Bears

Bears set “a new standard here” even in 38-31 loss to Patriots

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USA TODAY

Bears set “a new standard here” even in 38-31 loss to Patriots

One yard. Less than one, really. That’s all that separated the Bears and the New England Patriots on Sunday, after Kevin White’s efforts to tug a Hail Mary into the Patriots end zone came up just that short in a 38-31 loss to the NFL’s greatest team over the better part of the past two decades.

And normally, a team under a first-time head coach (the Bears’ fifth coach since Bill Belichick and Tom Brady started their run in 2001) would feel good about nearly overcoming giving up two special-teams scores and two turnovers of their own, all against one of the NFL’s elites.

But feel-good was hard to find after a second straight loss of a winnable game to a good team.

“’Close’ doesn’t cut it,” said quarterback Mitch Trubisky, who set career highs in pass attempts (50) and rushing yards (81) on his way to two passing touchdowns and one rushing. However, Trubisky had his lowest passer rating (69.8) of the season after throwing two interceptions.

“There’s a new standard here, and coming up one yard short and not tying the game and going to overtime, that’s not good enough anymore.”

Perspective isn’t particularly easy with a young team that dropped to 3-3, still its best scorecard after six games since 2014. The Bears are now back behind Minnesota and idle Green Bay (both at 3-2-1) in the NFC North and are tied with Detroit (3-3). 

Still, with their best individual player (Khalil Mack) hobbled with an injured ankle and a pass rush that got virtually no pressure on Brady, the Bears did find themselves at the Chicago 45 with a chance to tie with two seconds to play.

Maybe the marvel was that they were even that close to the Patriots, after special teams allowed a punt-block return for a touchdown and a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.

“We were right there. I think our offense is growing and I like where we are right now, I really do,” Nagy said.

More than that, as he told the players in the locker room afterwards, “With everything that happened to us and we were a yard away from tying the game. Take that and think about that a little bit.”

The ebbs and flows of the game notwithstanding – the Bears led 17-7 early in the second quarter, and were down 38-24 midway through the fourth – the game was arguably another small indicator that the Bears are the cliché’d “for real.”

Whatever that actually means.

The defense, which failed to protect leads in the fourth quarter in two of the Bears’ first four games, was unable to deliver a stop in the final minutes Sunday, allowing New England to drive 96 yards for score to go up 38-24 midway through the fourth quarter.

They “held” Brady and the New England offense to 24 points without Mack, the linchpin of their defense. But the Patriots were without Rob Gronkowski, the perennial Pro Bowl tight end and favorite target of Brady.

"I think it just comes down to knowing that if you are going against a good team, your room for error is slim, so you have to be on point the whole game," said cornerback Kyle Fuller, who intercepted his third pass in the past two games, “

And after some shaky handlings of in-game situations this season, Nagy was not out-coached by Belichick, who routinely takes an opponent’s strength away and who effectively took leading receiver Taylor Gabriel out of the offense. Nagy and Trubisky turned to tight end Trey Burton for nine catches for 126 yards and a touchdown.

Trubisky hurt himself and the offense with a handful of bad misses of open receivers, including Anthony Miller in the end zone in the first half. New England forced him into quick-react decisions with an array of blitzes alternating with eight-man zones, and Trubisky was able to make the Patriots pay with short and mid-range targets of Burton.

Accuracy cost Trubisky when he underthrew wideout Josh Bellamy, who was two steps behind cornerback Stephon Gilmore, in the third quarter for another missed touchdown opportunity. A subsequent sloppy throw on the run to Bellamy was intercepted when the ball was thrown to the defender’s side of Bellamy instead of toward the sideline, costing the Bears a chance at at least a field goal. A misplaced fourth-quarter pass toward Miller later in the fourth quarter was intercepted at the New England four-yard line.

But Trubisky’s 333 yards marked the third straight time he has passed for 300 or more yards, and Nagy cited a number of throws that Trubisky didn’t make as evidence of improved decision-making.

“I came away pleased with how he played,” Nagy said.

Added Gabriel: "He's a playmaker, man. A guy that wanted to win. You can see that out of him. He's the leader of this team and I would go to battle with Mitch any day."

Power Rankings Roundup: The bandwagon is accepting record amounts of applicants

Power Rankings Roundup: The bandwagon is accepting record amounts of applicants

This should surprise none of you, but people are jumping on the Bears' bandwagon at record pace. Even Sports Illustrated, which had the Bears as a middle-of-the-pack squad but a week ago, is on board with the Bears. For now, the Power Rankings have been good to Chicago. Here's what people are saying:

Ours: #6, up 2 - 
They're for real! If I were one of the NFC's offensive powerhouses, I'd be real scared of a Bears home playoff game right about now. 

USA Today: #7, up 1 - 
Only George Halas himself had better 10-game start on Chicago's sideline than Matt Nagy's 7-3 mark. Probably safe to open a steakhouse, dude.

Sports Illustrated: #6, up 7 - 
The Bears told us they were going for it when they traded for Khalil Mack so soon before the season. They have more than backed up any expectations to this point.

ESPN: #6, up 1 -
Nagy is the complete opposite of Fox. He's young, energetic, engaging and offensive-minded, exactly what the Bears needed to escape the doldrums of the NFC North. The Bears won 14 total games from 2015 to 2017.

Yahoo Sports: #6, up 2 - 
It’s concerning that the Bears said Mitchell Trubisky wouldn’t have been able to practice on Monday due to a right shoulder injury. It’s a short week for them. We’ll assume Trubisky should be fine since he finished Sunday’s game, but it’s worth watching.

Washington Post: #7, up 1 - 
The defense overwhelmed Cousins and the Vikings on Sunday night until Cousins managed late to make his numbers look respectable. Mitchell Trubisky is developing into a QB who’s plenty good enough. This is a very dangerous team, and the Saints and Rams had better be wary.

Bleacher Report: #6, up 2 - 
It's officially time to say it. In fact, this is probably overdue. The Chicago Bears are legit. As in, a legitimate contender to win not just the NFC North but also to represent the conference in Super Bowl LIII.

Sporting News: #6, up 4 - 
The Bears needed a signature victory to prove this breakout season for Mitchell Trubisky and their defense is not just about preying on bad teams. That Vikings domination qualifies.

Bears reportedly optimistic about Mitch Trubisky, but Matt Nagy coy on QB’s status

Bears reportedly optimistic about Mitch Trubisky, but Matt Nagy coy on QB’s status

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported shortly before Matt Nagy met with the media Tuesday that the Bears are “optimistic” Trubisky will play, though the Bears' coach characterized his quarterback's right shoulder injury as a "day-to-day" deal. 

"He wants to play. I know that," Nagy said. "But we gotta make sure in these situations that we're doing the right thing. That is why, regardless of whatever decision is made or wherever we're at on gameday, this goes back to Ryan (Pace) with his guys making sure that throughout this roster we have depth and we feel comfortable. If it's something where Chase (Daniel) ends up playing, that's the way it goes and keep moving forward." 

Nagy did say he's "cautiously optimistic" Trubisky can play Thursday. 

Trubisky injured his shoulder when Vikings safety Harrison Smith hit him as he slid during the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 25-20 win at Soldier Field (Smith was penalized for unnecessary roughness on the play). 

Nagy did not delve into the specifics of Trubisky's injury, but NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport said on WSCR-670 AM Tuesday that it's an AC joint sprain:

Nagy said Trubisky will not require surgery, and he doesn't have any long-term concerns about the issue. 

Trubisky finished Sunday’s game, handing off to Jordan Howard twice, throwing an incomplete pass and then taking a knee twice after sustaining the injury. His appearance on Monday’s injury report — which was a league-mandated estimate, as the Bears did not practice — represented the first time he was listed on the Bears’ injury report in his two-year career. 

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