Over 32 long years of coaching for 17 bosses in 10 different cities, Marc Trestman had prepared for an opportunity like this, to be an NFL head coach who makes a singular decision that dictates an outcome.
Trestman made key calls as head coach of the Montreal Alouettes, but it didn't take the colonnades at Soldier Field on Sunday to remind him he wasn't in Canada anymore. He was in a passionate football city waiting for a sign — something, anything — to embrace the new guy.
Hug away, Chicago.
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The Bears faced fourth-and-inches at the Bengals' 27 and trailed 21-17 with 8 minutes, 32 seconds left. While stomachs churned around town, Trestman never flinched because the offensive guru sensed the situation left him no other choice. So Trestman trusted offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer to make the call and pumped his fist after Matt Forte gained 8 yards around the rookie right side of guard Kyle Long and tackle Jordan Mills.
"Ballsy play-calling," Jay Cutler said. "That's what Trestman's about."
What the Bears learned about Trestman in a 24-21 comeback victory was easy to like. Printing "Marc of a Champion" T-shirts would be getting carried away, but Bears players went home believing in monsters, as their marketing posters encourage. More significantly, they developed faith in Trestman after a debut that only can help establish credibility.
"It was the best play at the time," Trestman said of the gutsy fourth-down call that set up the game-winning touchdown. "A game-defining moment, no doubt about it."
No doubt about it, the Bears hired Trestman mostly to define those moments offensively.
The comfort Trestman felt approving the game's decisive play exceeded the ease with which he stepped to the middle of a jubilant postgame locker room after captains called him up there. All week, Trestman humbly deflected attention from himself. So it came as no surprise when he downplayed the personal significance of finally fulfilling a goal he has been chasing since he was moonlighting as a coach in 1981 while studying law at the University of Miami.
"Sunday is for players," Trestman said.
Lance Briggs presented Trestman a game ball anyway in front of the team.
"Coach Trestman was touched," Corey Wootton said. "The rest of the day, his demeanor was even. He stayed positive and just said, 'Keep chopping away.' "
The Bears needed the encouragement after a first half that made everyone nostalgic for a Friday night in August against the Raiders. The halftime momentum came courtesy of the Bengals, who mismanaged the final minute of the second quarter badly enough to give the Bears enough time for Robbie Gould's clutch 58-yard field goal with 11 seconds left.
Other than Trestman's signature fourth-down call, it often was hard to tell the 2013 Bears from the 2012 edition. After Charles Tillman's second interception, it was fair to wonder if the more things changed in the offseason, the more they stayed the same on Sundays. They relied on defense, such as when Tim Jennings stripped wide receiver Mohamed Sanu with 12:48 left and the Bengals deep in Bears' territory. When Cutler threw an interception before Jennings' pick bailed him out, you could almost hear people in Section 435 groaning, "Here we go again."
Even the two plays Trestman singled out looked very 2012-like as Cutler improvised after the pocket collapsed. On third-and-7 from the Bears' 35 down 21-10, Cutler stepped up enough to draw the defender toward him before dumping the ball to Martellus Bennett for 30 yards. Later, on the drive that led to the eventual game-winning touchdown, Cutler saw the middle of the field open on second-and-20 and tucked the ball for an 18-yard gain.
The biggest difference that bodes well was Cutler showed resilience after the mistake and the Bears won because of him — not in spite of him. The Bengals played no small role in helping Cutler by asking safety Reggie Nelson to cover Brandon Marshall one-on-one on the 19-yard touchdown pass.
"You dream about that," Marshall said.
The Bengals created their own nightmare by morphing back into the Bungles. They burned three timeouts they needed in the final minute. They committed eight penalties, including a silly unnecessary roughness flag after a third-down stop that let the Bears run out the clock. They looked like the team with the first-year head coach.
"We had a lot of guys lose composure today," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said.
You would have understood Trestman losing his as he exited the locker room, where his proud family awaited. He hugged his dad, Jerry, kissed his wife, Cindy, and savored the moment he only will experience once. The moment Trestman was ready for when it finally came.
"It was a great win for the city of Chicago," Trestman said.
It was a long time coming, for everybody.