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Bears Sunday Playbook: A career-defining game for Marc Trestman

Keeping up with Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers sometimes means having to steal a possession from him. Or at least that’s how Bears coach Marc Trestman felt in Week 4 when he opted for an onside kick.

“We were going to try to find, at some point in the game, a possession,” Trestman said then.

It was an aggressive, risky move that backfired, and Trestman was criticized for it.

The scrutiny has only intensified since. Nearly everything about Trestman has come into question at the halfway point of his second season in charge — his hold on the locker room, his perceived lack of team leaders, his ability to click with quarterback Jay Cutler, his overall offensive scheme against the rest of the league, his in-game decision-making, his play-calling and on and on.

All of it has made this week arguably the most important of his coaching career. The Bears’ matchup Sunday night against the rival Packers isn’t just a season-defining game. It could turn out to be a career-defining one for Trestman.

A victory against the Packers could turn the tide with a schedule back-loaded with home games and divisional opponents. A loss, especially if it’s an ugly blowout, could turn an already tenuous situation at Halas Hall into a disastrous one.

For Trestman, it starts with igniting his dormant offense.

“We feel we’re headed into a highly competitive game, two teams that are very, very equal in terms of their ability to move the football and do the things they need to do to score,” Trestman said. “We’ve got to do that.”


The bye week has been good for Trestman before. After last season’s break, backup Josh McCown threw for 272 yards and two touchdowns in a 27-20 victory against the Packers at Lambeau Field.

Before Cutler outperformed McCown’s numbers in Week 17, McCown’s 90.7 passer rating that day was the best passer rating a Bears quarterback had had against coordinator Dom Capers since he took over the Packers’ defense in 2009. It was just the beginning of a career-rejuvenating run for McCown, too.

Trestman also has turned offenses around in midseason before. In 2002, the Oakland Raiders were 4-4 with Trestman as the offensive coordinator. The Raiders featured quarterback Rich Gannon, wide receivers Jerry Rice and Tim Brown and do-everything running back Charlie Garner, but the offense was stuck in a rough patch.

The Raiders responded by winning seven of their last eight games and reaching the Super Bowl. Gannon, always a vocal supporter of Trestman, was the NFL’s most valuable player. Trestman’s offense finished first in total yards and second in scoring.

Expecting the same seems like a stretch. But Trestman appears unfazed by the dire circumstances. The clichéd notion of playing with a sense of urgency and desperation might have taken hold with some players, but Trestman remains collected.

Trestman meticulously went over the offense’s first eight games, but he didn’t overanalyze himself. He remains confident in what he’s doing and calling.

“Play-calling has to be what is the best play in this moment for our football team under the conditions that we’re playing under,” Trestman said, “and making sure it complements what we’re doing on special teams and defensively.”

UNSUNG SPOTLIGHT: Defensive back Sherrick McManis

The Bears’ special teams have been a work in progress all season. So it’s a blessing that Sherrick McManis is back and healthy.

A five-year veteran, McManis has missed four games with a nagging quadriceps injury. His reliable presence on special teams was sorely missed. But he’s set to play in his third consecutive game Sunday night against the Green Bay Packers.

“I feel 100 percent,” he said.

McManis, in his third season with the Bears, said the rookies on special teams are gaining confidence.

He also thinks special teams can be a strength again for the Bears.

“Of course, it can be,” he said. “All it takes is a great week of preparation and practice and one game that can change it.”

McManis is a valuable backup defensive back and could see time this week against the Packers.

“I’ve done decent,” he said. “Wherever they need, I feel like I’ve been a player they know they can utilize, and they can put me where they need when that time comes.”


Looking at the Packers offense with Bears coach Marc Trestman:

‘‘It all starts with Aaron Rodgers, certainly. He’s got a very, very good receiving corps. He’s got two or three very good receivers, as we all know. We know their names, we know who they are.

‘‘[Eddie] Lacy does give them a run threat, and he plays at a high level every week.

“If you spend too much time on [wide receiver Jordy Nelson], you’re leaving [Randall] Cobb and other people open, and Rodgers has no problem finding out who the single-coverage guy is. There are a lot of different ways to go about it.

‘‘We’re going to have to handle the matchups that we have, whether it’s man coverages, combination-man coverages or zone coverages. We’re going to have to be in the right place. A lot of that’s going to be reflected in what goes on at the line of scrimmage. Eleven bodies are going to have to be working together.

‘‘[Nelson is] a very tough player to stop, one of the best receivers in the league, no doubt about it. We have him as one of the highest-rated receivers around. It’s difficult to completely stop him. He has the ability to beat the man in bump-and-run and hip-to-hip coverage. He can go deep, and he’s very good when Aaron extends the plays. He’s got a great feel for finding space and working himself back into the play.’’


Twitter: @adamjahns