Rozner: Thankfully, Bears' season nearing end
Down 17 points and on third-and-18 with 5:34 left in the game -- or the season, if you were among the unduly optimistic -- Jay Cutler threw short to Martellus Bennett for a 5-yard gain.
There was no belief in the protection. There was no confidence that the quarterback could make the throw. There was no thought to going deep.
It was a complete give-up play.
And that, in a nutshell, is your 2014 Chicago Bears season.
The Bears jumped out to a 14-3 lead against Detroit and then the Lions began winning in the trenches, the Detroit coaching staff adjusted, and it was all Lions after that.
They outscored the Bears 31-3 the rest of the way and Detroit (8-4) cruised to a 34-17 victory at home on Thanksgiving Day.
Bears fans feasted Thursday afternoon and could at least give thanks that this season has only four games remaining.
The Bears (5-7) altered the formula this time, starting fast and finishing in quicksand. They went into the game with the worst first-half point differential in the NFL (-96), but got off to a good start on both sides of the ball.
While the Bears offered Cutler great protection early, Jared Allen picked on an undrafted rookie tackle making his first start, and a strip-sack led to a 14-3 first-quarter Bears lead.
And though the Lions made adjustments, the Bears -- as always -- stuck with the plan and Detroit began pressuring Cutler and picking on a Bears secondary that lost Chris Conte to yet another injury.
Calvin Johnson's incredible TD catch between four Bears defenders got the Lions to within 14-10 for Detroit's first touchdown in nine quarters, when Johnson blew past Demontre Hurst and Brock Vereen -- in for Conte -- could not get there in time.
On the next Bears possession, Cutler hit Bennett for 22 yards and a first down to the Detroit 20, but a Roberto Garza holding call killed the drive and the Bears ended up punting.
From there, the Bears acted like the game was over, and -- self-fulfilling prophecy or not -- it was.
Detroit took a penalty that nullified a touchdown on their next opportunity, but the Lions -- unlike the Bears -- were able to overcome adversity, and they came back three plays later and scored on a fourth-and-1, eschewing the Bears' favored 30-yard QB sweep, and letting their halfback jump the pile.
So it was 17-14 Lions, but the Bears were still getting the ball back with 3:18 and a chance to take the lead back before the half.
Their response was a short pass to Matt Forte that lost 2 yards and another short pass to Forte that gained 3, but Garza was nailed for another hold and it left the Bears with a second-and-21.
Down 3 points on the road, nearing the half with the ball and any thoughts of saving the season, Marc Trestman called a run with Forte for 3 yards and then another give-up play, a short pass to Forte on which he gained 11.
The reality is at this point Trestman -- the man who believed so much in Cutler that he lobbied for the QB's contract extension -- has no confidence in Cutler to throw the ball down the field, or his ability to make a big play without risking a huge mistake.
The Bears punted, the Lions marched the ball 64 yards in 5 plays and 81 seconds for another Johnson touchdown catch, and it was 24-14 Detroit.
Game. Set. Match.
After a punt, field goal and fumble on their first three possessions, the Lions had scored 3 straight touchdowns, acting like the offense the Bears thought they were going to have before the season, and nothing like the Lions' offense that hadn't reached the end zone in three weeks.
As if Trestman needed more evidence of what he already knew, down two scores with 9:38 to play in the game and operating from deep in his own end, Cutler provided more film to frighten the head coach and chief offensive officer.
On second-and-3 from the Bears' 10, Cutler had an easy check down for a first down. Instead, he double-clutched and threw off balance and off his back foot into double coverage over Brandon Marshall at the Bears' 42, where the ball was picked off.
That's why nine years into his career, Jay Cutler is a Maserati being driven at speeds that wouldn't shame a 15-year-old, lemon-yellow Maverick.
When the coach doesn't have faith in the offense to make a play, in a season in which the offense was supposed to carry the team to the playoffs, the question of where to go from here is a scary one.
With the planning for next season beginning now, they have plenty of time to ponder.
• Hear Barry Rozner on WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.