Nov 24, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; Chicago Bears head coach Marc Trestman calls a time out during the second half against the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome. St. Louis defeated Chicago 42-21. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Being in close games almost all season speaks to a team that can play well at time but not at others. The Chicago Bears are at that point. No matter how one looks at it, they and head coach Marc Trestman haven’t figured out how to finish.
Minnesota Vikings and Washington Redskins games loom large
It really has been a close-but-no-cigar season for Chicago. Across twelve games this season, the Bears have won or lost by double digits twice. Every other game was decided by eight points or less. That is the definition of playing it too close to the vest, and speaks of a team that can’t finish. So what does “finish” mean? Several things, really. However, in the simplest terms it means the Bears have no problem keeping a game close, it’s executing when it counts on offense or defense to put a game out of reach that is a big problem. Two very big examples that will loom large should they miss the playoffs are their two losses to the Washington Redskins and Minnesota Vikings. In Washington the Bears went ahead 41-38 with 3:57 left to play. Despite forcing the Redskins to third down three different times on the ensuing drive, the Bears defense allowed the go-ahead touchdown with just 45 seconds left. They couldn’t even salvage a tying field goal. This past game in Minnesota, they held a ten point lead in the fourth quarter before squandering it. Then they missed a 47-yard field goal that would’ve won the game, and allowed Adrian Peterson to put the Vikings in position for a chip shot to win. Those are classic examples of a team that doesn’t understand how to play a complete game, at least with any consistency.
Trestman and Phil Emery are lacking leadership on their roster
So what is the problem? Is it bad coaching? Considering how well the team plays for stretches at a time it’s clear Marc Trestman knows what he’s doing. The problem at hand, aside from a lack of talent due to injuries, is a leadership gap that is clearly felt. Chicago was without Brian Urlacher to start the season and lost Lance Briggs not too long after that. Never mind the losses of Charles Tillman and Jay Cutler as well. Would things have been different with them on the field? One might think so, but the fact remains that their often remarkable lack of discipline in Minnesota was a big reason why they lost and are all but done in the playoff race. Fielding a makeshift collection of rookies and reserves can often have that effect. The Bears, for the first time in over a decade lack a singular voice, somebody who holds everybody else accountable. Briggs and Cutler have done what they can but it’s clear they can’t do much standing in street clothes on the sideline. GM Phil Emery doesn’t have just the task of adding more young talent to the roster. He needs to start finding leaders who know what it takes to finish games, drives, and plays. Until then the Chicago Bears will remain the mediocre team they are.