The Chicago Bears know they can’t dwell on the second-half failures of Green Bay and must move on to figure out how to close out games.
“We know how to start real fast,” Bears defensive lineman Akiem Hicks said. “We’ve gotta be able to finish it.”
For all the good stuff the team showed in the 24-23 loss, the reality is that the team is 0-1 and facing a tricky opponent in the Seattle Seahawks, who are also 0-1 after a 27-24 loss at Denver in the opener.
“We’re obsessed with protecting our home field and giving our fans what they want,” Bears offensive guard Kyle Long said, “and obviously we didn’t give them everything we wanted on Sunday night. But our aim is to get a win this week against Seattle.”
Like the Bears, the Seahawks have to lament giving up a fourth-quarter lead and having their final three possessions end in two punts and an interception.
But let’s face it: The Bears’ collapse was different. It was a division game. It was a chance to steal a win from a rival that has tormented them for years. It was a 20-0 lead with less than 20 minutes left.
Long has been around long enough to know that identifying the positives, especially with a largely new group, are important — but the bottom line is undeniable.
“That kind of makes it tougher, too, because you know how much you put into it and how close you came,” Long said. “It was in reach, well within reach. But at the end of the day, you’ve got to move on. We’re 0-1. There are 32 teams in the league and almost half of them started out with a loss. So moving on this week we have an opportunity to go 1-1 and defend our team field. So that’s all we can really aim to do.”
For new head coach Matt Nagy, watching a three-score lead evaporate in the second half had to bring back nightmares of his final game as Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator when they led the Tennessee Titans 21-3 midway through the third quarter before losing 22-21.
Nagy spoke all offseason about the need to be an “aggressive” team. But he said Monday he didn’t even consider going for it on fourth down late in the game instead of kicking a field goal that upped the lead from 20-17 to 23-17.
“If it was less than one, then I think you really have to think about it,” Nagy said. “But we had a play that we really liked, I’m fine with that. I get the whole thing. Trust me, I’m well aware of Aaron Rodgers and scoring a touchdown and how that can happen. I get that. I’m also well aware of when you go for it and you don’t get it and it’s a three-point game, and then a touchdown can put you up more than a field goal. I feel comfortable with that. I’m not concerned about that.”
That’s where the defense, which played exceptionally well in the first half but less so in the second, can help make a coach’s decisions — conservative or aggressive — look smarter.
The Bears allowed the Packers to gain four first downs and 71 yards, sacking Rodgers and DeShone Kizer four times, including one by Hicks. After halftime, the Packers gained 299 yards on 32 plays (9.3-yard average) and barely touched Rodgers.
Hicks, though, didn’t want to paint it simply as a good-half, bad-half game.
“I really look at the whole game. The whole game, there’s always things you want to get better at,” Hicks said. “You hate to leave stuff on the table. I feel like I left a sack out there.”
Cleaning that up against the Seahawks will be important, even if this isn’t the same juggernaut this team has been in the past. QB Russell Wilson still can pull rabbits out of his hat, and they were one of the NFL’s best fourth-quarter teams last season, outscoring opponents 142-64.
Hicks thinks the Bears have the defensive unit — especially after Khalil Mack’s brilliant debut and with Roquan Smith upping his workload — to get it done.
“I think overall, though, our defense we’re really clicking,” Hicks said. “We’re together on a lot of things. I think that when you saw us make a mistake it would be one thing going wrong rather than everybody, just mayhem.
“I feel like as a whole, we’re gonna be able to pull it together. We’ve got a great defensive unit. I think that we showed ourselves how dominant we can be in the first half. But in the second half, there were things that we needed to pick up.”