It’s easy to second-guess playcalling, but it’s not always the smart thing to do. What it does is make fans and analysts feel better because they have somebody on whom to lay the blame.
But holding Ron Turner accountable for the Bears’ final “drive” — use that word lightly because it was only a short-lived, 3-play attempt — is more than fair in this situation.
Let me halt my thought-process for a second to let you know that I thought Turner called a well-balanced game for the most part, so, by no means am I saying this loss is pinned squarely on his shoulders.
But, the Bears began their final drive with 2 minutes and 24 seconds remaining at their own 41-yard line, trailing by just 3 points. They were in no hurry to get down the field because all they needed was about 29 yards for a long, but makeable 47-yard field goal to tie the game.
On first down, they handed it to Matt Forte and he galloped for 9 yards. What came next? Three straight plays that failed to pick up one yard, and only one of those plays — the fourth down handoff to Jason McKie — was a run play.
That series of calls just boggles the mind. Under normal circumstances, I’m all for throwing the ball on 2nd-and-1. You try to catch the defense off-guard, and if you don’t convert, you still have a very makeable 3rd-and-1.
But when you’re trying to drive down the field in a last-ditch effort to win or tie a game, you don’t start deviating from what has worked for you. On second down, they should have fed the horse and let Forte pick up the first down — and cross into Panthers territory as they let the clock run down to the two-minute warning.
If that failed, they could have run on 3rd-and-1. And if that failed, guess what? A third chance to pick up the first down on a run play.
My point is this: if you run the ball three straight times and can’t pick up one yard for a first down, you deserve to lose the game because the opponent’s line proves to be tougher than yours. But you have a much better chance at picking up the first down on three straight run plays than to throw two short passes — the second of which was Kyle Orton’s decision to switch from a run play to a pass play — and then hand it to your fullback on fourth down.
Like I said, I won’t pin this loss on Ron Turner because he called a good game overall. In fact, Turner called a run play on third down but gave Orton the chance to switch to a pass play. But that last drive was poorly called and it cost the Bears a chance at tying the game.