A win by any other name is still a win. But this one…
One game after coach Matt Nagy deemed 51 yards to be beyond Eddy Pineiro’s field-goal range, the young kicker converted from 40, 52 and 53 yards on Sunday, the last to close out a 16-14 win over the Denver Broncos as time expired.
It was a kick that may have done nothing short of save the Bears season.
Nagy predictably and not incorrectly pointed out that the loss to Green Bay was “just one game” and not the season. But in every NFL season over the past 20 years alone, at least one team has missed the postseason by one game, because of one loss, including the Bears in 2008, 2012 and 2013.
A defeat on Sunday – and that was decidedly close to becoming reality after the Broncos took the lead with a touchdown and successful two-point conversion with 31 seconds remaining – would have effectively put the Bears in a perilous place this early in the season because of five NFC teams already standing at 2-0, with one of them being the Packers, and Philadelphia (1-0) playing Sunday night.
But that didn’t happen, and now the Bears go to Washington to play the 0-2 Redskins next Monday night, followed at home by Minnesota, 1-1 after a poor performance at Green Bay at home and the North American Raiders (1-1) in London.
The win over the Broncos did little to allay concerns about a Chicago offense that was supposed to reach new heights with quarterback Trubisky operating for a second season in the Nagy schemes. The Bears were outgained 372-273 while rushing for 153 yards on 29 attempts, including 18 for a workman-like 62 yards and a touchdown, the only one for the Bears through eight quarters this season, by rookie running back David Montgomery.
The offense was held to 3 points by the Packers and defensive coordinator Mike Pettine; then struggled repeatedly against the Broncos and Fangio, the Bears’ defensive coordinator, for the previous four seasons. The Bears converted just three of 11 third downs.
“The last two weeks our offense has gone up against two pretty good defensive [coaches],” Nagy said.
After its woeful pass-run imbalance vs. Green Bay, the offense ran the football 29 times and threw it 27. Very notably, the protection allowed zero sacks and only two hits on Trubisky while Nagy stayed with a balanced plan, even to the point of handing the ball to Montgomery on three straight dives from the Denver one-yard line. He stretched the ball over the goal line on the third one.
“I told [Montgomery],” Trubisky said, “’Go put it in there.’”
For his part, Trubisky managed to run five plays within 30 seconds with the game hanging in the balance. He overcame a penalty for too many men on the field, but aided by a roughing flag on rush-linebacker Bradley Chubb he navigated the Bears into position with a 25-yard completion to wide receiver Allen Robinson. Robinson went to the ground with the one second needed for the Bears to call a timeout and get Pineiro and the field goal unit on the field.
That final possession projects to be a massive confidence-builder for Trubisky, who missed badly on two previous throws toward Robinson before directing the second fourth-quarter comeback and fourth game-winning drive of his three-year career.
“I’ve always been taught that quarterbacks are evaluated on how they finish games,” Nagy said.
The kick also overrode repeated mistakes and shortcomings on all sides of the football and beyond. Buster Skrine was offsides on a missed Denver PAT, allowing the Broncos a second chance, which they converted. The Bears were flagged for too many men on the field in the closing seconds. The defense allowed 195 passing yards by Denver quarterback Joe Flacco in the second half but managed its first takeaway of 2019, a Kyle Fuller interception at the Chicago 3 with less than 5 minutes to play in the fourth quarter.
To some extent, Nagy and the Bears were clearly content to operate in a borderline not-to-lose mode, which against a Denver Broncos team that is off to just its second 0-2 start since 1999.
“We’re not where we want to be as an offense or me as a quarterback,” Trubisky said.Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.