The Bears, on paper, should beat the Carolina Panthers. Easily.
Colleague Adam Hoge laid out the case for a comfortable Bears win Sunday in Charlotte here. The matchups favor the 4-1 Bears, and while the 3-2 Panthers are a nice story, they’re still in the early stages of rebuilding and are without their best offensive weapon – running back Christian McCaffrey.
But while this is type of game the Bears should win, it’s a type of game the Bears haven’t won under Matt Nagy.
Nagy’s Bears are 1-4 when his teams have at least 10 days between games. In, as Nagy calls them, “mini-byes” following Thursday games, the Bears lost to the New York Giants (2018), beat the Denver Broncos (2019) and lost to the Green Bay Packers (2019). Following true off weeks, the Bears are 0-2 (losses to the Miami Dolphins in 2018 and the New Orleans Saints in 2019).
That list above includes some of the Bears’ worst losses under Nagy. Last year’s blowout defeat at the hands of the Saints – and Teddy Bridgewater – might’ve been the most overmatched the Bears have been at any point since Nagy was hired. Overtime losses to the Dolphins and Giants in 2018 prevented the Bears from earning a first-round bye, and avoiding the cruel luck that can happen in the wild card round of the playoffs.
And last year’s loss to the Packers following back-to-back Thursday wins over the Lions and Cowboys was the final blow to the Bears’ faint playoff hopes.
Also, the Bears did not play well in that win over the Broncos, needing an assist from a questionable roughing the passer penalty on Bradley Chubb and a last-ditch bailout by Mitch Trubisky for Eddy Pineiro to bang home the winning field goal as time expired.
All told, the Bears haven’t played well at all after having extended rest. It’s a curious development, given Nagy’s mentor, Andy Reid, is 25-9 when his teams have had at least 10 days between games.
“I don’t know what his record was but it was pretty good,” Nagy said. “And obviously, that’s not happening here so for us.”
It's a bizarre trend for a team that's otherwise 23-9 under Nagy. Bad teams are usually bad no matter how much time there is between games; good teams are usually good on extended rest.
Theoretically, the extra time off between the Bears’ Week 5 win over the Bucs and their game Sunday in Charlotte should help Nick Foles get more comfortable – and help his coaches and teammates get more comfortable with him. That should help the offense play better, right?
“It gave us as coaches a chance to really go back and see what we’re doing good and what we’re doing not so good,” quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo said. “I think it gave a guy like Nick, who’d been in a bit of a whirlwind here the past 10 days, I thought it gave him a chance for 24-48 hours to get away and let his mind rest.
“People don’t understand the mental energy it takes to move, to learn a new offense, to learn a new coaching staff. Obviously Nick and I in the quarterback room, we’re very familiar with each other. But at the same time, it’s a new environment, and we’re all learning that environment. So I think it was good for both parties, for us to take a look back and for the players after a big, emotional win to get their minds off football for a little bit.”
While that sounds nice, it also sounds familiar – we heard similar explanations of how a few additional days off following an emotional win would help Chase Daniel in 2018, only to have him fall flat until a fourth quarter surge in a sloppy loss to the 3-8 Giants.
That was a game the Bears should’ve won comfortably. They didn’t.
So, yes, Sunday’s trip to Carolina should result in the Bears’ first comfortable win of the year. As long as Nagy breaks from this ominous trend.