Should You Ever Kick Before Fourth Down? And Other Bears Bullets

CutlerMarshall

Good morning! Welcome to the first ever Daily Bears Bullets. I hope I don’t owe Brett any royalties. (Uh oh … he used to be an attorney, didn’t he? Maybe I should have read my contract.)

  • As noted yesterday by commenter Brett Taylor (that kid might have a future in this business), Advanced NFL Stats took a look at whether NFL teams should ever attempt a field goal before fourth down. The results are probably going to be fuel for the “Trestman was grossly mistaken” fire.
  • “The Jay Cutler Show” is must-listen radio, in my opinion. (Podcast available here.) Yesterday was no exception, as he (unsurprisingly) backed up his coach’s decision to kick the field goal in overtime. More importantly for the Bears immediate future, he called his chances of playing “50/50″, and said that he’d like to begin practicing this week with an eye on a Monday night return. Michael C. Wright has a full write-up on Cutler’s injury comments, along with Marc Trestman’s (noncommittal) perspective. In my opinion, considering the apparent severity of the ankle injury, there’s no reason to rush Jay back again. But once he is healthy, I’ll be very glad to see him take the field. We’ll know more later in the week; if he’s practicing, I’d take that to mean he’s probably going to start, although with NFL injuries, nothing is ever set in stone.
  • On the show Cutler also noted that he would be attending the Bears holiday party; that’s where the picture above was taken before Brandon Marshall sent it out on Instagram. The beard really makes Jay’s head look huge, doesn’t it? (Note: that is a sentence that has been said in reference to me, word for word, at least 30 times.)
  • Kevin Fishbain at the Bears Insider blog has an analysis of the Bears player snap counts from Sunday. Notables: Jeremiah Ratliff played 23 snaps in his return from a year-long absence; I’d look for that number to increase sharply Monday night against Dallas, his former team. Craig Steltz, Jon Bostic, James Anderson, Tim Jennings, and Chris Conte played every possible defensive snap, and as Kevin notes Chris Conte has not missed a play all year. (Why isn’t everyone cheering?) Kevin also notes that as with every other game this season, the Bears five starting offensive linemen played every down. That’s important for continuity, of course, but the two rookies on the right side are also getting a lot of experience by being able to stay on the field. I’m still amazed at what Phil Emery was able to do to the offensive line in one offseason, but maybe that’s because Jerry Angelo told us over the course of multiple seasons that J’Marcus Webb was a left tackle worth building around.
  • I tweeted this out last night, but the New York Times partnered with NFL Advanced Stats (yep, same guys as the first bullet) to build a model designed to determine when a team should go for it on fourth down. Included is an archive of every fourth down decision for every team this season, with a side-by-side comparison to what the “4th Down Bot” would have called for. You can find the Bears page here, and it makes for some very interesting reading. Notably, the model says the Bears should have gone for it on every fourth down they faced against the Vikings save their overtime 4th-and-18, while Trestman didn’t attempt to convert on any of those chances. This Sunday was just the fourth game of the season in which Trestman didn’t order an attempted fourth down conversion. As I said on Twitter, the science behind the model and the play index on the site is a veritable rabbit hole for NFL statheads.
  • Jeff Dickerson held his weekly chat at ESPN Chicago; Jeff does a great job with these chats, and he covered a wide array of topics. Some of the highlights: he thought Trestman coached not to lose; he is assuming Jeremiah Ratliff will play more against Dallas; he believes some of the defensive personnel aren’t yet sold on Mel Tucker, while some have absolutely bought in; and he thinks it’s possible that Lance Briggs returns Monday night, but no one will know until he can practice.

I’ll be back this afternoon with a long look back at what I (and many of you, according to Twitter) had originally thought was a botched use of the ten second runoff rule; the truth was a bit more complex.

Jay Rigdon is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation Bears, and can also be found @BearsBN on Twitter.

26 responses to “Should You Ever Kick Before Fourth Down? And Other Bears Bullets”

  1. On The Farm

    “and as Kevin notes Chris Conte has not missed a play all year.”

    This is the exact opposite what we should be hoping for. Conte makes head scratching play after head scratching play. I hope their is someone the Bears can get through FA, because its probably best not to use a first rounder on a safety.

    1. Toby

      Safety isn’t usually a position a team uses a 1st round pick on, but the 49s got a good one in LSU’s Eric Reid and there have been some good safeties picked in the first round. Bears definitely should use their first round pick on a DT. Next years draft will be the first one in a long time where fans will not be asking for the Bears to draft an OL. They might end up taking an OL somewhere in the later rounds, but offense might take a backseat in the draft again. I believe their needs will be in this order: DT, DB, LB, QB, OL, RB. I doubt that the draft plan will hinge on who the Bears bring back or who they target in FA.

      1. On The Farm

        I understand you can find good safeties in the first round (Eric Berry, Earl Thomas), but I was thinking that their is a greater need elsewhere to address with the first round pick (Yeah DL help would be awesome), we need a LB, We really need a DB. My gut says they will take an OL in the 5th round (which means I am totally wrong because I never predict late round picks for the Bears).

        1. C. Steadman

          I want a DL for the 1st Round…either Stephon Tuitt, ND, or Vic Beasley, Clemson

          1. On The Farm

            Yeah, I was thinking the ND guy, even though I am not a ND fan..

            1. C. Steadman

              also from ND…DT Louis Nix, but he’s slotted anywhere from 8-15, so he might be off the board by the time Bears are on the clock….ND is in my top 5 hated list but I wouldnt mind drafting them

  2. Toby

    I don’t blame Trestman, one bit, for kicking the FG. The ball was in the middle of the field and Gould usually makes those kicks. What some fans aren’t realizing is that there was only 1:43 left on the clock. If the Bears turn the ball over then there is little chance the Bears get the ball back and the game either ends in a tie or they lose.

    1. Adam

      There was actually 4:12 min left in OT when Gould attempted that kick. 1:43 was the amount of time left when Walsh made the game-winner.

      1. Toby

        You’re right. I got the time wrong, but even at a little over 4 minutes is still not enough time if Bears turn the ball over especially with AP and Minnesota’s offense.

        1. Cubs_Questions

          Forte was running well that drive and has only fumbled twice in 214 carries this season so far. So Trestman kicks on second down to avoid a turnover?

          A penalty is more reasonable to me, but even then, if you have that much faith in Robbie, tacking on 10 yards for holding makes it a 56 yard attempt. Surprisingly, Gould’s FG% is higher from 50+ than 40-49%.

          It’s a smaller sample and I’m not suggesting that he’s actually more accurate from further out, but I’m saying that giving the offense a chance to get three or four more yards wouldn’t have been a killer even if the worst case scenario happened.

          And that was only second down. My position is assuming that they kick it and don’t even go for it on third. Sorry, Trestman was wrong in my opinion.

          1. Cubs_Questions

            50+ yards than 40-49 yards *

  3. JulioZuleta

    Welcome Jay. Pumped that my favorite site has expanded to cover my second favorite team. The Bears have to be the best looking/most stylish team in the NFL. At least we have that going for us.

  4. ISU Birds

    Mel Tucker has got to go IMO. I realize that the D is old and banged up but after weeks of just terribleness why was this the week he decided to get all amped up and scream at the players on the sideline all day. I feel like he is just way over his head. We need someone who will be better in the upcomming years of developing young players, since I feel that the Bears need to use 75% of their draft picks on defensive players. Who is out there that you think would be a good fit? Del Rio comes to mind but he is probably very happy in Denver. Wade Phillips?? IDK who is really out there that would be looking to change locations.

    1. JulioZuleta

      You won’t find a current D-coordinator that will leave to come here and rebuild a defense. Will have to be a position coach or college coordinator, maybe. Losing Rod Marinelli was the biggest loss from the previous staff. By next season the Bears need 3 D-Linemen, 1 lineback, 1 corner and 2 new safeties. Just 7 new starters….other than that, we’re in pretty good shape. (sarcasm).

    2. Toby

      I wonder, if the Bears do replace Mel Tucker as D-Coordinator, could go with GB’s LB coach Kevin Greene. I realize he’s inexperienced, but he has been lumped in the group of rising coaches in the game.

      1. JulioZuleta

        I’m pretty torn on Mel Tucker. On one hand, the defense has been terrible and injuries should never really be an excuse. On the other hand, the personnel on this defense was subpar from the start. Peppers is old, Tillman is a shell of his former self (takes risks, makes big plays, but gets burnt 10 times for every 1 good play), Conte is just…unbelievably bad, Major Wright isn’t much better…not to mention the laughable linebacking corps. Emery has some serious ground to make up this offseason. Hesistant to make a big judgment on Brooks either way at this point.

        1. Adam

          The Bears won’t do it, but let’s say they got bold and decided to switch to a 3-4. Step 1 would be to cut Julius Peppers. He has an 18 mill cap hit next year. He does have 8 mill in dead money so cutting him would clear about 10 mill in cap space. Let Melton and Tillman walk. Draft a large NT early to plug up the middle. Someone like Louis Nix in the 1st (if available) or Daniel McCullers in the 2nd round. Use Wooton who has great size and Paea who can anchor as DEs. Use available cap space to sign Brian Orakpo to play OLB. Use McClellin at the other OLB. Shift Briggs to ILB (about the same size as Navarro Bowman so could play there) along with Bostic. Resign Tim Jennings at CB and draft other corner. (either Ifo Ekpre-Olomu in the 1st or Kyle Fuller in the 2nd round. Find safety in Free Agency ( Donte Witner, Nate Allen, Mike Mitchell are all available).

          1. JulioZuleta

            You can pretty much take it to the bank the this is Peppers’ last year with the Bears. It has been pretty obvious all season. Adding to that, Bears General Counsel Cliff Stein spoke at my law school recently and was going over salary cap scenarios and “hypotheticals.” He constantly kept referring to Peppers in the past tense and referring to how much dead money the Bears will be on the hook for next year when they cut him. It was weird how obvious he made it.

  5. mak

    Not going for it on 4th down in the 4th (and also against the Ravens in the 4th before their comeback drive) are curious decisions, especially given the Bears glaring weakness on D. They used it to put away teams earlier in the season, and I’m wondering why Trestman has moved away from it. I get that their 4th and short offense has had issues, but I’d hope it has been a focus in practice lately. I’ll take 4th and 1 to win the game over giving the other teams offense a shot (even from deep in their own territory and under 3 min left) against our D every time.

  6. Make Sure You’re Getting All of Your BN Goodness | Bleacher Nation | Chicago Cubs News, Rumors, and Commentary

    […] new Bears page! Jay Rigdon will be covering the team there, and he’s already dug into whether it ever makes sense to attempt a field goal before fourth down, and whether refs got a 10-second runoff call right on Sunday. Hopefully the non-Bears fans among […]

  7. Nick

    Hey Jay, just wanted to say that I’m excited for you and your new opportunity at Bleachernation. Love the blog so far and keep up the good work.

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