Good coaches put players in positions to succeed. Lovie Smith and Mike Martz didn’t do that with Matt Forte at the goal line two weeks ago when he was stopped four times from the 1. They did with Jay Cutler and Desmond Clark on Monday night.

Good coaches put players in positions to succeed.


Lovie Smith and Mike Martz didn’t do that with Matt Forte at the goal line two weeks ago when he was stopped four times from the 1.


They did with Jay Cutler and Desmond Clark on Monday night.


Clark popped wide open on fourth down from the 1, but when he dropped a pass Cutler threw slightly behind him, critics said Smith made a bad decision in passing up the field goal.


No, he didn’t.


Cutler and Clark failed, not Smith and Martz. The play worked. The players didn’t.


If you can’t trust your best offensive player (Cutler) and your most veteran receiver (Clark), whom can you trust?


“We are going to stay aggressive in situations like that,” Smith said.


Good. The Bears (3-0) will win in the long run by putting the ball in Cutler’s hands in the game’s biggest situations.


And they won in the short run, too. Just as in the Lions game, the Bears defense forced a three-and-out when the Packers had to start from the 1 and soon scored the go-ahead touchdown, this time on a Devin Hester 62-yard punt return.


Just as Smith’s backup plan called for.


“We went for it because we thought we could get it, and if we didn’t, we felt we had them backed up and we would get the ball back,” Smith said. “We had plenty of time to do something later on.”


That’s exactly what happened.


Also, just as in the Lions game, as soon as Chicago did score and kick off, the Packers marched right down the field. The Lions lost only because the officials said Calvin Johnson didn’t hold onto the ball long enough in the end zone. The Packers went 72 yards in 12 plays to lead 17-14 on a 3-yard Aaron Rodgers scramble.


The difference is backing the opponents up at the 1, even if it’s because your offense failed, is the best position for a defense. So Smith and Martz did not just put Cutler in a position to succeed, he did the same with Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs and Julius Peppers.


And they did succeed.


And when they did, they put Devin Hester in a position to succeed.


A position Smith kept Hester in despite growing pressure to demote Hester after two uninspired years.


“We were waiting for Devin to come back, and he came back,” Smith said. “It felt like every time he went back there, he had a chance to score.”


Just like the old days. But those days had seemed long gone.


“We haven’t been pleased with what Devin had been doing, but you have to stay patient,” Smith said. “If you talk to most opponents, they’ll still tell you there’s fear when Devin goes back there.”


The way for Hester to succeed is to run forward aggressively. He had been running side-to-side far too much. But not on Monday.


“I was pressing and pressing on it to make sure I really hit it hard this time and don’t second-guess myself,” Hester said. “I’m trying to prove without a doubt that I’m still capable — and our special team unit is still capable — of taking a punt to the house.”


The surprising Bears have surprised by playing with more aggressiveness on offense and special teams. Now is not the time to grow conservative and start kicking on fourth-and-1. Now is the time to start playing with the same confidence on defense, instead of allowing 374 and 316 yards passing the last two weeks.


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