Week 15 of a tumultuous 2019 Bears season still carried an outside hope of the playoffs, however small those hopes may have been. The Bears, fresh off an impressive showing against the Dallas Cowboys over a week ago, could improve their playoff hopes in the 200th meeting them and the Packers. Those hopes were officially put away on Sunday, as the Bears were eliminated from playoff contention after losing to Green Bay for the second time this season.
“We want to do better,” head coach Matt Nagy said postgame. “So you’ve got to be able to score touchdowns, and that’s pretty much for us common sense. We want to be better there.”
After stringing together three promising offensive performances, the Bears reverted back to their early-season struggles on Sunday, scoring a lone touchdown that came in the fourth quarter. Combined with two field goals earlier in the game, the Bears were in striking distance down 21-13. But to top off another brutal day to the Packers, a miracle play at the end of the game was prevented by Jesper Horsted’s failure to pitch to a wide-open Allen Robinson.
“In hindsight I should have gotten there a little bit earlier,” Horsted said. “But it was moving quickly and it was a little bit hard to see what exactly was going on to the right when I was focusing on straight and left.”
No miracles could save the Bears on Sunday, and none such miracles can save a season that fell so short of expectations. The same script that haunted the Bears throughout most of the season was repeated, with the defense not being able to sustain the offense’s inability to finish drives and put points on the board. The Packers put up only 292 total yards of offense compared to the Bears’ 415. But the efficiency at which the Packers scored, three touchdowns on 58 plays, could not be matched by the Bears.
Mitchell Trubisky’s 334-yards can only mean so much when one of those passes is for a touchdown and two are for interceptions. His completion percentage, which was over 74% for two weeks in a row entering Sunday, dipped to 54.7% against the Packers, and his 6.3 yards per attempt looked more like the quarterback we saw at the beginning of the year.
“We just weren’t consistent,” Trubisky said. “We really didn’t have a flow or rhythm throughout the game, sputtered out a couple times, had some negative plays.”
The Bears offense had found success as of late, particularly against the Cowboys in Week 14, by playing to the quarterback’s strengths, a phrase thrown around so often that it’s almost a cliche at this point. Trubisky and the offense were efficient off of play-action, moving the pocket around and letting the quarterback use his legs. Those things weren’t there against Green Bay, where Trubisky was forced to be a pocket-passer behind an offensive line that couldn’t keep a clean pocket.
The disappearance of a philosophy that worked led Trubisky to reveal his thoughts about the game plan’s effectiveness:
They have a really good front. I felt like our O-line played really well. I felt like we could have taken more pressure off them moving the pocket a little more and I [get] out, but they’ve done a great job of that all year long and that’s what they hang their hat on and they did that today. We’ve just got to find ways to take pressure off our O-line with a good pass rush like that, continue to mix it up, whether it’s screens, running it, draws, all that kind of stuff that helps. But credit to them, they’re a good defense.”Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky
A defensive game plan can dictate how a quarterback’s mobility is used, and Packers coach Matt LaFleur made it clear that taking away Trubisky’s rushing was a defensive priority, saying, “I think that obviously we did enough to get it done. But yeah, we did not want him to get loose with his legs.” Trubisky not getting involved in the run-game can be chalked up to the Packers’ approach, at least to an extent.
But getting Trubisky outside the pocket just wasn’t in the game plan, despite one of the biggest plays of the day coming on a rollout to Trubisky’s right off play-action.
After the game, Aaron Rodgers revealed what LaFleur’s aggressiveness says about his offense: “Well, that he trusts us. I think he’s coaching to win.” Compare this to Trubisky’s vocality about the gameplan, and the Bears and Packers are in two very different places.
The rest of the season will be judged on what the Bears’ scheme looks like. Will it be the efficient machine it was against Dallas? Or will it continue to sputter as it has for most of the season?
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