From stop to go: Offense comes alive in first half
BY MARK POTASH October 10, 2013 10:47PM
Updated: October 11, 2013 12:26AM
From coach Marc Trestman to Jay Cutler right on down to fullback Tony Fiammetta, the Bears’ offense took a step forward in a 27-21 victory against the winless New York Giants on Thursday night at Soldier Field. The Bears didn’t just score points, they made progress.
There’s still work to do. Trestman made an aggressive call to go for a first down on fourth-and-2 from the Giants’ 4-yard-line on the team’s first possession — next time the Bears have to convert the play.
And the offense responded from the disappointment of that failure with three consecutive scoring drives to take a 24-14 halftime lead. Now it has to learn how to put the hammer down in the second half.
‘‘We see things every week that tells us we cannot just be good, we can be very good,’’ Trestman said. ‘‘But we also found there’s a lot of work ahead.’’
That there is. But if we’ve learned anything about Trestman, his offense and the Bears, it’s that we shouldn’t expect too much too soon.
‘‘We’re a work in progress,’’ Trestman said, reciting a well-worn phrase in Chicago that is a little more palatable coming from the first-year coach. ‘‘Tonight we found a way to win. That’s exciting.’’
It all started where it should against the Giants — with Cutler making the offense work as it was drawn up. Cutler was 24-for-36 for 262 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a 106.5 passer rating. But this was an incomplete night all around for the Bears. Cutler was at his best in the first half, when he was 13-for-18 for 179 yards, including touchdown passes of 10 and 2 yards to Brandon Marshall.
But Cutler rued the missed opportunities of the second half, when the Bears netted only a 52-yard field goal by Robbie Gould and gave the Giants a chance to pull out a victory in the fourth quarter. The Bears were 3-for-8 on third-down conversions in the second half.
‘‘Little things,’’ Cutler said ‘‘Third downs ... down the stretch, we missed some opportunities there to ice it. That fourth down [on the first possession]. You’d like to punch that in. We won the game, but you leave a little unsatisfied. Offensively, we could have exploded more.’’
The Bears at least are thinking big. Trestman set the tone with what looked like an aggressive call on the team’s first possession of the game. The Bears had the early momentum after Zack Bowman’s interception of Eli Manning’s second pass of the game gave them the ball at the Giants’ 12. After Matt Forte was stopped for a one-yard gain on third down, the Bears faced a fourth-and-2 from the Giants’ 4.
Trestman must have felt as if he were playing with house money after Bowman’s interception gave the Bears a free possession. So he went for the first down.
‘‘We were hoping to score a touchdown,’’ Trestman said. ‘‘I felt our defense was in place where if they didn’t make it they’d have to go the distance. If we did [score] we could get some energy off Zack’s interception.’’
If only the execution matched Trestman’s gumption. Cutler dropped back to pass, found no one open and at the last second hurriedly dumped a short pass toward a well-covered Marshall at the Giants’ 3. Marshall probably would not have gotten the first down, but it didn’t matter — the ball bounced off his hands for an incompletion and the Giants took possession.
‘‘The good part about it is we bounced back,’’ Trestman said. ‘‘We came back and in really what was our first official [offensive] drive, we went down and scored, which was a good thing.’’
It was not the only good thing to happen to the offense.
‘‘That’s our style — coach Trestman is attacking the defense,’’ center Roberto Garza said. ‘‘It was a great call. We just have to convert. That’s on us.’’