I can’t escape the image of Ricky Ricardo greeting Bears coach Marc Trestman on his way to the locker room after the final gun of Sunday’s Bears-Lions game with, “Marcky, you got some ’splainin’ to do!”
But let’s clean up a few details first. The Lions beat the Bears, 21-19, in a game that may have set the quality of play in the NFL back several decades.
Certainly you can decide for yourselves whether the defenses were heroic or this was just a sloppily played game. I’m going with bad football.
In the end, the difference was the Bears’ defense getting torched on the ground for 145 yards on 26 carries, while Detroit held them to 38 yards on 20 carries.
Had it been left to the quarterbacks, both teams might have lost.
At least Jay Cutler has an excuse. He was hurt and shouldn’t have been on the field. Whether the fact he did play is his fault or his coach’s is open to debate. I’ll get to Trestman’s explanations in a moment.
But Matt Stafford was just awful, completing 18 of 35 passes for 219 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. While the numbers don’t sound all that bad, Stafford didn’t hit more than two or three receivers in stride all day.
Stafford was so bad the Bears almost pulled it out, or at least almost got it to overtime. But when you manage just 264 yards of offense in the first 58 minutes of a game before your opponent goes to its prevent defense to make it close, you almost always get beat.
It is impossible to say the Bears win this game if Josh McCown plays instead of Cutler. But based on what we saw, and what we saw of McCown in the six quarters leading up to the game, it’s more than fair to suggest McCown would have given them a better chance.
Trestman, Cutler and every other Bear who spoke insisted Cutler’s groin was fine, but it was a sprained ankle suffered sometime in the second quarter that limited him.
The point they all missed is regardless of which injury was the problem, it was clear from the second quarter on Cutler was limiting the offense’s ability to succeed.
“His ankle injury was unrelated to his groin,” Trestman said. “He was rolled up on in the second quarter and they taped him up at halftime and said he was good to go. I thought he made some plays in the third quarter and the fourth quarter that showed he wanted to be in there.
“We talked about it on the sideline, and I didn’t want to take him out unless he felt he couldn’t do the job. I thought he had a very courageous performance throughout. And then at the end I took him out because I knew he would have to run around in the two-minute drill.
“I thought he stepped up and made some plays,” Trestman added. “When I look at the tape later and see what the tape shows I may come back tomorrow and say I made a mistake and I should have taken him out earlier.”
Trestman, Cutler, Brandon Marshall and McCown talked after the game about repeated conversations they had on the sidelines in which they were asking Cutler how he was. He said he could go, and he was asking them if they thought he was limiting the team, and they chose to reward his courage rather than his production.
Trestman has had an excellent debut season as a head coach in the NFL. No one is perfect, and we all have much to learn.
Hopefully, he will look back on the Lions game as the one in which he learned he will sometimes have to overrule a player’s toughness and desire with tough decisions, like sitting that player to give his team the best chance to win.•
• Hub Arkush covers the Bears for Shaw Media and HubArkush.com. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.