Bears film study: Mitch should have let it fly

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky watches the video board in disbelief that they weren't awarded a first down on a fourth down run that stopped their final drive giving the Lions a victory Sunday at Soldier Field.

    Chicago Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky watches the video board in disbelief that they weren't awarded a first down on a fourth down run that stopped their final drive giving the Lions a victory Sunday at Soldier Field. Mark Busch/mbusch@shawmedia.com

 
 
Updated 12/8/2020 7:00 PM

Sometimes football games take a bad turn and no one is happy about it. The Lions have been there. Now the Bears are asking what happened to their 10-point, fourth-quarter lead. Time to check the coaches' film:

Start with the obvious

 

The turning point was surely the strip sack and fumble recovery on the Bears 7-yard line with 1:48 left. The prevailing thought after watching that play again was, "Why didn't Mitch throw it?"

He had one really good option, Darnell Mooney heading left the shallow cross. Dump it to Mooney and he's got a lot of space with only Detroit CB Justin Coleman Mooney between him and the first-down marker.

David Montgomery was in the flat to Trubisky's right and had 10 yards of cushion. Decent chance he could have turned that into 4 yards. Anthony Miller sat down between two linebackers over the middle, but that one was a little tight.

So where was Trubisky looking? Probably at Allen Robinson going deep against CB Darryl Roberts. That would have been a perfectly fine option if Trubisky had all day to wait on the route and maybe the Bears weren't clinging to a 3-point lead on the short side of the two-minute warning.

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The offensive line had a pretty good day overall, but Germain Ifedi got beat by Romeo Okwara on this play and then ruined a chance to erase the mistake by recovering the fumble. For future reference, hit the ground first, then scoop up the ball.

Ninety-six in a hurry:

To recap, the Lions trailed in this game 30-20 with 4:33 on the clock and the ball at their own 4-yard line. Let's flashback to Week 1 and the first edition of Bears Film Study. Detroit scored just before halftime, then almost won the game in the final seconds by taking advantage of Bears LB Danny Trevathan in pass coverage.

So at the 4:33 mark, with all due respect, Trevathan shouldn't have been on the field. But he was, and the Lions found him. First it was 13 yards to TE T.J. Hockenson, covered by Trevathan.

Then Danny Amendola hauled in a 22-yard gain on a deep slant against Buster Skrine. Trevathan tried to back up and deflect the pass, but didn't get there in time. On the next play, the Lions managed to get Amendola on Trevathan, 17-yard gain.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

At that point, the Bears pulled Trevathan off the field, but then rookie CB Jaylon Johnson might have had his worst moment of the season, letting Marvin Jones Jr. blow past him for a 25-yard touchdown. There might have been confusion in the secondary, with Johnson expecting to pass Jones along to safety Tashaun Gipson. But Gipson didn't budge, even though there were no other receivers in the area.

When it was all said and done, after an incompletion on the first snap, Lions QB Matthew Stafford went 6-for-6 and covered the 96 yards in about two minutes. He might suffer from extreme Lion stench, but Stafford is still pretty good.

Fourth and no go:

Before examining the Bears' game-ending fourth-and-one failure, let's back up. On the first drive of the game, the Bears had to settle for 3 after failing to convert a third-and-two at the Detroit 26.

The Bears did a lot of slant blocking in this game, trying to create cutback lanes. It worked well at times, but on this play, Detroit LB Jamie Collins sat back, stayed clear of traffic and slid over to meet Montgomery in the cutback lane.

In the third quarter, the Bears converted a third-and-one by running a Trubisky sweep for two yards. But with the game on the line, Montgomery was stuffed on a run up the middle at the Lions 20-yard line with 16 seconds remaining.

This play was either poorly-designed or poorly-executed. The Bears used three wide receivers, trying to spread out the defense. TE Jimmy Graham ran across the formation to block the defensive end. Center Sam Mustipher and guard Cody Whitehair double-teamed one defensive end.

But somehow, the Bears ended up relying on right guard Alex Bars to block both DT Kevin Strong and MLB Reggie Ragland. Ifedi tried to help, but the distance was too far for him to cover. Bars hit both Lions defenders, but they bounced off the blocks and swarmed Montgomery for no gain.

Maybe if Montgomery could have gotten one step over to the left, closer to the Mustipher-Whitehair double-team, he gets the first. But they probably needed Mustipher to head in the other direction and either double-team Strong or get to the middle linebacker. Or run a play-action pass, since the Bears needed a TD and time was running low.

The bright side:

The Bears' play-calling was more successful in this game. There were more crossing routes, a jet sweep and a Montgomery read-option with Cordarrelle Patterson. Please, stop with the third-down plays where five receivers run straight downfield and stop.

The Bears' last TD was a nice play. It was the familiar play-action bootleg with the twist of Robinson bumping the defensive end, giving Trubisky and Cole Kmet space to complete an 11-yard pass. Kmet came into this game with 8 catches on the season and added 5 on Sunday. His blocking remains a work in progress.

DT Bilal Nichols probably played his best game of the season and it was nice to see WR Javon Wims, the Bears' best blocking receiver, back on the field.

• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls

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