Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase has done a marvelous job this season utilizing the talent he has been given and making the Bears’ offense go. I have almost no complaints about the game plans the Bears have employed throughout the year and the Bears have responded to Gase’s play calling by being competitive — if at least for a half — in all six games they have played this season.
But the play calling in the fourth quarter and in overtime of Sunday’s 37-34 loss to the Detroit Lions proved to be a little too conservative for my liking.
The Bears were up 31-27 with 2:46 left in the fourth quarter and had a chance to run out the clock and secure their third-straight win.
Understandably, the “by the book” strategy is to run the ball three straight times to force the Lions to use up their timeouts with the hopes that you can get one first down to close out the game.
Sometimes going by the book isn’t what you want to do.
I agreed with running the ball on first down, and Matt Forte picked up five yards right off the bat. Thus, with second-and-five, the Bears had two plays to gain five yards so I had no issue with them running the ball a second straight time.
However, after Forte only picked up one yard, leaving the offense with four yards to go to get a first down, I had a big issue with them running it on third down.
The Lions had just called a timeout, meaning the Bears had extra time to find a better play to run in that situation. In my opinion — and who am I? — the best play call in that situation is a play action rollout. The Lions were expecting a run there so they were committing to stopping it. A play action would have gotten the defense going in the other direction, allowing a versatile Cutler — who can make plays and pick up first downs with his legs — to roll out in the opposite direction. That would give him the opportunity for a short, safe pass to Martellus Bennett or Alshon Jeffery — two huge receivers — for the first-down pickup.
Instead, the Bears ran again on third down and Forte was stopped for just one yard, and had to punt the ball back to the Lions, who drove down the field for the go-ahead touchdown with 21 seconds left.
In overtime, after the Bears proved to have success in the passing game but found no room in the run game, Gase was conservative and predictable, calling run plays on first down in both of the Bears’ two OT possessions, and another run play on second down.
Again, who am I — or who are we as fans — to tell an actual NFL offensive coordinator what to call? But if we as fans know what play is coming, wouldn’t an actual NFL defensive coordinator know it was coming, too?