After Patrick Mahomes scored his second touchdown and built the Chiefs a 17-0 halftime lead Sunday night, he jogged to the sideline, unfurling his fingers and counting them one by one until he’d reached 10.
The NFL’s reigning MVP wasn’t taunting Bears QB Mitch Trubisky, who wears No. 10, or the Chicago offense, which moments later would complete its 10th first half of the season without a touchdown.
More likely, Mahomes was reminding the Bears — who infamously opted to trade up from No. 3 to No. 2 to select Trubisky over him in the 2017 draft — and at least eight other teams that they passed on the generational quarterback. It was perhaps the lowest of lows Sunday night for the Bears, who fell 26-3 in, mercifully, their final embarrassing performance on a national stage this season.
"I didn't feel like he got into that," Matt Nagy said of the unavoidable and breathless Mahomes-Trubisky storylines this week. "I felt like today, it felt like team vs. team, not player vs. player, not coach vs. coach, is how I felt. ... It just wasn't our day today."
But back for a moment three years earlier, when the Chiefs made their own trade, sending a 2018 first-rounder to Buffalo for the right to move up from No. 27 to 10, injecting Mahomes into a QB room coach Andy Reid this week referred to as “Quarterback University.”
And the rest is history for the Chiefs and, more often than not, misery, or quarterback purgatory, it seems, for the Bears.
Mahomes authored one of the greatest quarterbacking seasons in NFL history in his first year as the starter in 2018, following that up with another mesmerizing campaign this season ending in the Chiefs’ second consecutive AFC West title.
Unsurprisingly, then, as Mahomes was doing Mahomes things Sunday night — Game No. 30 — like becoming the fastest player in NFL history to reach 9,000 passing yards and 75 TD tosses, the Bears were also busy staying on brand, or at least from an offensive standpoint.
Trubisky had a career-low 120 passing yards with less than two minutes remaining, completing only 52.9 of his mostly horizontal passes. Those mostly horizontal passes were reflective of a play caller in Matt Nagy who can praise his quarterback all he wants — his true feelings are conveyed in his conservative play calling, like Trubisky’s first third-and-long pass attempt failing to travel beyond the line of scrimmage.
"Could be a bunch of things," Trubisky said when asked to explain his and the Bears' lifeless performance. "Bad execution. Not locked in. ... They came to play; we didn't."
And arguably the Bears’ even greater concern following their first game of the Nagy regime without postseason aspirations was a stunning lack of competence and discipline from his players not named Trubisky. The 23-point margin of defeat was the largest on his watch, ominously occurring in the first game his team has played without playoff aspirations.
On a third-and-4 on the Bears opening defensive series, OLB3 Aaron Lynch earned his seventh penalty of 2019 — all neutral zone infractions — trailing only Kyle Fuller on defense. Fuller had played more than 99 percent of the total defensive snaps through 15 weeks; Lynch has logged fewer than 22.5 percent. In the offense’s only visit to the red zone, Nagy called a QB keeper on third-and-goal from the 5 that gained 1 and a low-percentage fade that Trubisky woefully underthrew.
Kevin Pierre-Louis was called for his second running into the punter penalty of the season, the first arguably costing the Bears the game to the Raiders in London. Anthony Miller fumbled an end-around that halted a promising opening drive. Trubisky overthrew a would-be touchdown to Allen Robinson and threw short of the sticks — 20 yards short — on fourth-and-23 — midway through the fourth quarter.
Indeed, following a week in which Nagy cited effort and focus as the two litmus tests he’d value the most in evaluating his players in the final two games of an officially lost season, the Bears failed collectively, not only the head coach and quarterback. They'll take the most heat, and they are the biggest combined problem, but it's their mostly season-long struggles that make it so hard to know exactly how far the entire team has fallen.
"The score doesn't indicate that," Nagy said when asked whether the focus he sought was present. "And that's all of us — coaches and players. The score didn't indicate that. You hope that's there. If there's not focus, then there's some sloppiness, and I felt like that kind of mashed up a little bit."
The night's theme, as expected, was what could've been. But until the Bears find an answer to what they should do next after their season-long issues on offense and a defense suddenly trending in the wrong direction, the rest of it won't matter.