April 23, 2014
The list of things coach Marc Trestman liked about the Bears’ offense in its debut against the Cincinnati Bengals was about as long as tight end Martellus Bennett’s wing span.
It included keeping quarterback Jay Cutler “clean” all game, limiting the impact made by Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins, forcing the Bengals to use timeouts at inopportune times, having zero pre-snap penalties despite multiple snap counts and receiving big plays at big times from key players.
But Trestman’s satisfaction with the Bears’ 24-21 victory shouldn’t be confused with contentment. He’s far from it, regardless of how good the Bengals were as a Week 1 test.
Two things were missing from all the work put into the preseason and training camp. Running back Matt Forte didn’t seem as involved as he’s expected to be, and the offense overall wasn’t operating at the quick pace that typified camp, especially in the first half.
“Our productivity running the football wasn’t where we wanted it to be,” Trestman said Monday. “Matt touched the ball approximately 25 times, and that’s not the productivity that we’d expect him to have.”
Some credit goes to the Bengals for holding the Bears to 81 yards on 28 carries (2.9 average), but Cutler wants to shoulder some blame for Forte’s low output (91 total yards) too.
Forte is an essential part of the Bears’ passing game, and he was targeted just six times. It’s on Cutler to pick the right play at the line of scrimmage in Trestman’s version of the West Coast offense.
“I wasn’t able to get it to him as much as I’d like to get it to him coverage based-wise,” Cutler said. “He’s such an all-purpose back. He’s so talented on the outside. His hands are so good, it’s hard to just pigeon-hole him as a [running back] and put him in the backfield. We like to get him out and get some favorable match ups.”
Trestman said the Bears’ offense consisted of plenty of “at-the-line things.”
“We did what we call ‘spontaneous,’ where we just call a word or a code and we get plays run very fast quite frankly,” Trestman said. “I thought that we were good just seeing it out there. I thought that we were better at times than others because the officials are holding the ball. That was one of the reasons why we called a timeout because of the change of personnel. They held the ball, but the clock continued to run and … I didn’t get that personnel grouping on the field quickly enough.
“But overall I thought the second half was much smoother because we did a lot of at-the-line calls and at-the-line play calling. I thought Jay did very well at it, by the way, getting us into the right play.”
Forte made some plays in the second half. His fourth-down run was crucial, he scored on a one-yard run in the third quarter and he had a 24-yard reception on an improvised play by Cutler. But if Forte truly is going to be the centerpiece of Trestman’s offense, it didn’t exactly happen in Week 1.
Trestman thought three plays were the difference for the Bears offensively, and all of them were made on the whim by Cutler: his 18-yard scramble, the 30-yard pass to Bennett and the 24-yarder to Forte.
“Jay made three plays that if he doesn’t make them, we don’t win the game,” Trestman said. “We always ask ourselves was it the play or the player? Normally when you win, it’s the player making the plays at the right time.”
When that includes Forte, the Bears’ offense will be even more potent.
“There were no explosive plays,” Trestman said. “We’ve got to do a better job for Matt of running the football, and we think we can.”