Practitioners of the pugilistic arts have a time-tested truism: Everybody has a plan, until they get hit.
Marc Trestman had a plan when he was hired as Bears coach, a detailed day-by-day program spanning 13 months that was part of the impression Trestman made on general manager Phil Emery to get the job.
Trestman and the Bears have been hit. They had a plan for quarterback Jay Cutler, and Cutler was hit, by the Lions and by his own old habits. The result was three interceptions and a bad sack taken on which he fumbled and the Lions scored.
Coaches have credibility as long as their teachings and game plans produce results. The Bears are 3-1 under the Trestman “plan,” but players and plan didn’t go well in Detroit, at least not well enough.
The locker-room aftermath was that the Bears felt good about not folding up in a game where they went from leading 10-6 to trailing 30-10, then scored two touchdowns in the final four minutes before coming up short on recovering an onside kick to lose 40-32.
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Normally the fact that professionals kept going full-out to the end should not be noteworthy. That’s their job. But reality is that not everyone does. Count that as a minor positive.
But the sense of accountability was notable, particularly in Cutler, whose typical critique of poor games was that “we” need to play better, diffusing blame to the generic whole. After the Lions game, however, the pronoun was markedly different.
“It was what it was,” Cutler said. “I missed some throws. Some stuff I wish I had back. I think it would have changed the complexion of the game.”
Cutler and Trestman now are tasked with changing the complexion of the season back in the direction it was headed before Detroit. Cutler has rebounded well from poor performances in the past but only one of his six career “rebound” wins was over a team good enough to reach that season’s playoffs.
The past two years unfortunately held to that pattern with Cutler. The Bears lost two and three consecutive games last season but every 2012 loss was to a playoff team. In 2011 the Bears lost consecutive games to New Orleans and Green Bay early, both teams going on to the playoffs. The Bears lost five straight later that year but only after Cutler was injured.
None of that past will matter if the Bears collectively can recover their compass heading against a 4-0 New Orleans team that already holds a two-game division lead on Carolina and three on Atlanta.
“I think we learned [after Detroit] that we have the ability to go back to work, and I didn’t notice any difference in the way we practiced this week than we did over the first three games,” Trestman said. “I think that’s a good sign. I think the demeanor of our team was loose but professional. We were focused in the meetings.
“But we were also loose enough to be able to have some fun, because I don’t think you can win without having fun during the course of the day and keeping your sense of humor.”