10 Bears Things: Trestman Vows To Run The Ball More… Again
LAKE FOREST, Ill. — As the Bears prepare for Thursday night’s game against the Dallas Cowboys, here are 10 things you need to know from Halas Hall.
1. Marc Trestman is vowing to run the ball more… again. Just over a month ago, Trestman and general manager Phil Emery sat in front of the media at Halas Hall and said the Bears had to achieve a better run-pass balance in the second half of the season.
And that’s exactly why everyone — including coaches and players within the Bears organization — are dumbfounded as to how the Bears could go into Detroit last week and only give running back Matt Forte five carries in the 34-17 loss to the Lions.
“You can’t just sit back there and throw 50 passes in a game and expect to win,” Forte said Monday.
“You want to have some balance even if numbers wise it’s not as balanced as you want it to be,” quarterback Jay Cutler said. “If you’re running the ball efficiently and giving the illusion that you’re going to run the ball it definitely helps.”
Offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer added: “I believe that we’re going to be best when we keep a good balance and we need to do that and we need to do a better job of it.”
Kromer said the plan against the Lions was to throw short screens early in the game because Detroit had a proven run defense, but struggled defending short passes on the perimeter. From there, the Bears then wanted to work in the run game, but the score got away from them.
That sounds like a solid game plan considering the matchup, but the excuse for not running the football falls well short because the Bears actually held a 14-3 lead going into the second quarter. By the time they got the ball back the lead was cut to 14-10, but on the ensuing drive, the Bears threw the ball 11 times and ran it just twice before the drive was stalled near mid-field after a Roberto Garza holding penalty.
That would prove to be the last time the Bears had possession of the ball with the lead, but even at halftime they were only down 10 points. Can’t you still run the ball trailing by 10?
“Yeah, that’s a good point and in the future, I think that will happen,” Kromer said.
Kromer, of course, isn’t the one calling the plays and he seemed just as frustrated as the running back, quarterback and offensive linemen by the playcalling.
So what did the playcaller have to say about it?
“We would have liked to run it more,” Trestman said. “It didn’t happen that way, and we’ve got to move forward to Dallas. We could have that discussion forever. We need to run the ball more than we did.”
That sure sounds familiar.
2. Speaking of balance, that’s something that helped the Bears last year against the Cowboys. The Bears ran the ball 32 times and threw it 36 times in the 45-28 win over Dallas, which was arguably the best the offense has looked in the Marc Trestman era. In that game, Forte ran for 102 yards on 20 carries, while former quarterback Josh McCown completed 27-of-36 passes for 348 yards and four touchdowns.
3. Getting out of Dallas was the best move of Martellus Bennett’s career. The Cowboys drafted the tight end in the second round of the 2008 draft, but he was stuck behind Jason Witten the entire time. As soon as Bennett hit free agency, he bolted for New York.
“I got a chance to get out of there in free agency,” Bennett said. “I took a chance on myself taking a one-year deal in New York. I bet on myself like I felt like I could and then I ended up right where I need to be.”
Bennett caught 55 passes for 626 yards and five touchdowns during his one season with the Giants, which led to the four-year deal he signed with the Bears in 2013.
4. Bennett is never shy about admitting he and Witten didn’t get along.
“We didn’t have the best relationship,” Bennett reiterated Monday.
According to Bennett, that’s because he was gunning for Witten’s starting job every day.
“Every single day the lion wakes up and he’s chases the gazelle. In that situation, I was the lion. I didn’t catch the gazelle though. I had to go to another jungle,” Bennett said.
5. Kyle Long was the Bears’ best offensive lineman against the Lions, according to Kromer. In fact, despite the Bears recent swoon, Long has improved as the year has gone on.
“He’s matured as a player where he’s seeing the game better, understanding what defenses are doing and slowing the game down for himself and that is the biggest difference,” Kromer said. “Like any young player, the game seems fast and you try to play faster than you need to play and you get yourself out of position. When he does play with the correct tempo and that is what he has done more often this year, it helps our offense.”
6. The Bears have struggled to overcome penalties this season and last week’s game against the Lions was the perfect example.
In the drive previously referenced (with the Bears holding a 14-10 lead), Garza’s holding penalty on Ndamukong Suh stalled what was turning into a long, impressive drive. The penalty wiped out a 22-yard completion to Bennett that would have put the Bears at the Lions’ 20-yard-line. Instead, they faced 2nd-and-19 from their own 48 and punted the ball after two straight incompletions intended for Brandon Marshall.
The sequence was in stark contrast to the Lions’ next possession, as Detroit had a touchdown wiped out by a holding penalty, but bounced back with a 14-yard screen pass to Theo Riddick that got them back down to the 1-yard-line. Two plays later, they punched it in to take the lead for good.
So why can’t the Bears be more resilient in those situations?
“I agree,” Kromer said. “I feel like, and we feel like as a group, that there’s going to be a time when you get a holding call, something happens and you get behind the chains, and we have to get half of it on the next play and then get another half on the next play and that’s something we’re not doing.”
7. With the Bears all but mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, it’s fair to wonder about the motivational level during the last four games.
“I tell guys, figure out what you play for,” Bennet said. “If you play for the check, that’s cool. Earn your check. If you’re playing for the name on the front of the jersey, play for the name on the front of the jersey. If you’re playing for the name on the back on the jersey, play for the name on the back. Whatever you need to get through. Me and my brother always talk about representing the family name. If you play bad, you might not be a Bennett this week. It’s really just pride.”
8. Chris Conte cleared concussion protocol, but still has an eye injury. He left Thursday’s game after getting one of the rubber pellets from the field in his eye, but the Bears also tested him for a concussion, which he passed. The eye issue, however, was significant, as Conte did not practice Monday.
9. Cornelius Washington (chest) and Chris Williams (hamstring) also did not practice Monday. Bennett (foot), Alshon Jeffery (hamstring), Tim Jennings (groin), Jeremiah Ratliff (knee), Trevor Scott (knee) and Darryl Sharpton (hamstring) were limited. Long (calf) practiced in full.
10. Ed Hochuli is the referee for Thursday’s game against the Cowboys, according to a league source.
Adam Hoge covers the Bears for 87.7 The Game and TheGameChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.