THE MORNING AFTER: Fired-up Fox was all in for win
CHICAGO – There’s no surprise that his responses were a bit terse during five minutes of conversation with reporters late Sunday afternoon.
A number or elements factored into those kinds of responses from John Fox.
First he just lost a two-point game on a failed two-point conversion to a team that dismissed him after a 12-win season 11 months earlier. Fox dismissed the notion that revenge mattered to him this week and did so again following the 17-15 loss to the Broncos at Soldier Field.
“There are more guys to say hi to after the game,” is all Fox said when asked about his emotions of facing his former team.
Is Fox just downplaying it in the media? One would think so.
His bizarre dismissal just a year removed from a Super Bowl last January following a playoff loss from the Colts was one of the surprise moves of the NFL offseason. The firing is arguably one of the low points for the coach who has a pair of conference championships on his extensive coaching resume.
It might explain why he made a call that is being heavily scrutinized on this morning.
With the Bears trailing by eight in the fourth quarter and just over ten minutes remaining the Bears’ faced a fourth-and-goal from the four-yard line. Prudence would say to take the three points and fight another series, especially considering the Bears’ recent struggles inside red zone.
They are 28th in the NFL in getting touchdowns when they get inside their opponent’s 20-yard line, getting in the endzone just 42 percent of the time.
But this time, Fox decided to go for it. A pressured Cutler decided not to run, instead trying to force the ball to Jeremy Langford who was heavily covered and the pass was incomplete.
“You know, we hadn’t made many trips down to the end zone. We hadn’t scored touchdowns. It had been kind of a field goal game. At that point in the game, we felt that was going to maybe be our last opportunity (for points.),” said Fox when asked why they went. “So we were aggressive and came up short on 4th and 4.”
The last opportunity? Why did he think that was the follow-up inquiry.
“Again, I think you’re going against a pretty stingy defense,” was Fox’s response. “They scored 17 points and we scored 15 points – that’s not a really high scoring game in our business. We knew it would be tough, so we had to take advantage of getting points when we had the opportunity.”
He was right. Up till that point the Bears only crept into the Broncos’ red zone twice all day and that was just to the 19-yard line with each drive ending in a Robbie Gould field goal. Denver’s stingy defense has given little all season long so just getting near the goal line was going to be difficult to begin with.
Still Fox would normally go for the field goal. But not this day. Not this opponent. Fox was all out for the win on this day, more than perhaps any other in his young Bears coaching tenure.
That’s why the offense never came close to leaving the field before that fourth down play. Fox was going to be aggressive on this day and he was going down with an aggressive plan. That’s a bit out of character for the coach but this was no ordinary regular season game for him.
“You want to take a shot. But there are times when you’re smart enough to know ‘hey let’s kick the field goal’, but that wasn’t one of them,”said Cutler when asked about the 4th down call. “I agree with (head coach John) Fox. I loved the call to go for it. Offensively we just have to be better.”
Of course you know what eventually happened. The offense did get down there again and they did reach the endzone. A field goal on the fourth down earlier would have put the Bears ahead. Instead they had to go for two and Langford, who got in the endzone on the previous play, was stuffed short of the goal line.
Naturally the biggest question of the game was not to kick. Many weren’t satisfied with the answer but it seems to be simple. Fox wasn’t going to miss the chance to seize this game against a team that kicked him out under a year ago. Maybe if it’s someone else he kicks but not today, not against the Broncos.
His explanation for the call might have been quick, but that action spoke volumes to the coach’s attitude for his first game against his former employer.