Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Chicago Bears [Print without images]

Sunday, December 13, 2009
Smith right to challenge, but timeout iffy


By JEFF DICKERSON
Smith
Lovie Smith said calling a timeout late in the fourth quarter had nothing to do with challenging a ruling on a Greg Olsen catch.

CHICAGO -- Lovie Smith made the correct decision challenging a pass ruled incomplete to Greg Olsen with just under five minutes left to play in the fourth quarter. If the play would've been overturned, it would have been Bears football around the 50-yard line. Smith probably figured this was his last legitimate shot to try and tie the game and force overtime.

However, the Bears decision to call a timeout before throwing the red flag is up for debate.

"For the first timeout, things just weren't right and we needed to call a timeout to take care of some things," Smith said after the game. "That is separate.

"Without going into detail, I called it for the same reason you always use a timeout -- things weren't right, and we wanted to make sure we were in the best situation. Again, after that, it was two separate situations."

"We're shifting up our personnel, trying to get a call, and before you know it the play clock is down to twelve," Bears quarterback Jay Cutler explained. "It's happened to us a few times this year, so I had to burn one. It just happens. Anytime there's a big play, something down field, it's up for grabs like that. Guys are pushing and shoving getting off the pile, taking to the refs, and trying to figure out what happened. The clock is running during that time.

"You can't second guess that (Smith's decision to call a timeout). He's probably trying to see the television replay up in the box. I'm trying to get the play, and I look up, and there's ten seconds (left on the play clock) on third down. I'm going to burn one. Period."

Both Smith and Cutler make valid points, but with so much at stake, the Bears would've been better off just challenging the play immediately after it was ruled incomplete. Even if they lost the review (which they eventually did), Smith still would've had an additional timeout left when the Bears got the ball back with 2:07 on the clock. Or they could've called a timeout after Ryan Grant's third-down run with about three minutes remaining. Instead, the Bears only had one timeout left when the Packers got the ball, and it cost them valuable time in the closing moments of the game.