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Chicago Bears final quarter punchlist

Coming off the disappointing loss to the Detroit Lions 34-17 on Thanksgiving Day, the Bears have basically been eliminated from playoff contention. Sure, not technically eliminated, but it’s such a long-shot that even wide receiver Brandon Marshall was quoted as using the word “miracle” to describe the Bears chances. Last I checked, the Pope had given up on this team a long time ago anyway.

So therefore being a lost season with one quarter left to play, let’s examine what the Bears must do to wrap up their disastrous 2014 campaign and begin the healing heading into this off-season.

Get younger in a hurry on defense

With long-time great linebacker Lance Briggs now having gone on season-ending IR, second-year linebacker Jonathon Bostic will essentially get the nod as Brigg’s permanent replacement (assuming that Chicago doesn’t plan on offering Briggs a new contract after this season which seems very unlikely). This scenario, along with playoff hopes all but gone, gives the coaching staff a very good opportunity to play their young players heavier minutes and evaluate where they are and if they can take over starting roles heading into 2015. Regardless of whether defensive coordinator Mel Tucker returns for a third season, a clear shift must take place replacing aging and minimally producing veterans with younger talent. It’s certainly hard to imagine the defensive production getting any worse than it already is.

Put Jay Cutler and Marc Trestman on notice

When general manager Phil Emery hired Marc Trestman and rewarded quarterback Jay Cutler with a handsome contract worth $54 million guaranteed over three years, he essentially tied Cutler and Trestman together with the hopes that the two would gel and produce together. Unfortunately this season hasn’t produced the results that most everyone thought possible prior to the season. In fact in terms of offensive production the Bears have regressed badly from their 2013 campaign, having dropped from number two in scoring all the way to number 21 so far in 2014.

The general consensus is that Phil Emery wouldn’t pull the plug on the Trestman/Cutler experiment after only two seasons together, this 2013 debacle be damned and the obstacle of unloading Cutler’s contract. But if Emery wants to remain credible and take ownership of his decisions, and possibly preserve his own job, he has to face the fact that this current plan may eventually have to end up in the trash heap sooner than later. These final four games may be just the proof that Emery needs to solidify his decision.

Run the damn football!

Eight rushing attempts. EIGHT. I wasn’t sure it was even possible throughout the course of an entire game to only run the ball eight times, but Trestman found a way last Thursday against Detroit. What’s even more confusing is this all coming on the heels of repeated statements from Trestman that the offense was going to work hard on maintaining an acceptable level of run/pass balance since the bye week.  Worse than that now is running back Matt Forte is becoming increasingly frustrated with the game plans and play-calling, and understandably so. Said Forte on Monday:

It’s of the utmost importance, especially if we’re playing outside with the weather and stuff. You can’t just sit back there and throw 50 passes a game and expect to win. [Against Detroit], the front four were pinning their ears back. They didn’t have anything to do but pass rush. They’re not respecting the run, and then if you play fake, they’re not going to take the play fake because you haven’t been running the ball. It’s a big part of the play-action game, to keep the defense off of keying on exactly what to do, whether it’s pass rush or trying to stop the run.

Ouch. That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement for Trestman coming from his most productive player in 2014. With the remaining games being essentially meaningless in terms of playoff contention, the least Trestman can do is prove to Emery that he can run a functional offense, both through game planning and in-game adjustments. All that must start with feeding your best weapon the ball consistently on the ground and taking pressure off of Cutler and the passing game.