Sunday was Week 1 of the 2021 NFL season, but it was mostly just deja vu all over again for the Chicago Bears.
The Los Angeles Rams were for the most part the better team. That’s why they won the game, but they weren’t a more talented team.
They just played smarter than the Bears and didn’t make the same ridiculous mistakes the Bears did – both on the field and on the sidelines.
And yet it was a game the Bears still had a chance to win in spite of continually shooting themselves in the foot until with 10:01 to play and trailing, 27-14, Matt Nagy decided to eschew a 47-yard field goal attempt to let his offense go for it on fpurth-and-15. He then watched Andy Dalton throw a 13-yard sideline route to Darnell Mooney.
It was the third time Nagy went for it on fourth down. The first two were both fourth-and-4, far from gimmes, the third time the Bears failed was the straw that broke his team’s back.
The Rams followed with a 14-play, 70-yard drive that took seven minutes off the clock, setting up the final 34-14 score.
The reason the Bears still had a chance to win prior to that last fourth-down screw up is their offense was actually more efficient and more productive than the Rams’ offense other than on the scoreboard.
For the most part it was three plays that were the difference getting the score to 27-14, and they were all amateur mistakes.
The Bears came out on fire after rookie Khalil Herbert returned the opening kickoff to their own 43, marching 49 yards mainly on the back of David Montgomery to the Rams’ 8-yard line, setting up a third-and-6.
But then Dalton threw a pick in the end zone that would be easy to excuse him for since Kenny Young tipped it before David Long intercepted it, but Young was able to tip it because Dalton eyeballed Mooney from the second he got the snap.
The reason Dalton is playing ahead of Justin Fields is it’s the rookie and not the vet who is supposed to make those mistakes.
Three plays later the Bears’ secondary blew a coverage, allowing Rams receiver Van Jefferson to run free on a deep post. And after Jefferson fell at about the 18-yard while catching the ball, both Eddie Jackson and Tashaun Gipson ran right by him allowing him to get up and trot to the end zone.
Blown coverages happen, veteran safeties not just touching down receivers can’t.
Instead of the Bears exploding to a 7-0 lead, they trailed 7-0 less than five minutes into the game.
The Bears’ defense bowed their back a bit from there though. Montgomery was easily the best player on the field in the first half, and the Bears went to the locker room trailing just 13-7.
But coming out for the second half after just one minute and three plays, one of Jackson, Gipson or Marqui Christian completely blew a coverage and allowed receiver Cooper Kupp to run untouched off the line of scrimmage for another deep post and a 56-yard touchdown to make it 20-7.
Even at that 10:00 mark in the fourth quarter, the Bears had a two-to-one time of possession advantage.
Other than the pick Dalton actually played well, and while all the talk will return to Fields now, that is not what was wrong with the Bears in L.A.
While everyone will start grilling Nagy again on why Fields isn’t playing, the real question right now should be if Nagy was managing the game and focusing on being the head coach instead of burying his head in his play sheet to call plays, might the outcome have been different.
His play calling wasn’t bad, but his game management was awful.
There were things to build on. The running game was great and the defense – when it wasn’t forgetting assignments – showed its speed and athleticism.
But with a chance to take the pressure off himself and the focus off his quarterbacks, all Nagy did Sunday night was turn up the heat.