LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — Marc Trestman didn’t hide it.
As much as he credited the players and staff for the Chicago Bears’ season-opening win over the Cincinnati Bengals, he couldn’t help but acknowledge his own personal satisfaction.
After all, it was his first game as a head coach in the league.
It came after a long run as an NFL and college assistant before spending the past five seasons in Canada, leading the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes. And in his debut, the Bears took out a team many expect to contend in the AFC.
Even better, his 85-year-old father was on hand for it.
“I was glad he was there to see the day, but that wasn’t what the day was about,” Trestman said Monday. “The day was about the Bears and the city of Chicago and the fans. We had a chance to rejoice, no doubt about it. I’m not going to step aside and say we didn’t but it wasn’t the most important part of the day.”
The most important part was what happened on the field, and for the Bears it was a promising start.
They rallied from 11 down in the third quarter to beat the Bengals 24-21, and although they hardly looked like a finished product, there were certainly plenty of positives they could take from that game.
Their offense got going in the second half. They kept their poise down the stretch. The offensive line held its ground against Geno Atkins and a fierce defensive front and did not allow a sack, even with two rookies on the right side and four new starters in all.
A defense that led the league with 44 takeaways last season showed it hasn’t lost its ball-hawking ways under a new coaching staff, getting two interceptions from Charles Tillman and forcing three turnovers in all. It also contained the run, holding BenJarvus Green-Ellis to 25 yards, although it did give up two touchdowns drives of more than 90 yards in the first half.
“We had to make some adjustments, just play better overall,” said linebacker James Anderson, who made his Bears debut. “When you give up long plays, that kills your defense so we’ve got to cut those out.”
It would be nice, too, if the Bears got their running game going. Matt Forte had just 50 yards rushing on 19 attempts and caught four passes for 41 yards.
“Our productivity running the football wasn’t where we wanted it to be,” Trestman said. “We didn’t get any explosive plays. Matt touched the ball approximately 25 times and not the productivity that we’d expect him to have. There were no explosive plays. We’ve got to do a better job for Matt of running the football and we think we can.”
Even so, it wasn’t a bad start for an offense that had its difficulties in recent years.
The Bears brought in Trestman to replace the fired Lovie Smith, hoping he could change that and get the most out of quarterback Jay Cutler. They also added a key piece on offense in tight end Martellus Bennett to go with an overhauled line that now includes Jermon Bushrod at left tackle along with two rookies in guard Kyle Long and tackle Jordan Mills on the right side.
How it will all come together remains to be seen, although they did pass the first test.
Still, Cutler acknowledged afterward there are “a lot of question marks.”
Bennett also said players were nervous, and that might have shown early on, with the Bears managing 97 yards in the first half. They finished the game with 323 after Trestman opened it up a little more in the third and fourth quarters, after seeing that blockers were doing their part.
“You want to do the best you can to show the city what we’re going to be about this year,” Bennett said. “I think we brought a little excitement to the city. You got the Bulls, who win. And then you have the Blackhawks that just won a championship. And it’s our time of year right now. I think everybody had pressure just to be great. When you’ve got that type of pressure from one another, everyone is nervous. If you go out there and you’re not nervous, then something’s wrong with you. We’re not Navy Seals. I think those are probably the only people who aren’t nervous, for the most part.
AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.org