Bears’ failed fourth-down conversion had nothing to do with close finish

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One of my biggest pet peeves in the analysis of football games is when someone claims that something that happened early in a game had a direct effect on something that happened at the end of the game.

There is no correlation between the two. There are literally dozens of plays that can happen between the first play in a game and the last. And to suggest that a first-half play can affect a situation at the end of a game is naive.

Early in the first quarter against the Giants, following a Zack Bowman interception, the Bears offense couldn’t pick up a first down on three straight plays. Rather than kick the field goal, Marc Trestman didn’t hesitate to go for it on fourth down.

Anytime a head coach bypasses points to go for the conversion, there’s always second-guessers and doubters.

Little did I know at the time, but probably should have expected it, that certain fans and analysts would say that the decision to bypass the field goal would have adversely affected the Bears on the Giants’ final drive of the game.

The argument being made by those analysts is this: If the Bears would have kicked the field goal, they would have had a 9-point lead at the end of the game, not a 6-point lead, and a hypothetical Giants touchdown (which never happened) wouldn’t have given the Giants a 1-point victory.

What? How do you validate that kind of thought? Less than 3 minutes had passed in the first quarter when Trestman bypassed the field goal! There were literally dozens of plays between that decision and the Giants’ final drive. Anything could have happened. Strategies could have been altered. Play calling could have been changed. The ball could have bounced differently.

I’ve written about this kind of irrational, illogical reasoning in the past, and here’s one excerpt from an old post that I found:

In a football season, just as in a football game, nothing matters but the next game (or next play). And if you run out of time and are on the losing end, you look to the most recent failure first as the result of your collapse before looking back at something that happened at the very beginning.

Make sense?

To put it another way: how about looking first at the fact that the Giants ran all over the Bears defense, which shouldn’t have happened. You can blame that before you can blame Trestman’s early first-quarter decision. The run defense kept the game closer than it should have been.

How about the fact that the defense struggled to pressure Eli Manning on a number of occasions? That can be blamed before you blame Trestman’s decision. The poor pass rush kept the game closer than it should have been.

How about the fact that the offense could have converted on various failed third downs throughout the game? That can be blamed before you blame Trestman’s decision.

Bottom line: it’s silly to point to a first half play — let alone a first quarter play, let alone an early first quarter play — for the game being close at the end.

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