Bears

Bears observations: Fitting end to disappointing season

Bears
Matt Nagy

This is the way the Matt Nagy era ends, not with a bang but a whimper. After the Bears built a 14-0 lead, it was tough to watch them not only squander that lead, but lose 31-17. But in a sense it was an appropriate end to the season. It featured questionable playcalling, inconsistent quarterback play and defensive miscues: a perfect encapsulation of the 2021 season.

DARNELL MOONEY 1,000-YARD MAN

Plenty of young players in the Bears young core have shown growth this season, but it was Mooney who hit a huge milestone on Sunday. With an 18-yard reception midway through the second quarter, Mooney reached the 1,000 receiving yard threshold in his sophomore season. Mooney has acted as the Bears’ defacto No. 1 wideout at several points this season, since Allen Robinson has battled various injuries and a stint on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Whether Robinson was on the field or off the field, Mooney demonstrated he can handle a bigger role in the offense moving forward. The Bears will need him to do that too, since he’s the only receiver under contract after this year.

“RUN THE BALL!!”...

… Is probably what every Bears fan across the world screamed at their screens after the Bears failed to convert a third fourth down attempt. The Bears had several 4th-and-1 chances that ended up in Andy Dalton sacks and one pick-six as the Bears dialed up pass plays. For one of those plays, top offensive player David Montgomery wasn’t even on the field. Unsurprisingly, the one 4th-and-1 play the Bears did convert was a handoff to Montgomery.

 

The aggressive decisions to go for it on fourth down are understandable, since the Bears came into the game 6-10 with absolutely nothing to lose. But the playcalling decisions, whether they were made by Nagy or Bill Lazor, are something every fan will happily leave behind after years of ineptitude.

DEFENSIVE MISCUES FROM START TO FINISH

One of the biggest plays in the Bears’ Week 1 loss to the Rams was Van Jefferson catching a ball, falling to the ground, then getting up and running into the endzone after Tashaun Gipson and Eddie Jackson failed to touch him down. Fast forward to Week 18. The Bears defense had done a great job stifling the Vikings offense, but near the end of the first half Jaylon Johnson gave up a big pass play and forgot to touch down Ihmir Smith-Marsette. This time, Jackson bailed out Johnson by finishing the play, but it was a stark example of how the defense never stopped making self-inflicted mistakes this season. It wasn’t an isolated incident either. Marqui Christian lost his footing on a Smith-Marsette touchdown. On another play, three defenders went to one side of the field, leaving Justin Jefferson wide open. They still gave up the touchdown on the overloaded side of the field to K.J. Osborn. The defense never did find a way to eliminate mental mistakes, and it was the top reason they couldn’t reach elite status again.

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