Sunday, January 2, 2011
Bears elude disaster with playing time plan
By Kevin Seifert
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Admit it. You didn't believe Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith last week when he said, over and over again, that he would play to win Sunday against the Green Bay Packers. His insistence that Bears starters would play the full game even if it carried no playoff implications seemed a bluff.
Not one starting player was removed from Sunday's 10-3 loss to the Green Bay Packers, a game that wasn't sealed until the final seconds. The Bears used normal rotations at all positions but, as they have all season, avoided the kind of catastrophic injury that would have shined a brighter spotlight on Smith's decision.
Two players -- linebacker Nick Roach (shoulder) and safety Major Wright (leg) -- did not return after suffering injuries. But it's pretty likely that Roach and Wright would have been in the game even if Smith had begun removing starters.
Here's how Smith explained his rationale:
"Knowing we had bye week and weren't playing for a lot, we just wanted to keep momentum going. We hadn't peaked yet, we still thought there were something to improve on and that's what we went into the game trying to do. ... As we told you all week, this is a 16-game schedule, great opportunity get into the playoff mode as much as anything. Had a chance to play against what turned out to be playoff team and see how we matched up."
I was never opposed to the Bears playing a normal game as long as it was for the right reasons. Beating a rival wasn't one of them, but maintaining rhythm was.
With that said, there was a point in the fourth quarter where it would have made sense to relieve quarterback Jay Cutler from a beating that ended with six sacks. But by all accounts, the Bears departed Lambeau Field with only Roach and Wright as new additions to the injury report -- a fortunate turn of events for Smith and the Bears.