By Chris Emma—
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (CBS) – With the Bears driving and their game on the line in an eventual 27-24 loss to the Lions on Sunday, two of the team’s best playmakers weren’t on the field.
Steady veteran Benny Cunningham was in at running back to serve as the blocking back for rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, which explains why Jordan Howard was on the sidelines. But where was rookie running back Tarik Cohen and rookie tight end Adam Shaheen?
Trailing 27-24, the Bears started their final drive with 1:31 on the clock and stayed mostly with the same personnel for Trubisky. It was Dontrelle Inman, Kendall Wright, Tre McBride and Daniel Brown lined up out wide, with Markus Wheaton taking two plays for Inman. The rookies Cohen and Shaheen — both of whom had scored touchdowns earlier in the game — watched from the sidelines.
Coach John Fox explained why in his Sunday postgame press conference and again on Monday at Halas Hall.
“Every one of those guys that’s out there is a veteran guy who’s been in football for some time,” Fox said. “The fact that you don’t huddle and they have to know what’s going on, regardless of what position they play, I think most of the guys out there are veteran guys, and there’s a lot to know when you don’t huddle. There’s a lot of football to understand.
“That’s not the first time it’s been that way. It’s been that way all the way back to Atlanta, which was our opener, even with a different quarterback. I don’t really know much else how to answer that, other than it takes a lot of understanding to execute that.”
Shaheen and Cohen both hail from small colleges, with Shaheen coming from Division-II Ashland University and Cohen from North Carolina A&T, an FCS school. Even 11 weeks into the regular season, Fox still sees a relative inexperience in late-game situations that hasn’t merited being on the field.
The Bears only needed three points to tie the game, and while Trubisky had his sights set on the end zone, getting a field goal was the priority. With that in mind, the coaching staff prioritized having reliable veterans touted for their route running on the field as opposed to young players who might bring more risk with their inexperience.
Trubisky did his part on the final drive, going 4-of-8 for 39 yards. His fourth-and-13 scramble extended the series into Lions territory, and a strike to Inman brought the Bears into field goal range. But Connor Barth shanked a game-tying 46-yard field-goal attempt, and it was all for naught.