The Bears’ first drive since their bye last week was a one-yard run by Tarik Cohen, a six-yard completion by Mitchell Trubisky to Allen Robinson and an incompletion to Robinson. Two weeks to prepare a statement drive netted seven total yards in a three-and-out. Pat O’Donnell’s ensuing punt was blocked and punched out of the back of the end zone by him, giving the Saints a quick two points and the Bears a swift punch in the mouth.
If that’s not an omen, I don’t know what is.
The Saints would go on to dominate a listless Bears team in a 36-25 game that was not nearly that close. The Bears, who have fielded one of football’s worst offenses to this point, gained a meager 252 total yards that includes a period of garbage time lasting nearly the whole fourth quarter. Matt Nagy was outcoached, Trubisky was outdueled and the Bears were outplayed by a Saints team who showed what it looks like to be the class of the NFC.
A clearly frustrated Matt Nagy was asked what went wrong offensively after the game: “I don’t know. I’ve got to go back and see it. I’d love to give you more answers, I just know, not good.”
About everything went wrong for the offense.
Nagy’s playcalling has come under heavy scrutiny and continued to be a problem on Sunday. The Bears have kept up with the modern-NFL and become a pass-first team. But on Sunday, they were a pass-only team, with Trubisky totaling 54 attempts and the Bears running only seven times.
I know we need to run the ball more. I’m not an idiot.”-Matt Nagy
Nothing has worked on the ground game, as made evident by David Montgomery’s 3.3 yards per carry. The Bears can’t get any sort of a push upfront while run-blocking. It seems you have a better chance at seeing Bigfoot in the wild than a Bears running back get to the second level. And yes, this is the NFL in 2019 where rushes have become less valuable and the inefficiencies of relying on the ground game are known. But seven rushes? That is far too little, especially when, as Laurence Holmes pointed out on the Football After Show, nothing worked through the air either. Kyle Long had underperformed this year before his injury and may have played his last snap as a Bear. There were questions as to how the former All-Pro would be replaced, ut Rashaad Coward actually played well in Long’s absence. Still, it wasn’t enough to get any sort of offense going.
I really thought our run game would be better.”-Matt Nagy
As for Mitchell Trubisky, who finished his day with two garbage-time touchdowns, the maddening frustrations continue. After three years in the NFL, his inaccuracies created by poor footwork would be corrected, but they remain an issue; per NFL’s Next Gen Stats, he ranks toward the bottom of the league in Expected Completion Percentage +/-, completing 2.6% fewer passes than he should. He finished Sunday with a QBR of 29.6 and has averaged only 5.2 yards per attempt this season. After offseason praises of him really improving his grip on the offense, he looks worse than he did last season.
“The growth of this offense needs to be better,” Nagy said today. “That territory of [quarterback], it always starts there. It always does. But what I have to remind everybody else is that there’s other parts to this system, not just the quarterback play.”
“I mean, right now we have no identity,” Trubisky said postgame. “We’re just searching. We don’t have any rhythm. We’re not the offense we were last year, and every year is different, every game is different. We’ve just got to find ways, look within ourselves, and we’ve got to have guys step up.”
The only bright spot on offense this season has been Allen Robinson, who has 464 yards and 41 receptions. Other than that, the Bears’ pass-catchers have either been underserved by Trubisky, or he has underserved them. Tarik Cohen had nine catches for 19 yards, for example. More than likely, it’s a combination of both.
The Bears’ defense has not been what it was last year, especially without Akiem Hicks. They are fifth in defensive DVOA and are middle of the pack and have allowed over 150 rushing yards in each of their last two games. Not having that massive man on the interior shows how invaluable he was to their run defense. Oakland gained 398 total yards on them and New Orleans, a team without their Hall of Fame quarterback, All-Pro-caliber running back and starting tight end, put up 424 on Sunday.
This was the biggest concern about the Bears: The defense was likely to take a step back. Could the offense pick up the slack for inevitable regression? So far, the offense has taken a step back, only better than the Jets and Dolphins in yards per game.
Nagy said Monday, “Me as a head coach and us as a team, this is the part of the season right now, where we’re at, that when Ryan (Pace) and I always get together in the offseason… there’s going to be peaks and valleys and there’s going to be times where it’s going to be tough sledding.”
The Bears were 3-3 last year, then went on to win five in a row and eventually make the playoffs. But this year has a different feel. Trubisky’s struggles are more pronounced, and the defense has not played as well this year as they had through six games last year. The honeymoon phase with a new head coach and a new offense has run its course, and it’s time the Bears show more this year than last.
Sunday was a game between two teams headed in opposite directions. The Saints have gone 5-0 with Teddy Bridgewater since Drew Brees went down and have remained the model of consistency they’ve been under Sean Payton. The Bears are reeling. Changes may come, be it a move for a quarterback or a change in play-callers. Whatever it may be, the clock is ticking. They have until 2021 until the core of this team, Tarik Cohen, Eddie Jackson, Allen Robinson and Leonard Floyd, hit free agency and become expensive. A quick turn-around is needed, but if Sunday the result of two weeks of preparation, things could get real dicey in Chicago.
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