Trestman’s gutsy call puts Bears back in business
Beauty is often in the eye of the beholder — and is just as frequently skewed the morning after.
Chicago is dreaming Super Bowl again after a single win over an opponent that was predicted to destroy them — and probably would have had it not lost its best player.
But that’s why, as they say, you play the games. Sometimes you lose your best player. And sometimes it rains.
The play most remembered from the Bears’ shocking upset of the Packers on Monday night will always be Shea McClellin landing as hard as he could on Aaron Rodgers, driving his non-throwing shoulder hard into the turf with enough force to fracture Rodgers’ clavicle.
It was probably on the edge of being illegal, a play the NFL has tried to legislate out of the game, but McClellin disguised it nicely in the rhythm of the action, and has bought himself precious time with Bears fans who had lost patience with the former No. 1 pick.
But the other play that will resonate with Chicago for the rest of this season — and perhaps beyond if the Bears make the playoffs — will be the fourth-and-inches call from the Bears’ 32 with 7:50 left in the game.
The visitors were up 4 points at the time and risked giving the ball back to Green Bay with a short field and an opportunity to regain the lead, but Bears coach Marc Trestman made the kind of decision that can turn a season.
“If we can’t get an inch in that situation,” said QB Josh McCown, “we got bigger problems than that.”
With center Roberto Garza pulling and fullback Tony Fiammetta sealing A.J. Hawk on the backside, Matt Forte took the toss left and just escaped the grasp of Hawk to gain a yard.
“I can’t say there was great analytical reasoning involved,” Trestman said. “There was just a sense that we needed to stay on the field and I felt that we could. That’s what we did.”
The play sparked the Bears to an 18-play, 80-yard, game-ending drive that took 8:58 off the clock and concluded with a field goal that finished the Packers in their own stadium.
If you’re keeping score at home, that’s a four-minute drill that lasted nine minutes.
It says a lot about Trestman and the way he thinks the game. It says a lot about the way he approaches his job. It says a lot about the man Bears general manager Phil Emery entrusted with his team.
Trestman is not only gutsy, but he’s also a realist. His defense is awful and even with the horrific Seneca Wallace quarterbacking the Packers, Trestman didn’t trust his defenders to save the day.
He’s a goat for the rest of the season if it doesn’t work and Trestman knows it. He would have heard about it, read about it and thought about it for months.
It’s not exactly Bill Belichick going for it from his own 28 on the road against Indy and Peyton Manning in November 2009, but it’s similar in that New England could not stop the Colts and the head coach correctly believed the best chance to win the game was to keep the football.
The Pats didn’t convert and lost that game by a point. The Bears converted and stuffed it down the Packers’ throats with a superb drive to close it out.
“I knew one way or the other,” Trestman said, “I wouldn’t look back and have any regrets on the decision that was made.”
With Rodgers out now for at least a month — and probably more like three or four — the Bears possess a signature win that not only saved their season, but might also propel them to a division title if they can get healthy and discover a formula for stopping the run and getting a consistent pass rush.
They will need it Sunday at home against Detroit.
“We have to get better in certain areas,” Trestman said. “We’re playing a very good team Sunday and we have to get better.”
Yeah, above all else, Trestman is a realist. He’s also a first-year NFL head coach with a 5-3 record and a real chance to make the playoffs.
If it happens, Trestman and McClellin will have very good reason to remember Green Bay.
ŸHear Barry Rozner on WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.