Smith: No regrets over failed TD try

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LAKE FOREST, ILL. (AP) - Lovie Smith insists he has no regrets and would make the same call again even though the Chicago Bears came away without a point.

In his mind, it was right on Sunday. And it’s still right Monday.

Smith decided to have his Bears go for a touchdown rather than an easy field goal on fourth down at the 1 with the Bears trailing Detroit by a point in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s season-opener. It raised more than a few eyebrows.

Never mind that Chicago ultimately escaped with a 19-14 victory after Matt Forte caught a 28-yard touchdown and the LionsCalvin Johnson had a catch in the end zone ruled incomplete in one of the day’s most controversial decisions. The hot seat Smith appears to be on doesn’t look any cooler, but he wasn’t about to back off that decision.

“These few hours in between, nothing has changed,” he said. “Still feel good about it.”

The Lions had just taken over at their 9 with 10:45 left in the game when Lance Briggs sprinted through the line and took down Shaun Hill has he tried to hand off to Jahvid Best, recovering the fumble at the 1 on a play that was initially ruled a sack.

For Chicago, it was a big chance to wipe out a 14-13 deficit. Instead, it turned into a big source of frustration.

Forte got stopped, and Jay Cutler threw an incomplete pass before Forte got stopped again.

So Smith had a decision to make: Go for the touchdown or an easy field goal by Robbie Gould, one of the league’s most accurate kickers, and a two-point lead?

Smith opted to go for the TD, and Forte got stopped a third time when Kyle Vanden Bosch stuffed him on an attempt over right tackle, drawing loud boos from the crowd.

“I went for it because I thought we could get it,” Smith said. “I wanted the offense to see that I thought that, and we needed to get a touchdown. To (not) keep it close, like it ended up being there at the end, one bad play could really have bad results for us. So I felt good about going for it then, and I feel good about it now. Again, in those situations, I would probably do the same thing again.”

That might not be much comfort to fans who were already calling for Smith and general manager Jerry Angelo to be dismissed after a 7-9 finish last season and a third straight playoff miss. That left team president Ted Phillips issuing what many interpreted as a win-or-else mandate, although he did back away from that in a radio interview last week.

The win did little to ease fan angst even though Cutler threw for 372 yards, Forte had 151 receiving and the Bears held the Lions to 168 yards of total offense. They also got big contributions from Briggs and Brian Urlacher, not to mention a sack by Julius Peppers that knocked Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford out of the game.

There were plenty of positives for the Bears.

Yet, there were also four turnovers and Smith’s decision that’s getting plenty of attention alongside the not-a-touchdown catch by Johnson.

“That’s his call,” Gould said of his coach. “The defense played really well. … He thought maybe we could put one in the end zone, create a little bit more momentum for our team and make it a little harder on the Detroit Lions.”

Instead, they made it harder on themselves.

They failed to convert the pass after Forte’s touchdown, leaving them with a five-point lead. And they escaped with the win after the officials ruled Johnson did not properly secure the ball on what looked like the go-ahead touchdown.

Asked why the 6-foot-1 Bowman was alone on the 6-foot-5 Johnson, Smith said, “We play double-coverage quite a bit. It seems like every time we play double-coverage (it’s), ‘Why do you guys play two deep?’ So on that play, we had a blitz on. ‘Why don’t you blitz more?’ We had a blitz on that play, and when you blitz, you can’t double-cover everybody _ Football 101. Can’t do it. On that play, we didn’t. The next two, we did.”

He also said safety Danieal Manning wasn’t responsible for helping on that play and added, “Sometimes, you have a great player that makes a great play.”

Only, Johnson’s play didn’t count.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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