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Hoge’s 10 Bears Things: Matt Nagy might not get another win

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The Bears' latest trip to Green Bay was at least more entertaining than usual, but it still produced the same result -- a loss.

So just as a housekeeping item, we should update the following records against the Green Bay Packers after Sunday night's 45-30 loss:

Chairman George McCaskey: 3-19

CEO/President Ted Phillips: 13-34

General manager: Ryan Pace 2-12

Head coach: Matt Nagy 1-7

And with that, we jump into another 10 Bears Things column while wondering if this team can win another game this season:

1. Why did Nagy dispute what Jaylon Johnson said about the Packers' adjustments?

A somewhat odd exchange played out Monday at Halas Hall when Matt Nagy downplayed the relatively obvious schematic adjustments the Packers made during Sunday's game — adjustments that were lauded by one of his own players.

It didn’t take a football expert to recognize the effort Packers head coach Matt LaFleur made to move star wide receiver Davante Adams around to get him away from Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson, who was doing a good job in coverage. 

“A lot of motions. A lot of drag routes, underneath routes. A lot of pick-routes,” Johnson said Sunday night in Green Bay. “They switched it up pretty good. They did a lot of things that make covering him very hard.”

Monday, back at Halas Hall, Nagy was asked about those adjustments and why he couldn’t make similar adjustments with Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson, who only had two catches on six targets. The question specifically mentioned how the Packers used Adams in the slot in the second half.

 

“I would say, with all due respect, that comment of moving him around, they did the same thing they did in the first half,” Nagy said. “So there’s no in the slot, out of the slot, backside here, backside there. He had seven catches in the second half. He had three catches in the first half and they did a lot of the same stuff. They moved him around on third down, which is very normal in the NFL. You move around one of your guys to get open and stuff. That part there, I think that’s football.”

Apparently Nagy’s point was the Packers moved Adams around the entire game, and not just in the second half when he had more success avoiding Johnson (only two of Adams’ 10 catches came against Johnson). In reality, Adams lined up wide on all six of his routes in the first quarter and moved into the slot on 49 percent of his routes the rest of the game, according to Next Gen Stats.

“It's a beauty to see. But you hate playing against it,” Johnson said. “Just being able to see Rodgers and their head coach be able to draw things up like that and make those types of adjustments, it's good for them.”

So why did Nagy contradict what his best cornerback experienced on the field and described after the game? Given a chance to clarify his comments, Nagy added:

“Regardless of what Jaylon or anybody else says, for us, you just go through and you want to look at, 'OK, why did things happen?' And so that's what I was saying schematically. I really felt like it was more of the run game, the power runs that they did that was different.”

Regardless, there’s no question Adams had more success as the game went along and he had more success when LaFleur and Aaron Rodgers managed to get the wide receiver matched up against somebody other than Johnson. 

The Next Gen Stats back it up. 

The tape backs it up.

Johnson’s own words back it up.

2. So back to the point: Why can’t the Bears do that with Robinson?

Spoiler alert: Nagy didn't really have an answer to that question.

“I agree, I think that they’re both really, really good wide receivers, and when we’re in a position to try to get our guys the football — you look back and see (Darnell) Mooney and A-Rob didn’t have many targets yesterday. But really, there were play calls where they were supposed to get the ball and they didn’t for different reasons. We’re trying at times. You’ve got to be able to work around how you do that and when you do, and that’s part of the growing process for all of us and Justin too with whatever it is.”

The Bears might be trying, but it’s not working. Frankly, it’s unfair to Adams to put Robinson in the same receiver class, but it’s still baffling that Robinson only has 32 catches, 353 yards and one touchdown in 10 games this season. The Bears have failed to scheme him open, despite having a pretty good No. 2 wide receiver in Darnell Mooney, who is also commanding attention from defenses. 

 

Yes, the quarterback matters. The Packers have Aaron Rodgers. The Bears have a rookie. It still seems disingenuous to downplay the schematic adjustments the Packers made Sunday night to get their best weapon the football.

3. Johnson vows to get better in the slot

Another reason why Johnson’s voice carries more weight in this conversation is because he owned his own positional limitations after the game. The Bears did not allow Johnson to follow Adams into the slot and that's where the Packers' receiver did most of his damage.

“I gotta learn more. I gotta become more versatile to be able to play that slot position,” Johnson said after the game. “It's bigger than just man-to-man coverage. You gotta be able to have run fits. You gotta be able to play zone and have different zone drops and things like that.”

There aren’t many corners in the NFL good enough to even do what Johnson did Sunday night, following Adams from side-to-side. But even fewer possess the ability to play anywhere within the defense to stick with a star receiver no matter where he lines up. That’s what makes Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey so valuable.

“That's definitely something I need to improve on as a defender if I want to be that top guy and be able to follow guys and play the inside at a high level, that's what I gotta learn and get more reps at it.,” Johnson said. “That’s what I plan on doing moving forward.”

Here’s the good news: “It was a hell of a matchup,” as Johnson put it. It’s not quite Charles Tillman vs Calvin Johnson, but if Adams re-signs with the Packers and Johnson grows into a player who can stick with the receiver the entire game, this could be the start of a very fun matchup in the rivalry. 

4. Wanting a do-over

Immediately following the game, Nagy acknowledged that he could have gone for it on 4th-and-inches from his own 36-yard-line with a two-score deficit in the fourth quarter.

By Monday afternoon, he owned it even more. 

“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,” he said. “That’s the part where you look back as a coach and you go, ‘Damn, that would’ve been a time to do that.’ At the same point in time, we were just coming off a three-and-out. We stopped them three-and-out the previous possession. So I just thought in that scenario一 but it obviously backfired.”

It sure seemed like Nagy punted away much more than a football in that moment. 

5. Patience needed with Teven Jenkins

The long-awaited debut of Bears rookie left tackle Teven Jenkins did not go well. Forced into relief after Jason Peters suffered an ankle injury, Jenkins was guilty of two holding penalties, two false starts and two sacks allowed, one of which was the crucial sack/strip on the Bears’ second offensive play of the third quarter that significantly flipped the game in the Packers’ favor. 

 

Now you see why the Bears were being so careful with Jenkins, who missed the first 11 games of the season due to back surgery in August. While still considered a promising prospect, Jenkins has had very little practice time and did not play in the preseason. Sunday night’s spotlight in Green Bay was his first significant playing time since he was playing right tackle at Oklahoma State 13 months ago. 

The Peters injury significantly changed the Bears’ protection plan for Justin Fields, who was playing through pain with a ribs injury. Peters has been the team’s most dependable lineman all season, and suddenly the offense was forced to help Jenkins on the left side. Not to mention they still have a rookie right tackle (Larry Borom Jr.) on the other side.

“Even with the sack-fumble, the strip-sack, there was a chip on that play,” Nagy said Monday. “And throughout the game, we had 32 dropbacks, 16 of them had chips and slams. So 50 percent of the time, we're chipping and slamming. Now, when you do that, you eliminate receivers or tight ends because you're saying, OK, we're gonna protect. We need to understand that. Everybody needs to understand that. So there's a little risk-reward when you do that.”

This was a big issue earlier in the season when the Bears were struggling at right tackle. Borom hasn’t been perfect on the right side, but he brought some stability over there that required less help, which essentially gives the Bears an extra pass-catcher to work with. 

Peters’ ankle injury seems significant enough that it will impact next Monday’s game against the Vikings. The Bears don’t have many other options at offensive tackle right now, and frankly, Jenkins needs to keep playing. The question is, should the Bears move Borom over to left tackle and let Jenkins play on the right side, where he had more experience in college?

“I think all of that is probably on the table,” Nagy said.

Regardless, it sounds like the Bears could be moving forward with a rookie quarterback and two rookie tackles. Buckle up. 

6. Defense is in a tough spot right now

Bears defensive coordinator Sean Desai must have been shaking his head constantly Sunday night. His unit continues to be ravaged by injuries. All the sudden, you’re looking down at the field and seeing guys like Bruce Irvin, Christian Jones, Marqui Christian and Margus Hunt playing significant snaps. 

That’s just not a fair fight against Rodgers, Adams and Aaron Jones. 

The Bears’ secondary is especially a mess right now. Desai ran out of nickel corners Sunday and eventually had to put safety Eddie Jackson in an unfamiliar position. 

 

At this point, Marqui Christian, Duke Shelley, Xavier Crawford, DeAndre Houston-Carson and Jackson have all played the nickel corner position for the Bears this season. And it’s possible I’m forgetting another. 

If there’s one thing Bears general manager Ryan Pace needs to own this season, it’s the lack of depth at cornerback. And it’s not just the slot. Kindle Vildor was benched as the team’s No. 2 cornerback and Artie Burns hasn’t been much better. 

Unfortunately, it’s hard to see things getting better on defense this season. Maybe defensive tackle Akiem Hicks (ankle) returns against the Vikings, but now Roquan Smith is dealing with a hamstring injury again after leaving Sunday’s game. 

With the flood gates open on defense, it makes you wonder if the Bears will even be able to win another game this season. 

7. Think about the position Fields is in right now

This is a less than ideal environment for a rookie quarterback.

Bad defense. Two rookie offensive tackles. A coaching staff seemingly on the way out. A ribs injury that has him playing through pain. Receivers and tight ends who aren’t consistently helping him out. 

And yet… Fields is battling. 

Would you like to see more progress by now? Sure. But when you consider this entire situation, it could be a hell of a lot worse. 

Of course, that underscores the sense of urgency the organization needs to have to make sure Fields is in a much better situation in 2022. 

8. It’s only a matter of time before the Packers pass the Bears in all-time wins

In fact, it will probably happen this season. 

The Bears used to have a comfortable lead in all-time wins as a franchise, but the Packers are closing fast and about to fly right by.

9. Going for two? It’s not that hard

This doesn’t have much to do with the Bears this week, but it continues to amaze me how many respected minds around football can’t comprehend simple math and logic when it comes to going for two points when trailing. 

The latest example came Sunday when Ravens head coach John Harbaugh was questioned for going for two with his team trailing by nine points with 8:59 left in the game:

It’s really not that hard. If you know you’ll need a two-point conversion at some point, you try it as soon as possible to keep all options open later in the game. Yes, an extra-point in that scenario would have made it a one-possession game, but it still would have been an eight-point game, requiring a successful two-point conversion later. If you wait until the very end to try the two-point conversion, the game is over if you don’t get it. By trying it earlier, the Ravens were able to successfully recover an on-side kick and get another possession in the final minute of the game with a chance to win. 

They didn’t win though, which led to unfortunate conversations like this one:

10. Final word

It’s usually not a good idea to do the discount double-check in Aaron Rodgers’ face. That is all.