Marc Trestman’s head-scratching calls prove costly for Bears
BY RICK MORRISSEY Sports Columnist December 1, 2013 9:51PM
Do you agree with Trestman's FG choice on 2nd down in OT?
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Updated: January 31, 2014 3:25AM
MINNEAPOLIS — The human brain is a marvel of nature. All that elaborate wiring. Billions and billions of neurons. Synapses firing away like lightning bugs. The intricate, complicated wonder of it all!
Then Sunday rolled around, and whatever pride we might have had in our superiority disappeared in the face of compelling evidence that, under pressure, some of us will exhibit problem-solving skills normally associated with the Three Stooges.
The Bears-Vikings game was one of the dumbest, craziest games in recorded history even before coach Marc Trestman got the left side of his brain around it. And then he dumbed it down to the Earth’s mantle.
On second down in overtime, Trestman sent Robbie Gould out for a 47-yard field goal. I have made factual errors before, but the previous sentence does not contain one of them. It was indeed second down, and Trestman chose to kick rather than run at least one more play to give Gould an easier attempt. He could have given the ball to Matt Forte, who had averaged 5.2 yards a carry during his 120-yard day. Who knows, maybe Forte would have broken a 29-yard touchdown run.
But, no. And, of course, Gould missed the field goal, not because he usually misses from there but because the very idea of it was an offense to the intellect. And, of course, the Vikings went on to win 23-20.
“We were definitely in range, and I didn’t want at that point to risk a possible penalty that would set us back, similar to what happened on the other side or a fumble of some kind,’’ Trestman said.
This is a guy who could give you a reasonable explanation for why Michael Jordan’s baseball career wasn’t such a bad idea, so it’s not surprising his justification came with conviction. But he either coached dumb or he coached scared, take your pick.
You do not kick on second down when the distance is 47 yards, no matter how great a kicker Gould is.
You do not kick on second down because you’re concerned about a fumble or a penalty. You should have more confidence in your team than that.
“We got called out there to kick it,’’ Gould said. “I’ve got to go out there and make it. It’s a 47-, 48-yarder? I’ve got to make it. That’s in my range.’’
The 6-6 Bears are in a bad way playoff-wise, but they’re not in that situation because of their kicker. It’s noble for Gould to take responsibility. Trestman took the blanket approach, saying offense, defense and special teams all had a hand in the loss.
If you spread the blame around to everybody, then nobody is accountable. That might make everyone feel better, but it doesn’t make it true.
It’s not surprising that the Bears were circling the wagons after the game. It’s what football teams do. Asked if he had wanted another chance to carry the ball before Gould’s attempt, Forte said: “Doesn’t matter if I did or if I didn’t. You can speculate now after the fact that it would’ve made a difference, but just bad luck on our part.’’
If it’s bad luck to decide to kick on second down, then I guess this game was decided by bad luck.
It was a bad day all around for the human brain, and I’m not talking about concussed brains. Quarterback Josh McCown, normally as careful as a parachute packer, inexplicably tried to toss a shovel pass as he was being tackled in the fourth quarter. The ball ricocheted off a defender and into the hands of Bears guard Kyle Long, who fumbled. Vikings ball.
“If you’re gonna be the player you want to be, you can’t do those things,’’ McCown said.
A little later, Bears linebacker Jon Bostic got a boneheaded taunting penalty after tackling the Vikings’ Chase Ford short of the first-down marker on third down.
Linebacker Khaseem Greene bailed out McCown and Bostic when he intercepted a Matt Cassel pass and returned it 49 yards to midfield. After Forte ran for nine yards on first down, Trestman called Forte runs up the middle and off left guard for no gain, then tested positive for vanilla extract. Punt. Afterward, Trestman said he felt good about the play-calling on that series.
“The accountability starts with me,’’ Trestman said.
But that’s not at all how it felt. He took responsibility for his decisions but thought they were good ones. Big difference. And a big loss.