The Bears have been wilting under the weight of expectations from the outset in 2019, when they’ve regressed no less than four wins from last year’s division title campaign, literally fumbling on the first play of Week 1.
Not often, though, has Matt Nagy openly questioned his team’s focus the way he did in the immediate aftermath of its least competitive defeat, 26-3, courtesy of (all teams) his old pals from Kansas City.
It wasn’t stunning given it was Nagy’s Bears first-ever game without playoff hopes, in prime time with all of the obvious storylines, against a Chiefs club looking like a bona fide Super Bowl heavyweight in late December. It was jarring because competitiveness has been the hallmark of Nagy’s club, which had suffered only one of its first 12 losses by double digits, with an average overall margin of only 4.8 points.
The Bears are a bad football team right now, the kind that struggles with details and doing the little things well. This is not news, and so the litany of mistakes Sunday, from Anthony Miller’s fumble on the first series and Kevin Pierre-Louis’ second crushing running-into-the-kicker penalty of the season, to Mitch Trubisky’s missed deep shot and Aaron Lynch’s 7th (!) offsides penalty in only 234 defensive snaps, and on and on and on, at least on offense, is part of this team’s identity.
“We can overcome those, and we've got to lock in, we've got to understand that that's a part of when they hit they're good, when they don't hit they're bad,” Nagy said of Miller’s fumble on an end-around losing 10 yards, the latest in a season of potentially promising drive killers. “… First play of the game in Green Bay, you know? So, when you look at that, none of this is criticism on the players, but we've got to learn from this. We've got to understand that this is the why part that we talk about. And so we've got to all lock in. I've got to lock in better. Our coaches need to lock in better, our players need [to]. When we do that, I think we can be pretty scary. We didn't do that this year.”
Nagy mentioned Monday the importance of turnover differential, one of myriad stats the Bears have markedly precipitated (from plus-12 to minus-2) this season, but because last night was a turnover-free game for both clubs, here are a few others that help illustrate the messy overall operation relative to last season:
Third down on offense: 24th/11th
Red zone on offense: 22nd/6th
Third downs defense: 11th/4th
Red zone on defense: 17th/5th
Penalties: 100 for 848 yards / 100 for 821 /
Nagy clearly has struggled to be a consistent part of the game-day solution during a humbling second season after earning Coach of the Year honors for his maiden voyage, and we can debate how much his specific handling of the offense has contributed to its failures. But he made it clear Monday he knows the root of what’s infected his team — and he fully intends to find the elixir in what’s become a make-or-break offseason for his regime.
“I don't think that anybody is wrong saying that [the 2019 Bears are undisciplined]. And that's the part of the frustration part for me is I know we're a disciplined team but when you have some of the things that happened yesterday in the game, it's very easy to say that we're undisciplined,” he said. “And that's the part that when I talk about reflection moving forward here, and when I step back and look at everything big-picture wise, that's my job. I need to make sure that that part gets fixed. And that's what I'm going to do. Whatever it takes, however it's done, I'm going to do it. I'm going to be locked in on making sure that these mistakes come to an end.”