At the end of a brutal Sunday afternoon, on the heels of his team’s fifth consecutive loss, with the aggravation of a fed-up city echoing into the evening, Chicago Bears coach Matt Nagy stood at a lectern inside Soldier Field and stammered his way through a recap.
Nagy had to find some way to describe his team’s galling 16-13 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, an unbelievable defeat characterized by confusion, chaos and collapse. Nagy had to answer for all that went wrong as the Bears — on the doorstep of a relieving victory — again found a way to slip on a banana peel, fall into a pit of quicksand and get stuck directly under a cloud of falling anvils.
Honestly, that’s how cartoonish this has become. There are new and surreal twists to the same old painful story. A once-proud football franchise remains floundering and seemingly directionless.
“(This sits with me) just like it sits with everybody else,” Nagy said. “You’ve got to finish.”
Even after a game-winning moment — Andy Dalton’s 49-yard touchdown pass to Marquise Goodwin on fourth-and-11 with 1 minute, 41 seconds remaining — the Bears lost their 13-9 lead in just five plays with Ravens quarterback Tyler Huntley leading a 72-yard, game-winning touchdown drive.
Yep, Tyler Huntley. A second-year undrafted quarterback, subbing for MVP candidate Lamar Jackson (illness) and making his first NFL start. Huntley set up Devonta Freeman’s 3-yard, go-ahead touchdown run with a 29-yard completion to Sammy Watkins on third-and-12 against a totally blown coverage.
“Can’t happen,” Nagy said.
But it did happen. Because of course it did.
Teams with a lengthy track record of 40-plus-day losing streaks find ways to consistently step in it.
Said linebacker Alec Ogletree: “Most games are lost by not being detailed and doing your job.”
Added edge rusher Robert Quinn: “Right now, it’s sickening.”
In pockets around Soldier Field, chants for Nagy’s exit were louder in the fourth quarter than they’ve ever been.
“Fi-re Nag-y! Fi-re Nag-y! Fi-re Nag-y!”
And that’s the chorus we can print. Asked how he can possibly retain belief internally as his approval rating plummets and outside dissatisfaction amplifies, Nagy promised resolve.
“You keep fighting,” he said. “You keep believing in each other and you keep it real simple. You never stop fighting. That’s all you can do.”
Fight, of course, goes only so far. At this point, the Bears need far more.
Make no mistake: This was a four-phase loss. Offense, defense, special teams and coaching. A grand slam of football ineptitude.
Want a sampling?
The same offense that left Pittsburgh two weeks ago feeling like its production uptick in the second half of a loss to the Steelers signified a breakthrough managed just 126 yards and six first downs during a scoreless first half. It was the 21st time in 43 games over the last three seasons that Nagy’s offense failed to score a touchdown before halftime. Yikes.
We’ll have more on the defense shortly. But after producing six sacks, coming up with a key fourth-quarter interception and holding the Ravens to three field goals over their first 10 possessions, the Bears allowed that game-deciding, 72-yard touchdown drive in the final two minutes. To Tyler Huntley. Whoa.
“I thought we stuck to our game plan and executed it well,” Ogletree said. “All the way up until the end.”
Cairo Santos pulled a 40-yard field-goal attempt wide left in the first quarter. It was a costly miss that ended a solid opening drive. In the fourth quarter, the Bears punt team was leaky enough up front to let Ravens receiver James Proche II partially block a punt, giving the Ravens possession at the Bears 45-yard line to start a key field-goal drive.
And coaching? My goodness, where do we even start?
How does a team coming off its bye week look this flat yet again?
How did the offense fail to find any rhythm in the five drives rookie Justin Fields led before suffering injured ribs in the second half?
Why is there always such inexcusable sloppiness, like the 12-men-on-the-field violation against the defense in the third quarter or the fourth-and-6 false start on left tackle Jason Peters immediately before Dalton’s go-ahead touchdown pass?
Even with their own injury problems, how did the Bears not take advantage of a home game against a Ravens team missing Jackson, top receiver Marquise Brown, running backs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards, left tackle Ronnie Stanley, cornerbacks Marcus Peters, Anthony Averett and Jimmy Smith, safety DeShon Elliott and defensive lineman Derek Wolfe?
Plus it’s never a good sign when your coach is asked in his postgame news conference to explain the head-scratching usage of all three of his second-half timeouts. But here we are.
An untimely malfunction
Nagy used his first timeout early in the fourth quarter during a chaotic sequence immediately after the Bears tried a third-and-1 deep shot to Darnell Mooney. When Mooney failed to secure the ball inbounds, the Bears’ punt-or-go decision included more miscommunication and confusion than even the wackiest episode of “Three’s Company.”
The chaos included — what else? — an untimely malfunction of Nagy’s headset as he was trying to offer input.
“I thought I was talking to the guys,” he said, “and I wasn’t.”
Nagy took three questions and used 292 words after the game to try to spell out that episode. The Cliff’s Notes version? Something along the lines of the headset failure didn’t allow Nagy to participate in the conversation, so he opted to punt to play the field-position game. But when the headset came back on, he reconsidered and wanted to stay aggressive and go for it.
Alas, after all of that and coming out of a timeout, David Montgomery’s run from a wildcat formation on fourth-and-1 was stopped for no gain.
“That’s the play we had (ready) all week long,” Nagy said. “That’s not a new play or anything we made up. If you get it, it looks good. If you don’t get it, it looks bad.”
The Bears’ final timeout came after Goodwin’s touchdown put them ahead by four with 1:41 remaining. Third-grade math and every NFL analytics chart known to man suggest a two-point conversion attempt is the only logical option. Yet the Bears sent their kicking unit onto the field, then had to use a timeout to get the offense back out there. Then they failed to convert anyway.
Asked directly why he ever would send out the kicking unit in that situation, Nagy responded: “That’s part of the process of, ‘Do you go up five (points) or do you go up six?’ That’s the communication part.”
Right. Obviously. And certainly Nagy realizes there is zero benefit to going ahead by five at that stage of the game. He has to, right? Still, the fact the Bears weren’t ready for even the simplest of late-game situations speaks volumes. About everything.
‘It sounds comical’
The Bears have one of the league’s most abysmal offenses, averaging just 287.9 yards and 1.6 touchdowns per game. Their defense, while more respectable, has allowed pivotal scoring drives late in the fourth quarter of the last three games, turning potential wins into dispiriting losses.
And from a coaching standpoint, there is so little evidence that this staff, with Nagy at the helm, is on the right path to finding solutions to launch this team back into championship contention.
In the days ahead, perhaps a better explanation will be provided from Halas Hall as to what went awry on Watkins’ game-changing, 29-yard catch down to the 3-yard line with 25 seconds remaining. On third-and-12, with a four-point lead and a blitz called, the only thing the Bears couldn’t afford was to give up a big play.
Yet with Huntley scrambling to his right, Watkins sneaked up the right sideline all alone, uncovered from the snap and with safety Deon Bush too far away to close the distance.
“He was wide open,” Huntley said. “I was happy that I saw him.”
Added Ogletree: “At crunch time is where you have to be at your best. Today, we didn’t go out there and finish the job.”
No wonder so many Bears players seemed so heartsick immediately after this latest maddening loss.
Quinn seemed truly exasperated with the way the Bears let the game slip away. He shook his head in disbelief describing the mindset of the defense and the on-field dialogue heading out for that final drive.
“It sounds comical now to think about,” Quinn said. “It was making sure guys do their one-eleventh so they didn’t score. And well? They scored.”
Goodwin acknowledged he felt dizzied by the day’s events and needed time to better process what it all means.
“It’s like when your girlfriend breaks up with you,” he said. “Y’all are having a good time and she just dumps you out of nowhere. You know what I mean? You just have to bounce back. That’s the best way I can explain it.”
Predictably, the Bears pulled out all of the convenient talking points about quickly flipping the page and looking in the mirror and gearing up for the next game with the right mindset. But at 3-7 and winless since Oct. 10, the hopelessness is intensifying.
The winless Detroit Lions are next on the schedule. In a few days, the Bears will fly to Detroit for a Thanksgiving reunion with the division punching bag. But that might not necessarily be a good thing. Not the way this team is malfunctioning. Not with how disjointed and dejected it seems to be.
What if, on a short week with dwindling emotional reserves, the Bears drop another dud and lose to the Lions under Nagy’s watch?
Can’t happen, right?
But if it does, what would the repercussions be?
Source: Berkshire mont