Bears' Matt Eberflus explains why he didn't call timeouts at end of first half

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Eberflus explains why he didn't call TOs at end of half originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

In tightly contested games, like the Bears’ 23-20 victory against the Texans in Week 3, every possession counts. So when the Bears received the ball at their own 10-yard line, down 14-13,  with all three timeouts and just over one minute to play in the first half, it seemed like a great opportunity to see what Justin Fields could manufacture in an abbreviated two-minute drill.

Things started shakily, with an incomplete pass, then a holding on Cole Kmet, to put the Bears at 2nd-and-12. Khalil Herbert responded with an 11-yard run on to make it 3rd-and-1, and the Texans opted to call a timeout, hoping that they could get a stop and get the ball back with a little time for a quick drive of their own. It looked for a moment like that timeout may have been a gift, since Herbert followed up with a nine-yard run, setting up the Bears with a new set of downs, and well over 30 seconds to play.

Instead of trying to push downfield however, the Bears showed no urgency and let the clock wind all the way down to 19 seconds before snapping the ball again. Justin Fields was sacked on the play and the half expired with a whimper.

After the game, Matt Eberflus offered this explanation for why he didn’t call a timeout as the clock kept ticking:

“Right there we were at 46 seconds and we want to bring that down on the minus field to 35 seconds because they have multiple timeouts. If you get that first down and they bang time-outs and we punt the ball, then they have a rebuttal drive.”

Matt Eberflus has worked on what to do in various game scenarios dating back to January, and if he says that bringing the clock down to 35 seconds in their own territory in their move it’s because the team has analytics to suggest that’s the proper move. That’s fine. Problem is, they let the clock wind way past 35 seconds. Eberflus did go on to say he should’ve called a timeout in retrospect, but it was a strange explanation.

“We were in 13 personnel going in 3rd-and-1 and then we subbed,” Eberflus said. “Once I saw them sub there, I should have called time out at 35 seconds and we would have been fine. I have to be better in that situation right there going from 13 personnel back to 11 once we got the first.”

Maybe switching personnel groups would’ve helped to prevent the ensuing sack, but a timeout should’ve been called regardless. At that point the Texans only had one timeout remaining. The Bears could’ve tried a shot down the field, or even an intermediate pass in the middle of the field to give the offense a better chance of getting in scoring range. If things didn’t work out, they still could have run the ball twice to ensure the Texans wouldn’t get another opportunity.

Overall, Eberflus has done well over his first three games of the season. The Bears are 2-1. It’s clear that the team is taking his H.I.T.S. principles to heart, and those principles are helping the team win. But moments like the end of the first half are ones that might warrant further investigation. As it stood, the Bears only won by a field goal. If not for Roquan Smith’s interception, the Bears looked like winning in overtime would be their only hope. If they had managed to squeeze some points out of the end of the first half, their win may have been a bit more comfortable.

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