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The coach wouldn't let his quarterback blow this one.
During possession after possession after the Bears took a 21-10 lead in the third quarter Sunday (and then after the Buccaneers pulled within 21-13), it was clear that with just a few first downs, let alone another touchdown, the home team would take absolute command of the game.
But Marc Trestman took no chances. Too many times this season he has watched Jay Cutler throw brutal interceptions in the second halves of winnable games. This time, when the coach called a pass after the team took the 11-point lead, it was ultra-conservative. Most of the time, he called run after run after run. And the Bears rode their defense to a 21-13 victory.
Some may say the coach was putting the game in Matt Forte's hands rather than restricting the QB. I beg to differ. And let's be clear, Forte did very little special in this game, especially in the fourth quarter. He did make a guy miss on his 13-yard touchdown run and he always moves smoothly (and he didn't fumble!). Otherwise he broke few tackles and displayed very little elusiveness.
Of course the Bear receivers were even easier to tackle. This is how a team totals barely 200 yards against a 2-8 (now 2-9) foe. If you thought the Bears' 3.5 yards per carry number was ugly, check out the 3.7 yards per pass. Even error-prone Josh McCown managed to lead his team to 5.7 yards per pass.
The Bears had the ball four times in the fourth quarter. During each of those possessions, the Bears ran the ball early and not successfully, setting up second-and-long and third-and-long situations. And each of those times, the Bears did not even attempt to throw the ball down the field. They targeted receivers in front of the first-down line and hoped for broken tackles.
But they also didn't commit any turnovers and ensuing punts (Hey, Pat O'Donnell, you have shown promise, but that was the second straight game you've saved your big shank for crunch time - a 20-yard punt with just 3:12 remaining in the game. Stop doing that!) and the defense stayed strong.
AP told the world that Forte lead the Bears to victory. You have to be kidding me. The defense, and only the defense, made the difference against the Bucs.
And how about that first half, eh? One wide receiver committed three penalties (nice game Brandon!), other receivers blew prime opportunities to make plays and the offensive line only occasionally managed even mediocrity. Look out, Lions!
Nice of Lovie to leave us with a perfect reminder of his tenure with the Bears. That late challenge, I mean, my goodness. It was so similar to so many ill-considered moves during the coach's run at the helm at Soldier Field.
He had a full two-minute warning timeout to consider whether challenging the spot on McCown's fourth-down sneak was a good idea. During that time, one of his assistants should have told him (or he should have seen for himself on the scoreboard) that the network had shown the perfect replay - with a camera angle right down the line of scrimmage. And that replay had shown McCown stopped short.
Then we all came back from the television break and watched as Lovie threw the red flag anyway. McCown was clearly short but I guess the coaches' belief was that if they couldn't get that call overturned, the game was over anyway.
And after about the shortest review I can remember, the referee announced that the call on the field had been confirmed. The guys in New York had seen the same replay we had and had reached the same conclusion - it was obvious.
And of course the coach was wrong to forego the consequences and toss the flag.
Everyone in the stadium knew Trestman was going to call three conservative runs and the Bears would then launch one final punt. With two timeouts, the Bucs could have regained possession with about a minute remaining. Instead, after an O'Donnell punt that was just mediocre rather than his previous awful effort, Tampa Bay had only 20 seconds. After a few desperation plays, the game was finally put out of its misery.
Jim "Coach" Coffman is our man on Mondays. He welcomes your comments.
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