It took nearly a month, but on Sunday in Detroit, rookie starters Kyle Long and Jordan Mills notched another milestone in their young NFL careers — their first loss. Moments after the 40-32 result went final, the two offensive linemen answered media inquiries with accountability and a steadfast determination to improve. Exactly what we've come to expect from the Trestman-led troops.
Long, who's generally upbeat and animated, was serious and reflective. Few plays loomed as large as the right guard's late holding penalty — one of the Bears' four flags on the day. It negated a critical third-down conversion — which would have been the team's first of the afternoon. He noted the '72 Dolphins, the only team in NFL history to finish the season loss-less. 16-0 was never a realistic record for this team in transition. Adversity occurs. Losses happen. Just don't lose the lesson the loss provides.
"Just got to convert big downs," Long said. "We'll look at the film. From a personal standpoint, I've got to work on my technique. We're moving forward to the next week, and we're excited for another opportunity."
Mills tipped his hat to a tough Lions squad while recognizing Detroit is not the only NFL city capable of making opponents' ears ring.
"It'll get louder and louder," Mills said. "We just got to keep coming together. If we keep coming together like we are, we should be fine, anywhere we go."
The linemen's baptism by fire continued Sunday with Ndamakong Suh doing all he could to sit Jay Culter and set the Bears offense back a few weeks. Though the defensive tackle was successful getting pressure on Cutler, sacking him twice, he noted the Bears' ability too.
"They were successful to a certain extent, but I think we did a good enough job to, obviously, win the game," Suh said. "I’m actually not that happy because we gave up 32 points.”
Coaches will often publicly dismiss moral victories and silver linings, but Long and Mills each acknowledged Trestman's post-game message to the team was less of an undressing for the errors and more of a "we'll get 'em next time."
"He said most teams would have given up and to see us battle back like that — he's proud of us. It's going to help us later in the season." Mills said.
Losing is a part of the journey. If Long and Mills avoid injury and have the kind of lengthy, successful careers the Bears brass believe they're capable of, years from now they might struggle to remember the details of their first career loss. But the takeaways from this less-than-pleasant milestone can be cornerstones for countless future victories.