Bears

Bears head coach Matt Nagy is beginning to find his identity

Bears head coach Matt Nagy is beginning to find his identity

What the Bears did to the Dallas Cowboys in Thursday’s 31-24 defeat of the NFC East leaders was significant because of the complete offensive performance.

Based on quality of opponent, gravity of game and player performance, it was quarterback Mitch Trubisky’s career-best game. The 31 points scored by the offense was the most since the mauling of a JV Tampa Bay team last year (when Trubisky threw a career-high six touchdown passes).

And against the Cowboys the offense came back from difficult in-game situations twice.

The difference against Dallas?

Nagy appeared to be settling into his own identity. An identity that has eluded the Bears through out much of the Matt Nagy era.

With varying levels of proficiency, his players were running what he laid out and told them to. That changed dramatically against Dallas.

Over the third quarter of the season and into the fourth with Dallas, Nagy has operated less like a coach forcing players into his system and more like a coach molding the offense around his players.

Maybe it was seeing first-hand how miserably coach Matt Patricia forcing the Detroit Lions into his iteration of the New England defense has worked. The Bears’ 2019 turnaround coincidentally started against the Lions.

Whatever the reason, Nagy appeared less lock-stepped with a significantly flawed pass-intensive plan (Green Bay, Oakland, New Orleans losses) that his own personal quarterback nature may prefer. Maybe this is his more adult inner-coach is taking charge.

Players, Trubisky foremost among them, could be excused for feeling some uncertainty about their offense when their coach didn’t have a clear sense of what that offense is or wants to be.

Not a “blame game” situation, however. Nagy, an inexperienced head coach, had a green quarterback on his hands. Trubisky’s true capabilities, comfort levels, and weaknesses are still evolving. Nagy is also dealing with the same route-running, drops, O-line issues and such that plagued Trubisky.

Critically, Nagy’s play-calling has leveled out without lapsing into predictability. He has been less riveted to a game concept with no regard for results and been more adaptable.

When the Bears won three straight to finish the season’s first quarter, Nagy had the offense run the football 29, 24 and 33 times. When he and the offense languished through four straight losses, the Bears ran the football 17, 7, 38 and 18 times.

Since then Nagy has called 24-24-26-23-34 runs and the Bears have won four of those last five.

That doesn’t make Nagy a runnin’ guy. It does, however, make the team better and improves his quarterback’s understanding of the offense.

“Probably three to four, five weeks ago, somewhere in that range where you really started to feel, ‘OK, we're moving the ball,’” Nagy said. “We felt it against the Chargers [when the Bears ran 38 times]. We just weren't good in the red zone, right? But we felt like, ‘OK we're moving the ball,’ that we were limiting three-and-outs.

“And ever since then there's just a great confidence amongst the teammates. They're feeling it, we're feeling it and I think it's reflecting in the game.”

Nowhere more apparent than with Trubisky against Dallas and hopefully going forward.

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Eric Ebron interacts with Akiem Hicks' NFC Championship tweet, causing free agency speculation

Eric Ebron interacts with Akiem Hicks' NFC Championship tweet, causing free agency speculation

Just as Bears fans were finally coming to terms with their disappointing 8-8 season, Akiem Hicks decided to pour some salt on the wound and take to Twitter, imagining what it would’ve been like if the Bears had made it to the NFC Championship game.

While we were all imagining how indeed “lit” it would’ve been to see the Bears play in the post-season at Soldier Field, Indianapolis Colts tight end Eric Ebron decided to quote tweet Hicks with a thinking face emoji. Curious behavior.

Ebron has played for the Colts since 2018, when he had a stellar first season in Indianapolis, scoring 14 touchdowns. In 2019, Ebron’s season ended after 11 games due to an ankle injury. He scored three touchdowns, reeling in 31 catches for 375 yards. Colts GM Chris Ballad has said that the organization is likely to move on from Ebron in 2020, meaning he would be available in free agency.

Tight end is one of the positions on the Bears long offseason do to list, and Ebron seems he could be a potential fit. Judging by their Twitter interactions, Akiem Hicks and Tarik Cohen seem to think so.

Hicks replied to Ebron telling him he could hear Bears fans calling his name. Cohen echoed this sentiment in his own tweet, albeit more cryptically.

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Ranking the most painful moments for Bears' fans during the 2020 Championship weekend

Ranking the most painful moments for Bears' fans during the 2020 Championship weekend

You may have noticed that none of the four teams that played this weekend were the Chicago Bears. They haven't played since the last week of December, but since this disastrous season won't end for another two weeks, there's been plenty of time for some especially painful parting shots. And weirdly enough, there were multiple moments through the two games on Sunday that reminded Bears' fans about the 8-8 season that absolutely no one is trying to remember. Shall we go through them? OK! 

4. Jimmy Garoppolo Beat The Packers To Go To The Super Bowl With 6 Completions 

Remember when the Bears were going to trade for Jimmy G? Back before they traded up to take Trubisky, rumors were swirling that the Patriots' backup was headed to Chicago. That is what it is -- everyone's connected to everyone at one point or another, and Bears have enough potential QB scenarios to give themselves a stroke over. The real kicker was beating the Packers, and Aaron Rodgers, while attempting eight pass attempts. Remember Nagy's I'm-Not-An-Idiot comment after running the ball 7 times against New Orleans. Imagine that, but it works, and it's in the NFC title game. The Bears couldn't beat the Packers on either occasion this season, and that included 98 pass attempts. That sound you hear is someone (you can choose, really) banging their head against the wall inside of Halas Hall. 

3. Raheem Mostert Rushing For 220 Yards and Four Touchdowns 

Truly an insane night for Mostert. He was briefly on the Bears during the 2016 season, which happened to be Jordan Howard's first and best. Mostert also was on three other teams (NYJ, SF, CLE) that year, and three OTHER teams (PHI, MIA, BAL) the year before, so it's not like the Bears are the only team sitting here with yolk on their face. Still, seeing an NFL journeyman get halfway to the Bears' total rushing touchdown number (8) in one game is the stuff that existential crises are made for. 

2. Robbie Gould's Kicking Well For A Super Bowl Team

Things were all well and good when Eddy Pineiro was hitting game-winners in Denver while Gould got off to one of the worst starts of his career. As the Bears' special teams unit watched from their rented South Beach group house, Gould went 3-3, including a franchise postseason record 54-yarder, in the Niners' 37-20 win. He started the season by being crowned champion of Chicago Football Madness, and now he gets a shot at ending it with another title, even if it's not quite as illustrious as the midwest's premier Bears-only online bracket challenge. 

1. Literally Everything Pat Mahomes Did All Day 

The decision to trade up for Trubisky was bad, but honestly, the endless stream of barely-distinguishable versions of the same snarky tweet may be worse. At some point Bears fans are going to have to come to terms with Pat Mahomes playing for the Chiefs, but it sure as hell won't be this year. In their defense, everything he does makes you physically stop whatever else you're doing and figure out what noise just came out of your mouth. Bears fans are robbing themselves of the best Mahomsian experience by insisting on slamming the Caps Lock button anytime the Chiefs play, but with each new height that Mahomes and the Chiefs reach, it becomes harder and harder to blame them.

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