Saints 21 – Bears 9
It takes a nearly flawless game to overcome a superior opponent. Even though Chicago didn’t turn over the ball once, and intercepted Drew Brees, it was costly penalties and the ejection of wide receiver Anthony Miller that proved too much for the Bears.
The game literally slipped through their hands, when Javon Wims was unable to haul in a sure touchdown catch on a trick play late in the first quarter.
Matt Nagy said after the game, “It’s always difficult coming off a loss at any point. Being the end of the season, there’s a lot of emotions in that locker room. It’s been a long year. and we’ve been through a lot. It’s not where we want to be, so we understand that we got to grow from this in a lot of areas. When you have an opportunity to make some big plays, you got to be able to make those opportunities against a really good football team. Credit to Sean Payton and that team. They got a lot of great things going there. They’re tough. In all three phases for us, we didn’t put it together.”
Despite hanging in there with only a 7-3 halftime deficit, the levee broke open in the third quarter, when the Saints scored twice on touchdown drives that consumed sixteen of the ensuing twenty minutes of game time. On the first drive, New Orleans was aided by an Eddie Jackson offsides violation on a 4th and 3 at the Chicago 13-yard line. Two plays later Latavius Murray caught an 8-yard touchdown pass from Drew Brees.
Also in the third quarter, the Bears already thin receiver corps took a hit, so to speak, when Miller was ejected for retaliating at safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson. Rookie WR Darnell Mooney, the second best pass catching threat for Chicago, was already inactive prior to game time.
You got to respect your opponent. There;s a reason why Drew Brees and Sean Payton have been doing their thing here in New Orleans for a long time. They played good ball today. Sean Payton coached a good game. It’s unfortunate that we didn’t come out of here today with a ‘W’, but I still have a strong belief in my team, my defense.”-Akiem Hicks
Forty-one year old Brees connected on 28 of 39 pass attempts for 265 yards. A good chunk of Chicago QB Mitch Trubisky’s 199 passing yards came on the last, insignificant drive of the game. The real question now is whether that was Trubisky’s last game in a Bear uniform. The following day, Mitch reiterated his desire to remain in Chicago.
“Obviously a lot of that’s out of my control. It feels like home, and it feels like we have unfinished business.”-Mitch Trubisky
Mitch also talked about processing the uncertainty. “I think it’s emotional. It was in the locker room. We’ve been through so much this year as a team. A lot of these guys I’ve been with for four years. That’s really special to me, especially some of the guys up front. They’ve had my back since I’ve been here. It’s tough, but you try to think not too far down the line and just take it one day at a time. I know there’s decisions that are going to be made this offseason. I feel like I’ve gotten better over these four years. I’m proud of where I’m at, and where we battled and how we got better over the years. I’ll stay positive and keep believing.
Lastly, Trubisky was asked about his performance after the mid season benching, “I feel like I got better. I felt like when i was put back in the starting lineup the offense was better and I gave my team a chance to win. And we did win games. That’s why we were able to get back into the playoffs. It wasn’t just me, but it was the whole unit coming together, and the team making plays, and really getting through the adversity together. But I fell like I was a big part of that.
That is not the only question facing this team in the offseason. Can they re-sign their best pass catcher, Allen Robinson II? Will there be changes in the front office and coaching staff? Reports after the regular season finale seemed to indicate that Matt Nagy’s job was safe. But who can say the same for the rest of his staff. It seems that he needs more help game planning to take better advantage of Trubisky’s skills. That of course depends on whether he stays in Chicago.
“I’m going to take it easy over the next few weeks. Everything is on the table.”-Allen Robinson on his future with the Bears
Nagy final thoughts, “I think what we need to do as a staff as ask, ‘how do we get better?’ No matter what your identity is, you always got to be able to run the football. You have to be able to do that. Then you get more second and fives, and second and fours, which keeps you out of the third and longs. In the next couple of weeks we’ll really start figuring out where are we? How do we get better. I know this isn’t good enough.The goal is not to make the playoffs. The goal is to win the Super Bowl.”
It remains to be seen if Nagy will have that chance, whether he will have to make changes to his staff, or if Ryan Pace will still be his boss.