September 1, 2014
Marc Trestman’s Bears weren’t exactly a revelation in their season-opening 24-21 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday at Soldier Field. The Bears came back to win games under Lovie Smith, too. They beat good teams. They took the ball away. They converted fourth-and-one plays. They scored from the 1-yard line. And they went an entire game without allowing a sack under Lovie.
But rarely, if ever, did they do all that in the same game. So while one victory in September is not nearly a big enough sample size to get too giddy, there still were signs that Sunday was just the start for Trestman. The Bears moved from the 11-17 range into the top 10 of most power rankings this week — an indication Bears fans aren’t alone in thinking the victory was not a mirage.
1. Jay Cutler had a perfect passer rating (158.3) after throwing a fourth-quarter interception in a close game.
Is it just a coincidence that in his first game under Trestman, Cutler responds to adversity like never before? After being intercepted by Vontaze Burfict with 13:58 to play and the Bears trailing 21-17, Cutler was 5 of 6 for 77 yards and a 19-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Marshall. He added an 18-yard scramble that got the Bears out of a second-and-20 hole.
2. The Bears finished strong.
Other first-year offenses were better early: the Eagles (Chip Kelly); the Cardinals (Bruce Arians); the Chargers (Mike McCoy); the Chiefs (Andy Reid) and even the Bills (Doug Marrone). But the Bears were the best in the fourth quarter. They outgained the Bengals 141-21 and averaged 6.7 yards per play after averaging 4.6 in the first three quarters — with nary a hint of razzle-dazzle.
3. The Bears converted a fourth-and-one play when it mattered most.
In the previous three seasons the Bears converted 6 of 12 fourth-and-one plays (27th in the NFL), but they got it right the first time on Sunday — not only in converting the play, but in letting Matt Forte do it. The Bears wouldn’t even give Forte the ball on six fourth-and-one attempts last year. But Trestman put his faith in Forte, who bounced the play outside for an eight-yard gain. Showing that kind of confidence in Forte alone could pay dividends.
4. The Bears scored from the 1-yard line.
In the 2010 opener against the Lions, the Bears failed to score on five attempts from the 1. Since Cutler arrived in 2009, the Bears were 18 of 44 on attempts from the 1 — 27th in the NFL in that span. A small sample for sure, but they were 1-for-1 against the Bengals, with Forte again getting the job done.
5. The Bears did not allow a sack OR have a false start in the same game.
That never happened in the Smith era, but Trestman did it in his first game — and with two rookies on the right side of the line. In the opener last year against the Colts, the Bears had a sack and a false start on their first two plays from scrimmage of the season.
6. The Bears converted third-and-17 and second-and-20 situations into first downs and scored touchdowns on both drives.
Negative plays wrecked Cutler and the Bears last year. On drives in which they had 11 or more yards to go, they converted 17 of 77 (22 percent) and scored six touchdowns. On Sunday, they converted 3 of 5 — scoring touchdowns on two of them and running out the clock on the other.
Thinking of Montreal
Marc Trestman hasn’t forgotten where he came from.
Trestman, who parlayed five years as coach of the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League into the Bears’ job, sent a video message to Alouettes fans that was played on the video board Sunday at Molson Stadium before the Alouettes’ game against the Toronto Argonauts.
‘‘Bonjour, Montreal. I ce Marc Trestman,’’ Trestman said in French. ‘‘I would like to take the opportunity to thank the Montreal Alouettes fans for their love and support over the last five years. It’s been quite a journey, and your support of the Alouettes is no stranger to the success the team has had throughout that period.
‘‘I went to a city which I knew almost nothing about and was treated with nothing but warmth by Montrealers. I will miss the city and its people. And in the words of Marv Levy, ‘Once an Alouette, always an Alouette.’ Merci, Montreal.’’
Like the Bears, the Alouettes rallied to take the lead in the fourth quarter. But the Alouettes (4-6) couldn’t hold on as the Argonauts scored the final nine points to win 37-30.
The case for Gould deal
At his ‘‘State of the Bears’’ news conference last week, general manager Phil Emery reiterated that he has not ruled out negotiating contract extensions during the season.
‘‘I said [before training camp] we were inclined not to,’’ Emery said. ‘‘That doesn’t mean we absolutely won’t. But the fairest thing and the right thing for us right now is to concentrate on the season.’’
With 24 players in the final year of their contract, Emery is likely to stick to that. If he negotiates with one or two players, he risks offending 10 or more. But kicker Robbie Gould might be an exception.
The 31-year-old Gould, who was rebuffed in attempts to negotiate a new deal in the offseason, continued to strengthen his case with a franchise-record 58-yard field goal in Sunday’s 24-21 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. Gould has hit 14 of 16 field goals of 50 yards or longer since 2009, including his last 11 in a row.
In his ninth season, Gould is the most accurate field-goal kicker in team history and the fourth most accurate kicker in NFL history (209 of 244, 85.7 percent). History shows that when you find a guy who can kick at Soldier Field, you keep him.
When he addressed the subject in training camp, Gould did not sound like a guy who wanted to break the bank. ‘‘I’d love to stay a Bear,’’ he said. ‘‘If they came to me right now, I’m sure we could work out a number to stay. They have my agent’s number. I’m more than willing to listen.’’
LB makes immediate impact for Jaguars
J.T. Thomas might have been the most difficult of the final cuts. Thomas, a third-year linebacker from West Virginia, played in 16 games last season, mostly on special teams. He had a blocked punt in the second preseason game against the San Diego Chargers.
But with rookies Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene on the roster, Thomas was deemed expendable. He quickly was signed by the Jacksonville Jaguars, whose defensive coordinator is former Bears defensive coordinator Bob Babich.
It didn’t take long for Thomas to make an impact. On his first play of the opener against the Kansas City Chiefs, Thomas blocked a punt by Dustin Colquitt out of the end zone for a safety that gave the Jaguars a 2-0 lead. Alas, the Chiefs rallied to win 28-2.
Thomas is one three ex-Bears on the Jaguars. Geno Hayes started at outside linebacker and had four tackles. Fullback Will Ta’ufo’ou had an 11-yard reception and two special-teams tackles.
Hey, Peyton, Luckman did it first, you know
Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning became the latest to throw seven touchdowns when he torched the Baltimore Ravens in Week 1. But the Bears’ Sid Luckman was the first.
Luckman, in the midst of the greatest season by a quarterback at the time, completed 21 of 32 passes for 453 yards and seven touchdowns in a 56-7 rout of the New York Giants on Nov. 14, 1943.
The seven TDs broke the record of six set by the Washington Redskins’ Sammy Baugh two weeks earlier. But it was the total yardage that was most astounding. Luckman’s 453 yards obliterated the record of 333 set by the Green Bay Packers’ Cecil Isbell in 1942.
With NFL passing games still in their infancy, Luckman’s 1943 season was a breakthrough. He set records with 28 touchdown passes and 2,194 yards. His passer rating in 1943, computed by today’s standards, was 107.5 — the previous best was Isbell’s 87.0 in 1942.
Manning is one of five players to throw seven in a game and the first since the Joe Kapp did it for the Minnesota Vikings in 1969. No Bears quarterback has approached Luckman’s record since Johnny Lujack threw six in a game in 1949.
Erik Kramer threw seven touchdown passes in a two-game span in 1995 — four against the Rams and three against the expansion Carolina Panthers — and eventually broke Luckman’s franchise record with 29 touchdowns in a season. It still stands today.