Trestman's faith in Bears' offense questioned
Bears coach Marc Trestman says he often second-guesses himself, but he didn't do so after sending Robbie Gould out on second down to attempt a 47-yard field goal in overtime that failed.
After the miss Sunday, the Minnesota Vikings promptly maneuvered into position for Blair Walsh's game-winning, 34-yard kick that dropped the Bears to 6-6 and left them on the outside looking in at the playoff picture.
Trestman's day-after explanation at Halas Hall clarified his position and reiterated his faith in Gould's elite accuracy. But it did not satisfy those critical of the decision who wondered why the coach didn't show more confidence is his offense, which has been the strength of an average team.
"Once we got inside the 30-yard line, we were going to kick it," Trestman said. "We made a collective decision. There was complete agreement and no discussion on the matter."
If it's true that no one raised an objection on such a debatable decision, maybe it's time to add someone to the staff who would have.
"We were well within Robbie's range," Trestman said. "The ball's in the middle of the field. With all the things that had happened throughout the game, including Minnesota's failure to make a field goal (earlier in overtime) when they went back with penalties, we were in a great position right there to kick it and finish the game.
"That's the decision I made in the best interest of the team. It didn't work out. I recognize that, and I accept accountability for that."
That the kick was within Gould's range is a given. Before the 66-yard prayer that he was allowed to try at the end of regulation, Gould had hit 12 straight from 50 yards or farther. But since the start of the 2008 season, although Gould has missed just 23 of 168 FG attempts, 17 of the misses (73.9 percent) were from 41-49 yards.
Trestman often depends on analytics in decision making, but not so in this instance.
"I didn't do it from an analytics standpoint," Trestman said. "I did it from having been around Robbie the entire year and knowing how he kicks the ball and watching him kick in practice. I had no doubt that he was going to make the kick. We don't know what's going to happen on the next play, but it has a chance of not being in the middle of the field. I thought that was well worth the risk."
In an up-and-down season, the Bears' ability to move the ball has been as reliable as any aspect of Trestman's team, with the exception of Gould's accuracy. In retrospect, relying on that offense to move the ball close enough for a chip-shot FG seems a safer risk.
The offense entered Sunday's game No. 8 in total yards and, even though it had almost an entire extra quarter against the Vikings, it rolled up a season-high 480 yards. It was the third time in five weeks the Bears have had more than 420 total yards, and they were working against one of the NFL's worst defenses.
The Vikings entered the game without one starting cornerback (Josh Robinson), lost another starting corner when Chris Cook was ejected with 5:15 left in the third quarter, and then temporarily lost their third-best corner (Xavier Rhodes) with an injury in overtime.
But rather than deploy an offense loaded with weapons to pressure a bad defense in a weakened state, Trestman got tentative. Yes, that's a kick Gould usually makes. But usually wasn't good enough Sunday.
"As I told the team (Monday), Robbie didn't lose the game because he missed the kick," Trestman said. "We had a number of different ways to win the game throughout, and we didn't get it done, and that all starts with me."
What lost the game was a lack of faith in an offense that has earned it.
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