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Wasted time for Smith, Bears
By Lindsey Willhite | Daily Herald Staff

Bears coach Lovie Smith had trouble with the whole clock management thing again.


Rick West | Staff Photographer

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Published: 12/13/2009 9:09 PM

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It's one thing to spend a timeout in order to stop the clock.

It's another to burn a timeout when the clock's not running.

It's almost beyond the realm of possibility to trash two timeouts when the clock's not running, and it's important to hoard those stoppages if at all possible.

Yet the Bears and head coach Lovie Smith pulled off that last scenario with 4:51 to go on Sunday and the Bears trailing Green Bay by 7.

And in doing so, the Bears exposed a potential disconnect between the sideline and the coaches up in the booth.

Here's what happened: With the Bears facing second-and-22 from their own 20, Jay Cutler rifled a 30-yard pass down the middle that Greg Olsen caught before getting hit by safety Nick Collins.

The officials ruled the play incomplete, though the ball popped out late enough that the naked eye could have considered it a catch.

The decision cried out for a Bears challenge, which happened eventually. But first, quarterback Jay Cutler called a timeout unrelated to a potential challenge.

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

Asked to be more specific, Smith offered this:

"Why do you ever call a timeout?" he said. "When you have a situation that isn't the right play, or just don't have enough time to get things in."

While that makes sense, it didn't jibe with offensive coordinator Ron Turner's read from his perch in the coaches' box.

What was wrong, Ron?

"Offensively? Nothing," he said while shaking his head. "We didn't have anything that wasn't right."

So everybody was on the same page?

"Yeah," he said. "Oh, yeah. We were fine."

So that's one mystery. That was unrelated to the other mystery: Why didn't Smith challenge the play immediately and allow that stoppage to take care of the offense's undetermined issue? You know, sort of a 2-for-1 bargain even if you lose the challenge?

"After (the first timeout), I had to make a decision on the situation about whether it was worth us challenging and possibly getting a first down," Smith said. "I made the decision."

Smith challenged the call and lost, which meant the Bears squandered their first two second-half timeouts without saving a single second on the clock.

That cost them a good 30-40 seconds later when the Packers ran the ball three times on their ensuing possession.

The Bears ended up regaining the ball with a chance to tie, but they had to go 91 yards in 2:07 without any timeouts.

They moved a grand total of 1 net yard in the first 54 seconds of the drive before turning the ball over on downs to end the suspense.

At least Smith and his coaches and his players and the fans could agree on one thing about the timeout imbroglio.

"In the end, the timeout really didn't hurt us."

Especially when compared to some of the other pains inflicted by (and upon) the Bears in 2009.