaginative passes.

Wonder what the heck was going on with the Bears' defense when Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate had opportunity after opportunity to make big plays in single coverage in crunch time.

Ponder the worst of the worst: Lions coach Jim Caldwell did his damnedest to give the Bears the game with under three minutes remaining in regulation and the visitors still managed to gag it away. He had his team kick a ridiculous field goal on fourth down at the Bears' 13-yard-line. Of course the Lions should have gone for it instead. Either they would have scored the tying touchdown or they would have had the Bears pinned back in their territory with three timeouts and the two-minute warning left to force them to punt it back with plenty of time on the clock.

But they kick a field goal that didn't even pull them into position to tie it with another field goal and the Bears get the ball with the chance to at least (at least!) wind down the clock and pin the Lions' offense back deep in their own territory with no way to stop the clock other than incompletions or going out of bounds.

And then on first down, the Bears run a nice play up the middle. Matt Forte gets five yards and the visitors are in great position to get the one first down they need to make it absolute desperation time for the Lions, who burn their first timeout. The obvious call is something only slightly clever; a play-action pass gives Jay Cutler a chance for a nice, conservative completion somewhere in the middle of the field to just about put this game away with a first down that forces the calling of the Lions' second timeout. Even if the Bears then run three plays up the gut from there, the Lions can stop the clock with their last timeout and the two-minute warning but then it starts running and they can't stop it.

Yes there is a chance of an incomplete pass, but that doesn't really matter. If the Bears are really going to finish off this game (run through at least a substantial portion of the last two minutes on the clock), they need to run more than two more offensive plays.

Instead they call an obvious run up the middle and fail on second down and do the same on third. The Lions field the punt with plenty of time remaining and the offense that had moved the ball up and down the field against the Bears all day moves the ball right down the field.

After the Lions move inside the 10, the Bears get a huge break. Matt Stafford realizes his second-down play won't work and then heaves the ball way out of bounds, resulting in an obvious intentional grounding call. It is a spot foul, which moves the ball back to about the 10-yard-line and also results in a 10-second run-off and a loss of down. With the penalty, the Lions are facing third-and-goal. Sure enough on the next play, the Bears force another bad Stafford pass to set up a tough fourth down. Except the refs call a brutal roughing penalty on Pernell McPhee and the Lions get it first-and-goal inside the five. They score with 21 seconds left.

In hindsight, and man this is the worst kind of hindsight, people are arguing Fox should have figured out the Lions were going to score anyway and refused the intentional grounding penalty. That would have left about 40 seconds on the clock and the Lions about five yards away from the touchdown facing second down. That's the better option than third-and-goal from the 10, really?

In the real world, in the swirl and pressure of the last minute of an NFL game, of course the coach takes the penalty, the loss of yardage and a down and says, Hey defense, stop these guys from scoring on these next two plays. And yes, I know you can take the yardage but decline the runoff, but my argument still stands that you take the whole penalty and try to finish the game with the defense.

Oh, and it turned out 21 seconds was plenty of time for the Bears to go down and tie the game and force overtime anyway! Come on, this is not complicated.

Ridiculously good: The Bears' drive to a chip-shot field goal at the end of regulation contained two beautiful completions down the sideline and a perfect attempted back-shoulder throw that almost always draws a pass interference penalty - and did again for the Bears.

Ridiculous in a bad way: Caldwell's aforementioned decision to go for the field goal. And of course it was even worse that his terrible coaching was redeemed by the Bears' incompetence.

The McClellin conundrum: The defense wasn't very good without him but it wasn't very good with him. We will reserve judgement until he returns to the lineup but I still say that no matter where Pro Football Focus rated him going into the Kansas City game (an amazing #11 overall among all inside linebackers in the league), the Bears are better off without him.

You call that special?: A muffed punt and a punt that went off the leg of one of the blockers? The Lions are so bad they have worse special teams than the Bears. But they now have only one fewer wins. Both teams are buried deep in the back half of the NFL. And barring miraculous mid-season winning streaks, their seasons are over.


Jim "Coach" Coffman" is our man on Mondays. He welcomes your comments.

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Posted on Oct 11, 2021