“Hello Darkness My Old Friend.”
2019 was supposed to be a different year for the Chicago Bears. A reigning Coach of the Year, a third-year quarterback who with the potential for a next step, a defense that looked to remain dominant. They even signed a kicker not named Cody Parkey. And yet, after a 17-16 loss that included a missed field goal at the final second, the Bears are reeling, standing at 3-4 and last place in the NFC North.
It felt different than last week’s performance, a dismal trouncing at the hands of the Saints, but a loss is a loss, and the Bears showed a different set of problems than they did last week.
The biggest frustration against New Orleans was with the running game, both from a production and usage standpoint. Nagy owned up to his mistakes in the media and to his players, vowing to run the ball more and describing seven carries as “horseshit” in a NFL.com story That promise came to fruition on Sunday as the Bears ran the ball 38 times for 162 yards. David Montgomery got the bulk of those numbers with 27 carries for 135 yards and a touchdown, including a 55-yard scamper, in what was easily the best day of his NFL career.
The formula was what the formula was. We were just going with the game. Some games are run. Some games are pass. You just go with what works. The play calling was awesome today. Everybody did their part. The ball just didn’t roll in our corner.”-David Montgomery
The much-maligned Mitchell Trubisky also took a step forward from last week, although that is a fairly short bar. 25 of 35 for 253 yards is nothing to write home about, but it’s where we’re at. Nagy’s play calling seemed to improve, and angry football Twitter could breathe easy knowing the I-formation was still alive in Nagy’s play selection.
“Things weren’t happening in the backend,” Nagy said Monday. “There was no penetration. Things were happening, even a yard on the other side, and you guys saw yesterday how hard David (Montgomery) runs. He runs the ball hard. I don’t know how many broken tackles he had yesterday.
“Who knows, maybe we come out running like Wing-T or something next week and we win.”Matt Nagy
The box score would say the Bears dominated this game. They out gained the chargers 388 yards to 221, collected 26 first downs to LA’s 11, and controlled the ball for 38 minutes. Between the 20s, the Bears thoroughly outplayed the Chargers.
It was what happened inside the red zone that killed them.
The Bears got to within the Chargers’ 20 on four drives in the first half, running 16 plays for a total 14 yards. Nine points was the reward, as Eddy Piñeiro missed a gimme 33-yard field goal, but hit his other three attempts. The particularly damning, end-of-half drive saw Chargers penalties give the Bears two lifelines in goal-to-go, and a field goal was the result. A Montgomery run on second down came with no timeouts and 25 seconds. The Chargers stopped him short of the end zone, letting the clock tick on as they took their time getting set. The Bears managed to spike the ball with one second remaining to set up a field goal and go into halftime up 9-7, but with an array of boos.
The Bears put together an imposing touchdown drive to open up the second half that took 6:52 off the clock, but it would be the last time they reached the red zone. Getting inside the 20 is hard to do in the NFL, especially after a defense makes adjustments for the second half. The Bears had four opportunities to do major damage to their opponent in the first half, but an inability to get the ball into the end zone cost them points that could have won them the game.
“So, the issue going into this week was red zone drives. “We only had fourteen, and are 29th in the NFL in red zone drives. When we got into the red zone we did well. Then, today, we get a lot of drives into the red zone, and we didn’t do well. That hurt us bad.”-Matt Nagy
As Nagy pointed out, the Bears had struggled mightily getting into the red zone this year. It did hurt them. One might say it hurt them “bad.” They simply left too many points on the board. “I do know I think there’s a play or two where I think we went back,” Nagy said. “I’m not going to get into that. But we’ve got to be better. Our defense — to play the way they did and for us to — we moved the ball finally down into that area, and we feel so confident when we get into that red zone that we’re going to strike and we’re going to get touchdowns.”
Nagy has taken a severe amount of heat for how he handled the final drive of the game. After marching their way down to the Chargers 21-yard line, Matt Nagy elected to take a knee on first down with 43 seconds left, call a time out once the clock hit :03 and let his kicker make a 41-yard field goal. The obvious rebuttal to this is that they should have ran one more play to get closer to the goalposts, which is fair enough. Nagy’s reason, whether you agree or disagree with it, is that he didn’t want to risk losing yardage, a turnover or a fumble. Either way, he trusted his kicker could make a 41-yard field goal, the distance that NFL kickers make their money on. It is a reasonable request of a kicker the Bears created an entire circus looking for.
Then, Piñiero missed the kick.
Did Nagy make a mistake taking a knee? Did he not trust his players? Or does Piñeiro simply have to make that kick?
“It’s not concerning about anything can go wrong,” Nagy said. “That’s not what this is. It’s not about trust. It’s about playing smart. It’s a 40-yard field goal. Think about that. That takes nothing away from Piñeiro, we love Eddy. We’ve got all the faith in the world that he’s going to bounce back… I’m very very comfortable knowing if I’m in that exact situation again, at that same yard line, I’m going to do the same thing.”
Questionable coaching and poor execution. The story of the Bears’ season summed up in two plays. The Bears are headed nowhere fast and the biggest problem of the off season, the problem that may have distracted from underlying issues with the roster, has reared its ugly head. The offensive line is not performing as well as it did last year. The team had very few injuries and played a fourth-place schedule. The Bears are a last-place team and the honeymoon phase is long over, both for Nagy and Mitchell Trubisky. The Bears are a talented team and a convincing win over the Eagles next week could flip the narrative just like that. But there appears to be a reckoning brewing if things don’t turn around. The remaining games don’t bode well for this team that struggles in offense and special teams. In addition to Philly, Chicago plays the Rams, Cowboys, Chiefs, Packers, Vikes, and Lions (twice.) Only the Giants present a beatable foe. Certainly no gimme at this point.
Twitter: @crbevins11 @radiomogul