CHICAGO – Matt Nagy wasn’t celebrating. He would’ve been upset if his players were celebrating.
No. Matt Nagy didn’t feel so good Sunday after the Bears lost to the Green Bay Packers, 35-16, at Soldier Field to finish their regular season at 8-8.
Nagy had decreed earlier in the week that the Bears wouldn’t show the score of the game between the Los Angeles Rams and the Arizona Cardinals on the video boards at Soldier Field. So as he began to walk off the field Sunday, he had no idea that the Rams had beaten the Cardinals and that the Bears were heading to the playoffs.
Nagy said a member of the Bears’ public relations staff told him the score as he walked off the field. So despite four touchdown passes from Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and despite losing two of the Bears’ best players to injury, the Bears were playoff bound.
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Nagy was at a loss for words to explain his mixed emotions.
“I’ve never been in this situation, so sorry for being a little bit not … you’re excited because you’re in, right?” Nagy said.
Bears fans are asking themselves the same question.
It was a weird time to address the team in the locker room after the game. Nagy said he was honest with his players.
“It’s OK to feel like crap right now,” Nagy said. “We put a lot of time and effort and energy into winning this football game and it sucks when you lose.”
Added quarterback Mitch Trubisky: “Yeah, it’s a weird feeling.”
The Bears were in Sunday’s game, despite what the final score showed. They trailed by five points in the fourth quarter before failing to convert on a fourth-and-1 at the Green Bay 25-yard line. Even though they had converted on multiple quarterback sneaks in short-yardage situations during the game, the Bears lined up Trubisky in the shotgun and threw a pass intended for receiver Allen Robinson that was nearly picked off.
After the turnover on downs, the Packers drove 76 yards down field – eating up more than seven minutes of game time – to score a touchdown and all but put the game out of reach. They ballooned their lead to 19 points by the end of the game, showing why they are the No. 1 seed in the NFC.
The Bears’ fourth-down attempt wasn’t technically in the red zone, but the Bears were otherwise 1-for-5 scoring touchdowns on trips to the red zone. Three field goals from kicker Cairo Santos added to his hot streak, but did little to keep up with the Packers.
“You can’t play the Green Bay Packers and Aaron Rodgers and kick field goals,” Nagy said. “We have to get touchdowns. There’s no other way.”
The Packers, on the other hand, went 4 for 4 on red zone trips.
Presented with a fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line earlier in the game, Nagy elected to kick a 20-yard field goal. He didn’t regret that decision after the game, but he really wanted the fourth-and-1 in the fourth quarter.
Once again, it was the Packers outmaneuvering the Bears. Rodgers was nearly perfect: 19-for-24 passing, 240 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. It’s hard to top that.
Through it all, though, the Bears have another chance. They will face the New Orleans Saints at 3:40 p.m. Sunday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. The Bears took the Saints to overtime earlier in the season, losing, 26-23, on Nov. 1 with Nick Foles at quarterback.
The Bears have to find a way to put Sunday’s loss behind them and refocus this week.
“You’ve just got to look at it as a new opportunity,” Trubisky said. “We have new life going into the playoffs now. We’re grateful for that. We’ve got to go back to work. Stay positive, keep the energy up and just realize that the next game is the most important one now.”