By Adam Hoge-
HALAS HALL (CBS) — The transformation of the Bears’ offense under Marc Trestman happened so quickly that no one could blame you if you already forgot about the Mike Martz Era or Mike Tice Era.
But if you did forget about those days, you got slapped in the face with a reminder of what they looked like when Trestman’s offense took the field against the Ravens.
The Bears failed to get past their own 37-yard line on their first three drives, two of which were three-and-outs. There was a botched play and a sack on the first drive, a third-down drop by Alshon Jeffery on the second drive and just four yards gained on the third drive.
The fourth and fifth drives, which occurred in the second quarter, weren’t much better. The fourth drive consisted of 12 plays, but six of those occurred inside the Ravens’ 6-yard line and the Bears failed to score a touchdown. The fifth drive was another three and out and included both a holding penalty and third-down drop by Brandon Marshall.
Monday, head coach Marc Trestman suggested that his players were “not locked into exactly what to do” and said it was “a red flag for them to get back in their playbooks.”
Quarterback Josh McCown echoed that sentiment Thursday at Halas Hall.
“We just got to be a little bit more tuned maybe Friday through Sunday,” McCown said. “I’m not sure exactly, but there was a disconnect there for us and it’s not coaches, it’s just players. We’ve got to study more. We’ve got to make sure that we’re dialed into what we’re doing and spend some more time on it studying so that when we get these first few plays and we have an idea of what we’re going to be doing.”
What’s especially troubling is the confusion on the first drive, which is scripted ahead of time.
“It’s encouraged every week to get on the iPad, get with your teammates, go over the first (drive),” Trestman said. “On Saturday morning we give them the plays. They know exactly what we’re going to start with during the game. And we hold them all accountable for being on top of those things.”
But against the Ravens, they weren’t. And for the first time under Marc Trestman, there appeared to be some confusion with his players over exactly what was being asked of them on the field.
The good news, though, is that the “disconnect” McCown referred to appears to just be between the players and their playbooks because they didn’t do enough homework away from Halas Hall. That’s a big difference between a disconnect between players and the coaching staff, which has not been a problem this year at Halas Hall.
“That’s not who we want to be,” McCown said.
And for the most part, that’s not who the Bears have been this year. They’ve gone three-and-out on their first series five of 10 times this year, but they’ve also scored touchdowns three times and kicked field goals two other times. In the two games before facing the Ravens, the Bears marched down the field in eight plays and scored a touchdown against the Packers and did so even faster — in just five plays — against the Lions.
“We’ve been very good,” Trestman said. “It’s something that’s constantly stressed by assistant coaches, myself, during the last 48 hours before a game to get back in your game plans. Don’t get bored with your game plans. Don’t get bored with plays. Visualize them. Walk through them. Talk through them. Do whatever you have to do to get ready.”
Most likely, Sunday’s slow start was just the exception to the rule. Trestman’s system is complicated, but he threw most of it at his players in mini-camps and OTAs so that they would be ready for it by training camp. By now, it shouldn’t be too hard to understand the game plans installed each week.
“There’s nothing that we give them that they shouldn’t be able to run and execute. Particularly with that kind of advanced understanding. So we were disappointed (against the Ravens),” Trestman said.
The fact that the quarterback openly admitted that he and his teammates have to do a better job of preparing on their own in the last 48 hours before a game is a good thing. It means that they’re taking accountability and not blaming the coaching staff, which happened too often in Chicago before Trestman arrived.
“Josh has his point and it’s a good one,” the head coach said. “We can’t let that happen again. We can get beat physically, but we can’t get beat because we don’t know what we’re doing. That’s something different entirely. So we’ve got to go to work with that and get better this week.”
Given how the players have responded to Trestman for most of this season, chances are they will.
Adam Hoge covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.