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Hoge: Skepticism Hovers Over Bears Loss To Lions

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Josh McCown is sacked by Nick Fairley  (Credit:  Jonathan Daniel/Getty)

Josh McCown is sacked by Nick Fairley (Credit: Jonathan Daniel/Getty)

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By Adam Hoge-

SOLDIER FIELD (CBS) — Something didn’t add up Sunday at Soldier Field.

In fact, a lot didn’t add up as the Bears lost 21-19 to the Detroit Lions.

The focus will be on Jay Cutler’s groin/ankle/lower body/something injury and why he played as long as he did. That’s fair, but let’s get something straight: Jay Cutler was not going to re-tear his groin by playing Sunday. The issue was pain tolerance. And if that pain was preventing him from playing well, then maybe he shouldn’t have played as long as he did, but he was never going to suffer a catastrophic re-tear of the groin that was going to derail the season.

“You can’t re-tear a fully torn tendon,” Dr. Neil Ghodadra, a sports orthopedic surgeon and former team physician for the Chicago Bulls and White Sox, e-mailed to CBSChicago.com Sunday. “If it’s off the bone then it’s lost its function and serves no purpose. The reason we can get away with it is that we have a large group of adductor (groin) muscles so even if you tear one, the others will help out. Studies have shown that groin tears in NFL athletes don’t need to be fixed and that the average return to the field is 3-6 weeks vs athletes that get the groin fixed return in 11-12 weeks.”

Cutler didn’t get the tear fixed, otherwise he would have been lost for the year. His vigorous rehab over the last three weeks was all about getting full motion back in the leg and allowing the pain to go away. He did enough to get cleared by the Bears’ medical staff Thursday, allowing him to play Sunday against the Lions.

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So while Cutler may have been limited somewhat by his groin Sunday — and probably dealing with some pain — Bears head coach Marc Trestman was not risking the season by keeping him in there.

Of course, according to both Cutler and Trestman, the groin was never an issue in the game.

“He never talked about the groin at all,” Trestman said. “There was never any sense — no trainer — there’s was never a sense at all that he was inhibited at all by his groin today.”

And yet there were multiple instances where he grabbed the groin region.

“It held up OK,” Cutler insisted.

Yes, apparently the real issue was an ankle injury suffered sometime in the second quarter, although no one could pinpoint the play.

“It’s all on the same leg so I think that was a problem, but the groin, if you take the ankle out of the equation I would’ve been fine, I think,” Cutler said.

Wait, on what play did that ankle injury occur?

“You wouldn’t know if I told you anyway,” Cutler said.

Oh.

Cutler would only say it happened right before halftime. Trestman added that his quarterback was rolled up on in the second quarter and the ankle injury “was unrelated to his groin.” Cutler was taped up at halftime and the trainers said he “couldn’t hurt himself anymore.”

And Cutler’s take?

“We taped it up and it was stiff, but I felt like I could go as long as I kept some movement in it. It got worse and worse as we went on.”

Just like the Bears’ chances of winning. That is, until the move was finally made to put backup Josh McCown in the game with 2:17 left in the fourth quarter and the Bears down eight. McCown led his team down field and delivered an 11-yard touchdown strike to Brandon Marshall with 40 seconds left, but the Bears failed to convert the two-point conversion, despite getting two chances.

Given the ending, there will be plenty who second-guess Marc Trestman and wonder why the head coach didn’t make the quarterback switch sooner. He stuck by his decision after the game, but even he admitted he might reevaluate it later.

“I’ll look at the tape and see what the tape shows. I may come back tomorrow and say I should have taken him out earlier, but at the time the decision was made to keep him in there to let him fight with his football team to play and here we are. That’s the result,” Trestman said.

The result may be a loss, but Trestman’s reasoning wasn’t horrible. Not only is Cutler more talented than McCown, he’s also been outstanding in the fourth quarter this season, including against the Lions, nearly bringing the Bears back with two fourth quarter touchdown passes in Detroit Sept. 29. With no chance of Cutler re-tearing his groin or injuring the ankle further, the logic of keeping the more talented quarterback in the game is valid.

“Jay’s 80 percent is better than a lot of guys’ 100 percent in the NFL,” Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall said after the game.

Admittedly, however, it did eventually come time for a change. Cutler said his health got worse as the game went along and it became obvious that the Bears needed more mobility from their quarterback to run a game-tying two-minute drill. On third down on the drive before, Cutler had an opportunity to run for the first down but opted to throw a pass to Jeffery instead and it fell short.

That’s when Cutler knew “the best option for our team was to put Josh in.”

Maybe it was one drive too late, but in fairness, Cutler had thrown a beautiful ball to Alshon Jeffery in the end zone on the drive before and Jeffery couldn’t hold onto it, leaving the Bears with a field goal.

But besides the debate about how long Cutler should have been in the game — and it will surely go on all week — there was plenty more Sunday that didn’t add up.

Like, what injury was actually bothering Cutler? And what was going on with both play calls on the Bears’ two-point conversions?

As for the injury, if Cutler was only bothered by an ankle that occurred right before halftime, then why did Brandon Marshall say, “From probably the second drive, he had all kinds of things going on with him. From the waist down.”

To rule out a misspeak, Marshall reiterated again, later, that Cutler was bothered from the second drive on and seemed to be referring to issues not only associated with an ankle.

“Dealing with those muscles, it’s kind of tough. It’s hit or miss,” Marshall said. “Just for him to be able to be out there today was a blessing. That was a bonus for us to have him for the time we had him. Hopefully he can continue on with his rehab and be stronger next week and last a little longer.”

Muscles are typically an issue with the groin, not the ankle. And before you go doubting Marshall’s knowledge of Cutler’s health, remember he’s the one that correctly predicted how long the quarterback would be out with the groin injury.

But Cutler’s injuries weren’t the only things not adding up Sunday. The play calling on both two-point conversions was interesting, to say the least.

On the first, neither Brandon Marshall nor Alshon Jeffery were on the field. In fact, no wide receivers were. The Bears went with “23” personnel, with Matt Forte and Tony Fiammetta as the two backs and Martellus Bennett, Dante Rosario and Eben Britton as the three tight ends.

“We got what we wanted on the first one,” Trestman said. “We got man-to-man coverage out there. Matt was covered by a linebacker and Alshon by a defensive back or a safety at the time.”

But Alshon Jeffery wasn’t even on the field.

OK, let’s just chalk that up as a misspeak by Trestman. He probably meant Martellus Bennett, who was covered by safety Glover Quin.

But your two best wide receivers on the sideline on the game’s biggest play? At least Trestman got a reprieve.

The Lions did what the Lions typically do, giving the Bears a second chance after Willie Young roughed McCown after McCown’s pass went out of the back of the end zone.

So, play No. 2? A run/pass option, with McCown opting for a run, which went to the left. For the record, the Bears came into the game averaging 3.31 yards per carry over left guard and 6.83 yards per carry over right guard. This particular run to the left went for a loss of two yards, as center Roberto Garza was immediately blown up by Nick Fairley and Forte was dropped in the backfield.

“The defense gave us the run and we just didn’t block it. We didn’t execute,” Trestman said.

It was a familiar theme on the day as the Bears only rushed for 38 yards on 20 carries, making you wonder why they would have a run option on the biggest play of the game, even with the Lions showing the correct number in the box.

“These plays were decided long in advance,” Trestman said.

Yes, with Jay Cutler as the quarterback. Remember, the Bears insisted over and over again that McCown didn’t receive any reps with the No. 1 unit in practice this week.

That, too, could be considered a decision that doesn’t really add up.

Adam Hoge covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.

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