There was plenty for fans to be frustrated about after the Bears lost to the Packers 45-30 at Lambeau Field on Sunday Night Football. There was the offense’s second-half disappearing act, the defense’s inability to stop Aaron Rodgers, and the mounting injuries which forced practice squad players to suit up and take the field. But one of the most frustrating moments was Matt Nagy’s decision to punt when faced with 4th-and-inches, down 11 points, with only 13:21 left in the game.
The Bears were on their own side of the field, so a failed attempt would’ve given Rodgers and the Packers a very short field, and a good chance to put the game away with a touchdown. However, with a 4-8 record, in a rivalry game, coming on the heels of Rodgers’ comments that he “owns” the Bears, the prevailing question seemed to be, what do you have to lose?
“Thought about it,” Nagy said after the game. “But then thought at that point in time, you know you are a little bit backed up. You could be aggressive there and go for it. I don’t think you’re wrong if you go for it, but I don’t think you’re wrong either一 and you saw what happened when we punted it.”
While Nagy isn’t technically “wrong” in his defense, it points to a new trend that is uncharacteristic when looking at his full tenure as Bears head coach. That is, playing conservative football, instead of making aggressive decisions to put pressure on the opponent.
According to Surrender Index, a Twitter bot that aims to measure how cowardly each punt ranks in the NFL, the decision to punt from 4th-and-6, which was one snap later due to a penalty, was in the 81st percentile of all cowardly punts this season. It didn’t measure the decision to punt on 4th-and-inches because of that penalty, but it’s safe to say it would’ve been significantly more “cowardly.”
Nagy pulled a similarly sheepish move one week prior. Facing a 4th-and-2 from the Cardinals’ 49-yard line, down 21-7, with only 1:10 left in the first half. That “cowardly” decision was in the 92nd percentile of all punts this year.
It’s a strange development for a coach that has typically made aggressive decisions, and is theoretically coaching for his future. At least on Monday, Nagy expressed a bit of regret to not go for it on Sunday Night, when looking back on his decision to punt.
“I can understand the fact of going for it there in that situation,” Nagy said. “I don’t think it’s一 I get it. When you look back and you see what happens, when they go on that long drive and they take up the clock and score, you wish you would’ve went for it. That’s the part where you look back as a coach and you go, ‘Damn, that would’ve been a time to do that.’”