A disappointing start has the Chicago Bears feeling the chill as their season is slipping away. You can see it in their pressers. You can read it in the tone of the headlines. And you can certainly hear it as fans have rained boos down on this team. The 17-16 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers is just the latest of what feels like Groundhog Day with the 2018 Wild Card Loss.
The entire brain trust has come under fire. On one hand, they have assembled this stout defense. On the other, they have assembled this offense. One is widely believed to have championship mettle. The other has been the bane of the fanbase’s existence long before the arrival of the current regime.
As Season Slips, Chicago Bears Feeling the Chill
How We Got Here
It started a couple of weeks ago after a stunning loss to the Oakland Raiders that saw the Bears get blown off the ball to the tune of 169 yards on the ground. That actually followed a three-game winning streak that featured what appeared to be the Bears offense waking up out of the malaise that afflicted it to begin the year.
Instead, the following week, we saw the Bears get steamrolled in the second half by the New Orleans Saints. That the Bears were coming off their bye is secondary to the fact that the Bears lost back-to-back games to teams with numerous injuries. The year was already going to be tough with a first-place schedule. The offense has simply imploded.
Then, to drive home just how much of an uphill battle this year is, the Bears have another offensive breakout on Sunday, similar to the one they experienced against the Washington Redskins. Mitchell Trubisky escaped that game with one interception. This time, the Chargers, also a very injured team, made him pay for his mistakes.
On back-to-back drives in the fourth quarter, and leading 16-10, Trubisky threw an interception and then fumbled. The Chargers only capitalized on one, scoring a touchdown on the drive following the fumble but missing a prior field goal attempt after the pick. Regardless, both turnovers were awful.
Trubisky drove Chicago into field-goal range. Down one, with 43 seconds left on the clock. Matt Nagy conceded the drive and took a knee. Eddy Pineiro (who went three of five) came on to attempt a game-winning 41-yarder (two yards short of the Cody Parkey kick). He had already missed a 33-yard try in the first quarter and missed again for the game.
Coach Nagy is addressing the media following #LACvsCHI. https://t.co/lpNj9ttndh
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) October 27, 2019
Not So Fast
The game really shouldn’t have come down to Pineiro, though. The Chargers entered Week 8 allowing 10 touchdowns on 39 red zone plays. Sunday the Bears ran 16 plays in the Los Angeles red zone in the first half alone and only had 14 yards and nine points to show for it. On first and goal from the one-yard line with 29 seconds until halftime, the Bears called a pass.
After the game, Nagy, bristling, said that he gave no thought to trying anything other than what they did to end the game. The opposite should have been true with the ball at the one, thanks to a pass interference penalty that resulted in a fresh set of downs. David Montgomery had 73 rushing yards to that point; 55 on one play that same drive.
Instead, it felt like the coach got in his own way yet again. Nagy had previously stated he wasn’t brought in to run the I-Formation. But the Bears saw constant success with it despite the absence of a true full back. And yet, in the aforementioned situation, the Bears had to settle for three points instead of seven.
Earlier the Bears squandered a similar possession set up by Kyle Fuller’s 28-yard interception return. The offense got the ball at the four-yard line and, just as they would later, attempted a pass on first down that went for six yards. They would throw the ball two more times; once to Adam Shaheen and the other to Trey Burton. Both were incompletions.
The Bears would get the ball to the Chargers four-yard line yet again on an 11-play, 75-yard drive in the third quarter. A drive capped by a four-yard Montgomery touchdown run. Chicago wouldn’t make it back to the red zone. Those early trips might have led to a revelation resulting in the touchdown run. But that is a decision that should be easier to make.
On the Hook
A poll might show the majority is out on Trubisky. But, until recently, Nagy had mostly escaped harsh criticism from the media or fans. Aside from his aversion to running the ball consistently, most felt he was handcuffed to a sub-par quarterback that was hamstringing this team. That may still be true but Nagy isn’t doing his team or himself any favors.
The calls are one thing; not many people can say they have called plays in-game in the NFL so there is some give there. But to respond as he has of late makes him come off as stubborn rather than just a coach holding true to his motto, Be You. Still, he has also been wont to note the importance of self-scouting.
He recently said that he learned from Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid to never change. In two years, he really hasn’t. In spite of seeing the clear evidence that Los Angeles could not stop the run. L.A. was so busy trying that they allowed Trubisky to have some moments. But the back-to-back turnovers weighed heavy on the decision making in the end.
That the Bears took as many red-zone trips as they did is a testament to the game plan that saw the Bears run the ball 38 times. Coming away with field goals on the majority of those drives is an indictment of how the trips were called. It was Occam’s Razor in motion when they finally got the plunge; coming to a conclusion many looking on had come to long before.
We have seen this offense operate under a bad quarterback and his backup. Maybe Nagy isn’t bending because he is protesting what he has been provided at the position. The alternative is that he is simply as bull-headed as he seems and will likely be gone sooner than later.
Bears Season Slipping Away
All of the negativity and the Bears are still very alive in the playoff hunt. They have found different ways to lose each of the last three games though and can’t withstand much more. A loss to the Philadelphia Eagles next week would feel like the nail in the coffin. The Eagles have beaten the Bears in four straight including that fateful playoff loss.
With the season quickly slipping away the Bears need a win in the worst way. The blame has already been put on Trubisky. It is beginning to claim Nagy. At this rate, the calls for Ryan Pace will be deafening by week 10. It is a shame that they are in this position after such a strong season a year ago. The NFL is, indeed, a year-to-year league.
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