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Columnist
No, Lovie, please do not make that call every time
By Bob LeGere | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 9/15/2010 12:00 AM

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First off, in fairness, it should be pointed out that Lovie Smith's decision to go for the touchdown on fourth-and-goal from inside the 1-yard line Sunday against the Detroit Lions eventually resulted in a Bears victory - this time.

The key words there are "this" and "time."

Smith's decision initially appeared disastrous, as Matt Forte was stuffed short of the end zone, leaving the Bears still on the short end of a 14-13 score and in danger of being embarrassed at home by a team that won a total of two games the previous two years.

But the Lions failed for the seventh straight possession to get a first down. The Bears also failed to move the ball, but Brad Maynard's punt left the Lions starting at their own 14.

Again the Lions failed to produce even 1 first down, the Bears got good field position, and they drove 56 yards for the winning score, thanks to a brilliant catch by Forte.

"It's a field-position game throughout," Smith said. "I make that call every time."

But until the offensive line proves it can establish dominance up front, if only for a yard or two, that's a decision Smith should not make again in that situation.

The offensive line still is in the process of jelling, and while it provided quarterback Jay Cutler solid protection on many occasions, at no time Sunday did it assert itself in the running game.

The playcalling was just as disappointing as Smith's decision to go for it.

For most of the day, Mike Martz's play selection had the Lions' defense off balance.

If Martz and Smith have no qualms about Cutler taking off down the field when the protection breaks down, they should consider letting the 6-foot-3, 233-pounder put his head down and sneak the ball into the end zone.

Quarterbacks a lot smaller and less physical than Cutler have picked up 18 inches behind worse offensive lines.

Smith correctly pointed out that the Bears' defense had dominated the Lions most of the day and that they'd get the ball back in good field position even if they failed.

But the Bears' offense already had turned the ball over four times up to that point. And, if you really feel like your defense is dominant, why not take the chip-shot field goal and let that defense play with a lead?

Still, Smith says he will make that call every time. Otherwise, it would seem as if he were admitting a mistake.

Coaches in all sports are reluctant to admit a mistake. None more than Smith, and that's an attitude that has begun to turn off some of the most loyal fans.

None of them have chugged enough of the Halas Hall Kool-Aid to believe that the head coach and his staff never make mistakes.

So Smith should think long and hard before making the same decision again - or at least reconsider the playcalling.

rlegere@dailyherald.com

• Follow Bob LeGere's Bears reports via Twitter@BobLeGere. Check out his blog, Bear Essentials at DailyHerald.com