There will be plenty of finger-pointing and blame-casting going on in the wake of the Chicago Bears’ 23-20 loss to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday afternoon, but if there is one person that seems to be especially deserving of some tough questions, it’s head coach Marc Trestman.
The first drive of the game for the Bears’ offense was a thing of beauty. Whether it was the gorgeous pass that Jay Cutler threw to Alshon Jeffery for a first down, or the seam pass up the middle that Cutler hit Martellus Bennett with for a touchdown, the Bears executed their game plan flawlessly on that drive, and the 7-0 lead they put up early in the game was a great endorsement of that path.
On their second drive however, things hit a bit of a snag. First was the weirdly designed flea flicker that the Bears ran, with Matt Forte taking the handoff and then pitching back to Cutler. Then it was the screen pass to the right side of the field that Cutler woefully underthrew to Josh Morgan. Then the drive was ended when Mario Williams punked Jordan Mills and slammed Cutler into the Soldier Field turf.
That sequence of three plays was puzzling enough, but when contrasted to the beautiful simplicity of the first drive (and even the first few plays of that second drive), they made even less sense. Why did Trestman insist on going with a couple of gimmick plays when the team had shown that there were some big holes to be exploited in the Buffalo defense?
Perhaps Trestman felt that the Bills would become dispirited if the tricks worked, but whatever his logic was, it effectively killed the momentum of the offense, and the Bills ended up with 17 unanswered points before the Bears could get everything straightened out.
Trestman’s thinking went astray again in the overtime period, in which the Bears got the ball first. The first play of the sequence was Forte running off left guard for 13 yards. Instead of going back to the run however, Trestman decided to run three consecutive passing plays. First Cutler threw an incomplete pass to Santonio Holmes. Then he found Bennett for a three yard gain. Then he finished off the drive with another incomplete pass to Holmes on the left side, and the Bears were forced to punt the ball away.
As the game had worn on, it became more and more apparent that the Bills had no answer for Forte. Yes, they occasionally stopped him on the run, but more often than not he would end up wide open in the flat for easy first downs if Cutler found him with passes. Failing to exploit that weakness in that final sequence of plays seemed patently silly, and it cost the Bears points on that drive.
Obviously Trestman knows a lot more about his playbook than any writer or blogger does, but it can be argued that he overthought things in this game. In trying to scheme his way past the Bills, Trestman ended up making things needlessly complicated, and his eagerness to show off some new tricks (as well as coaching against what seemed to be the prevailing wind in terms of the game situation) may have cost the team a win.