The Chicago Bears went into the locker room at halftime down 14-10 against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. They surrendered 247 yards on defense and only managed 92 yards on offense. Charles Tillman had two interceptions in the first half but was burned multiple times in single coverage against A.J. Green, who had a monster first (129 yards on five receptions and a touchdown).
Overall, the Bears were flat on defense, giving up a 97-yard drive for a touchdown and an 80-yard drive for a touchdown on consecutive series. On offense, Chicago gave Cincinnati a lot of looks but never established the running game, and the passing game struggled to find its rhythm.
“But as I said, the goal in the first half was to find out a little bit more about ourselves, let our young guys get settled, try to keep [Cutler] clean.” Bears’ head coach Marc Trestman said. “That was the number one — whatever the score is — if he’s clean in the first quarter and he feels like he can step-up and throw, there is a chance we can be throwing the ball later in the game because we felt we could throw the ball.”
Good coaches make good halftime adjustments, an area the previous regime struggled in (the Bears are 1-11 the last three years when trailing at the half). In the past, this team simply wasn’t built to play from behind, which would lead to forcing the ball through the air, putting Cutler in compromising situations.
Trestman came out and gave the Bears’ offense new looks but mostly let the players ease into things, and it worked out, with Chicago erasing an 11-point deficit to win the game 24-21.
“We didn’t,” Trestman said when asked about making halftime adjustments. “Part of it was play selection, but I don’t want you to overvalue it. We would have been punting on two occasions. If Jay [Cutler] hadn’t run for a first down or scrambled and made that throw to Martellus [Bennett], we would have been punting. It was a lot more about him making the plays and [allowing] us to continue the drives as much as anything.”
And the offensive success did come via Jay Cutler, who had two key scrambles to keep drives alive and the majority of his passing yards (242) in the second. Brandon Marshall also came alive in the second, making plays in the red zone and converting on crucial third downs late in the game.
The offensive line kept Cutler clean and gave him a nice pocket to throw from. And when he had to, Cutler improvised well to avoid pressure and buy some time for his receivers. Overall, he was the best player on offense, and a big reason for that was his grasping of the concepts and having the time to throw.
And while the defense did struggle mightily in the first half against the Bengals’ passing attack, they limited A.J. Green and forced some critical turnovers near the end of the game. Green had only 40 yards in the second half and was rendered all but useless after the first scoring drive of the third quarter.
This Bears’ offense looked miles ahead of the previous version in just their first outing, and Cutler made throws and plays that only a handful of quarterbacks can make. Trestman’s team showed the ability to play well in the face of adversity and win a game many thought they would not. For their first time out, I’d say it was a job well done.
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