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


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.