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Bernstein: Bears' Loss Avoids Bad, Wrong Conclusions

By Dan Bernstein- senior columnist

(CBS) The little Christmas gift was all wrapped up for Bears coach Marc Trestman with a pretty little bow on it and ready to be opened, only to be rudely ripped from his hands.

The Lions had come to town determined to recapture the glory of the Jim Schwartz era, replete with its rampant stupidity and dirty, undisciplined play. Matthew Stafford impersonated the benched Jay Cutler by trying to steal his signature bit, throwing a pair of red-zone interceptions as some kind of artistic homage.

So the narrative was all right there – and boy was it ever, driven home by a FOX broadcast oddly determined to inflate Jimmy Clausen into another, idealized anti-Cutler. It would be the story of Trestman's temporary redemption, his offensive vision and shocking lineup decision validated by a quarterback just doing what the play required and nothing more. There were the cutaways to the fair-haired boy thanking his offensive linemen on the sidelines, the comments insinuating falsely that this is something Cutler didn't do.


There was little criticism of Clausen taking a debilitating sack on a critical third down with 6:22 left, holding onto the ball too long in a way that defeated the ostensible purpose of him being the starter. He was specifically supposed to be the one to know better, but Troy Aikman was content to instead stay on message, pinning blame on a generalized offensive "letdown."

So perhaps it's for the best that the superior Lions eventually prevailed 20-14, sparing us misplaced optimism and improper conclusions from a single game's outcome.

This Bears offense remains impaired regardless of the compliance level of the quarterback, producing 234 net yards and converting just 5 of 15 third downs. For comparison's sake, the last time these teams met, the Cutler-led offense was good for 269 total yards and made good on the same number of third downs in three fewer tries. Their average gain per offensive play was nearly a full yard better on Thanksgiving: 4.6 to 3.7, and they scored three more points. The quarterbacks had essentially identical passer ratings -- Clausen with a 77.0 on Sunday, Cutler's at 76.7 in late November.

Yes, there was some garbage time that day, and Clausen was hampered by several bad drops by receivers Sunday, but this was at home, against an under-motivated team almost trying to lose. The Bears' first score came only due to a muffed punt, and their other primarily because of a roughing the kicker penalty that rescued another stalled drive. Matt Prater couldn't get a clean swing at the ball on a 37-yard field goal try and stubbed it into the pile. Had the Bears won, you could bet that would have somehow also been due to Cutler's absence.

Durkin: Quarterback change doesn't spark Bears offense

There can be no "I told you so" for Trestman after his defiant move that was a clear attempt to expose his boss. Phil Emery tied himself and the franchise to Cutler, but Trestman gambled on a nothing-to-lose bet as he understands his firing is imminent. Despite some silly speculation to the contrary, even a win wouldn't have rekindled his hopes to stay.

There's a reason Mike Shanahan is lauding Cutler publicly, because the word is out that there will be an opening in Chicago for an experienced, accomplished NFL coach.

All that remains in question are how soon and who else. Emery is on thin ice himself, with reports surfacing late in the week that phone calls were already being made to high-level football executives, any one of whom could either replace Emery or be handed much of his power. Wheels have been set in motion that are unlikely to be stopped.

There are no important lessons to be learned from this game. Nothing substantive occurred that meant anything, other than crossing another game off the schedule in a miserable, ruined season.

Dan Bernstein is a co-host of 670 The Score's "Boers and Bernstein Show" in afternoon drive. Follow him on Twitter @dan_bernstein and read more of his columns here.

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