Head scratching continues over Trestman's OT decision

The confusion began Sunday and only escalated Monday with Trestman offering his explanation for choosing to attempt a 47-yard field goal by Robbie Gould on second-and-7 with 4 minutes, 12 seconds left in overtime.
Dec 3, 2013

 

CHICAGO _ Scalp doctors around Chicago might want to prepare for a spike in new patients this week. Bears coach Marc Trestman, it appears, has sparked a severe outbreak of head-scratching in the wake of Sunday's dispiriting, demoralizing, downright befuddling 23-20 loss to the Vikings.
The confusion began Sunday and only escalated Monday with Trestman offering his explanation for choosing to attempt a 47-yard field goal by Robbie Gould on second-and-7 with 4 minutes, 12 seconds left in overtime.
Gould's kick, from the middle of the field, leaked just outside the right upright and the Bears never possessed the ball again, leaving the Metrodome with an agitating loss to a last-place team that put the head coach in the line of fire for sharp criticism and curious interrogation.
The surface-level question: Why kick on second down rather than have the offense run another play or two to get Gould closer?
Trestman took that one head on, asserting that the Bears were going to attempt a field goal, no matter the down, as soon as they crossed the Vikings' 30 in overtime. So when Matt Forte plowed from the 32 to the 29 on first down, keeping the ball in the middle of the field, Trestman had exactly what he wanted.
"We made a collective decision that once we got in, there was complete agreement and no discussion on the matter," Trestman said.
With Gould kicking into a net behind the bench, Trestman called a timeout to give the kicking unit a chance to gather itself.
The Vikings followed with their own timeout, presumably to ice Gould. But maybe they, too, were trying to process Trestman's unorthodox decision.
"There wasn't analytics involved as much as it was, we're clearly in his range," Trestman said. "And we're in the middle of the field."
Still, a deeper mystery remains unresolved. How did Trestman, who characterizes himself as a glass-half-full thinker, a leader who spent the first 11 games establishing a reputation as a fearless gambler in pressure situations, suddenly begin worrying about all the things he admitted being concerned about late Sunday?
A possible penalty. A running play for negative yardage. A turnover.
Most surprisingly, Trestman referenced a Vikings' meltdown as one of the factors that caused him to shy away from running a third-down play, taking note that Blair Walsh's 39-yard game-winning field goal earlier in overtime morphed into a 57-yard miss after Walsh's made kick was negated by a face-mask penalty and the Vikings' subsequent play lost 3 yards.
"The game was unique on a number of levels," Trestman said.
Still, statistically, the risk-reward for running a third-down play seemed to be in the Bears' favor. Certainly over attempting a long kick, with Gould having missed 27 percent of his career attempts from between 40 and 49 yards.
So did Trestman sense his offense had more than a 27 percent chance of royally screwing things up? Even on a day where the Bears rolled up 480 yards, their most prolific outing all season?
This was a top 10 NFL offense against a bottom three defense. On 65 plays, the Bears averaged a season-best 7.4 yards.
Matt Forte averaged 5.2 yards per carry and had gained 24 yards on five rushes on that drive.
And overall, the offense was only penalized three times _ on a first-half pass-interference call against tight end Martellus Bennett, then on both false-start and delay-of-game infractions against left tackle Jermon Bushrod in overtime.
So why was Trestman suddenly influenced to give greater credence to what might possibly go wrong rather than visualizing the positive results that could've ensued from keeping the offense on the field?
"Because the ball was in the middle of the field," he responded Monday. "That was really the biggest reason. ... I just felt that that was a good time and place."
Not surprisingly, Bears players have publicly rallied behind Trestman's decision.
"I understand Marc's thinking on that," quarterback Josh McCown said. "We just watched (the Vikings) kick and get a penalty. So, you're in range, you take a shot.""
General manager Phil Emery also had the coach's back. At a fan luncheon hosted by WBBM on Monday, Emery expressed unwavering confidence in the way Trestman assesses risks.
"In Marc's mind, he saw that the (down) side, the risk, was much higher by running another play than it was kicking at that point," Emery said. "He made that decision on what was best for the team in terms of winning in that instance. That was the decision he made. I stand behind the decision."
A large portion of the city, however, questions the logic, scalps growing more raw as the analysis continues.

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