Lovie Smith didn’t mind Chicago getting stopped at the 1-yard line trailing by a point with nine minutes to play. He would have hated taking a two-point lead.

Lovie Smith didn’t mind Chicago getting stopped at the 1-yard line trailing by a point with nine minutes to play.


He would have hated taking a two-point lead.


“We were playing great defense,” Chicago’s coach said after the Bears edged the Lions 19-14 Sunday. “I just didn’t feel good about having three points in that situation. The worst-case scenario would have been for us not to get it and we had them backed up.


“I would make that call every time.”


Except he didn’t. Smith went for it in the fourth quarter after having already been stopped three times from the 1. He ordered a field goal in the first quarter after one failed Matt Forte run from the 1.


“I said I would make THAT call at THAT time every time,” Smith said. “It’s different situations. Early on, we wanted to get some points on the board. Later in the game, I just like what ended up happening at the end.”


That’s because Smith said it’s dangerous to let a team “hang around” needing only a field goal to win. “I wanted to at least put it where they had to make a touchdown,” he said. “I didn’t feel they would be able to get that. But just get close for a field goal, that would have been different.”


Detroit proved that at the end, marching 58 yards in the last 87 seconds to reach Chicago’s 25.


“That call helped us win the game,” Smith said.


That call helped Chicago get two more good chances to score, starting at its 41- and 44-yard lines, because the Lions played conservatively backed up at their own 1 and 14 with backup quarterback Shaun Hill.


The key is Chicago still had nine minutes left. And it was against the toothless and scared Lions. Two years ago, the Bears failed on four consecutive plays from the 1 in Minnesota, then gave up a 99-yard touchdown on the very next play. The Lions didn’t pose that threat.


Not on offense. But the Lions’ strength on defense, just like that of the Vikings, is on the defensive line. So why keep running Forte?


Forte is not a good goal-line runner. He’s too tentative. He looks for holes that aren’t there instead of putting his head down and forcing his way in.


Why not run a quarterback sneak?


“That’s almost impossible because they’ve got six guys in there,” Forte said. “A quarterback sneak is not attainable. The thing was to try to get push on them and lead with somebody so we can get a yard.”


It’s easier to push six guys than nine or 10. Handing off to a running back gives the linebackers and safeties time to get involved. That makes it more “impossible.” As the Bears keep finding out.


“We were on the 1-inch line,” Forte said.


Then sneak it. Twice if you have to.


The play calling was the problem, not the decision to go for it. Or maybe even the choice of taking the early field goal.


“Early in the game,” Forte said, “it’s important to get three points on the board. It came in handy.”


Indeed, Gregg Easterbrook, who writes ESPN.com’s Tuesday Morning Quarterback column, maintains teams should always: “Kick early and go for it late.”


What should have been Lovie’s most controversial call was the game-winning TD pass.


Think about it: Chicago faced second-and-18 at the 28 with less than two minutes left, with Detroit down to one timeout. A sack takes the Bears out of field goal range. A couple of short passes or a rollout run by Jay Cutler set up an easy field goal and leave the Lions with no timeouts and about 50 seconds to play. A first down lets Chicago kick the winning points as time expires.


Instead, the best-case scenario — Forte making a tough catch in double coverage — left the Lions with a timeout and the urgency and time to mount what should have been a game-winning drive. The Bears won only because a hot-dogging Calvin Johnson didn’t hold onto a 25-yard pass long enough in the end zone.


Cutler’s winning TD pass was a low-percentage play. But it showed aggressiveness from a team that’s played scared on offense for 60 years. Ditto for the fourth-down, fourth-quarter call.


“Except for that goal-line stand, we were moving the ball most of the time,” Lovie Smith said. “There was nothing that said we couldn’t get a touchdown. Of course, that was getting it the hard way.”


Making it look so hard infuriated many Bears fans. But the Bears not being scared of the hard way should encourage them.


Matt Trowbridge can be reached at 815-987-1383 or mtrowbridge@rrstar.com.