Lovie Smith’s Decision On Fourth and One Pays Off Big

Often times, I can look too much into the smallest details of a game. I can’t help it. I have always wanted to know not just what, but why something happened. So with the Chicago Bears struggling on offense in the entire first half, something happened at the beginning of the second half that caught my attention.

The Bears had the ball on the Jacksonville 45, and they had failed to pick up another third down. The game was tied at three, and everyone’s worst fears of this game, that it may become a trap game before the bye week, were seeming to be true.

Then, as “Let’s go Bears” chants were reigning down at EverBank Field, the offense stayed on the field and coach Lovie Smith decided they were going to go for it. Now, it’s not that they were in an unusual spot to go for it, as inside the 40’s is prime position to do so, especially within 2 yards. The Jaguars are also the second worst rush defense in the league, so picking up one yard played into the Bears favor.

But coach Smith is one of the most conservative coaches in the league, usually settling for field position rather than taking big risks. While he is often criticized for it, it has likely led to the Bears winning many games with subpar talent on offense in the past. The move to go for it said more than anything Smith could have said aloud. The pressure was now on the offense to get the job done, hold up their end, and make a big play, something that had really only been happening on the other side of the ball for the Bears.

Regardless of the Jaguars awful run defense, as the ball was snapped, quarterback Jay Cutler dropped back and began to look down field. 12 yards down field, Cutler found wide receiver Brandon Marshall, one of his 12 receptions on the day, and the Bears had another first down. If anyone was more relieved than the offense, it was the defense, who had dealt with enough three-and-outs and spent enough time on the field. The play became even bigger when the flag for roughing the quarterback came out against defensive end Jeremy Mincey. The end result was a 27 yard play, all on fourth and one.

The drive resulted in 17 plays, ate up 9 minutes and 18 seconds of the game clock, and even more time for the Bears defense to catch their breath from the first half. The Bears settled for a 31-yard field goal by Robbie Gould, but the 6-3 lead was one they would never relinquish. In fact, it was just the spark the Bears needed on offense, as coach Smith had pushed the right button to finally get the offense in sync for the first time since week one against the Indianapolis Colts.

The Bears followed up the field goal with 35 more points, totaling in 38 unanswered points, all coming after Smith’s decision to go for it on fourth down. What once looked like it could have become a trap game became one of the bigger blowouts in Bears recent history. Coach Smith said after the game it was an easy call to make, one he felt they needed to make.

Coach Smith could say after the fact it was an easy call to make. History would tell a different story. The Bears responding to what is essentially as close as Smith will ever get to calling someone out publicly by putting them on the field in a situation like that shows the respect the team has for the coach who is seemingly on the hot seat every season. The defense that was too old, and would struggle if Brian Urlacher wasn’t healthy has had maybe their best season ever under Smith to this point. That’s a huge statement. Would you say Urlacher has looked healthy? Maybe it was the call that got something to click for the Bears offense. Maybe it’s just me looking too far into a play. Either way, the Bears sit atop the NFC North.