Should Bears Have Benched Starters Sooner in Huge Loss?

Good news was hard to come by after the Chicago Bears got pasted by the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night, but one bright spot is that it appears the ankle injury Brandon Marshall suffered in the fourth quarter of the game won’t keep him out of any future contests:

Okay, so even that news wasn’t tainted with a bit of bad news. At any rate, it leads to a question that was on the minds of many Bears fans as Sunday’s loss dragged on: Why did Marc Trestman have the Bears’ offensive starters on the field at that stage of the game? They had scored a grand total of seven points (Chris Williams accounted for the other touchdown in the game), Aaron Rodgers and the Packers’ big dogs had already been called off, and there really didn’t seem to be any benefit to keeping those guys out there.

After two consecutive games where the Bears gave up 50 or more points, fans take to Facebook and Twitter to answer the question, “What now?”

The Marshall injury only intensified those criticisms. Seeing him on the Lambeau Field turf was surely a cringe-inducing moment for Bears fans already staggering from the gut punch the Packers had delivered, and it’s understandable to ask if it could have been avoided.

If one were to ask Trestman this question, the answer would likely fall into one of two categories. The first is that the Bears were looking to make a statement that they were going to keep fighting no matter what. The Packers clearly weren’t going to take it easy on them, as evidenced by Mike McCarthy’s challenge of a three-yard completion in the third quarter and his decision to bring a blitz on a third and long play in that same quarter. Why should the Bears call off their starters when the Packers are still playing defense like the game is tied?

Dan Hampton tears after the leadership of the Chicago Bears loss after the team’s 55-14 loss to the Green Bay Packers.

The second answer is that Trestman doesn’t have enough reserve players to take all of his starters out, and he doesn’t want to play favorites. While guys like Marshall and Matt Forte do have back-ups that can come in and play, the offensive line would be stuck on the field. Keeping guys like Kyle Long (the only lineman not to miss any time this season) out there while Cutler and company get to retreat under heavy coats would send the wrong message to a team that’s already splintered in the locker room, so Trestman could argue that he didn’t want to exacerbate that divide.

Those arguments are both valid ones, but Trestman should have still started to pull his main players earlier than he did. The Marshall injury merely cast more light upon that decision, but there was no reason that Forte should have continued to take carries after the Bears went down big. There’s no reason that Marshall should be catching passes when guys like Santonio Holmes and Josh Morgan are there to replace him. Martellus Bennett should ride the pine in a situation like that to protect the rib injury that was clearly bothering him in the game (his first half drop of a pass near the goal line made that abundantly clear).

No, you don’t want to play favorites, but in a blowout loss like that, it’s better to retreat and live to fight another day. Guys like Forte are too important to the team to risk getting injured, and even though this season is clearly a lost one, there’s no need to put extra reps on guys who aren’t exactly spring chickens.

Mike Adamle poses this question to Dan Hampton: What, short of ditching players, can the Bears do to fix the remainder of the season?
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