It was pretty clear that Matt Nagy knew what was coming when he walked onto the stage at Sunday’s postgame press conference. After a two-sentence opening statement, Nagy wasted no time defending his decision not to push for better field position on the Bears’ final drive of the game. With the ball at the Chargers’ 32-yard line, a stopped clock and one time out, the Bears elected to have Mitch Trubisky take a knee in favor of getting Pineiro a comfortable spot.
“Yeah, I'm not even going to get into that,” he said, when asked why he had Trubisky take a knee. “I have zero thought of running the ball and taking the chance of fumbling the football. They know you're running the football, so you lose three, four yards, so that wasn't even in our process as coaches to think about that.”
The decision was heavily criticized after the game, and many saw it as an indictment of Nagy’s faith in the offense. Nagy pointed out that the Bears were already in Pineiro’s range even before Trubisky’s 11-yard scramble got them to the 32, so he felt less of a pressure to keep pushing it. They certainly weren’t going to try throwing it.
“Throw the football right then and there, what happens if you take a sack or there's a fumble?,” he asked.
“So no, there was zero thought of that. I'll just be brutally clear: Zero thought of throwing the football, zero thought of running the football. You understand me? That's exactly what it was. It's as simple as that.”
Nagy’s late-clock management was a point of (pretty heated!) contention during several points in the press conference. While the Bears struggled to play Red Zone offense all day, their last series of the first half was particularly dysfunctional.
With the ball on the Chargers’ 4-yard line and 46 seconds left, the Bears would go on to run six plays before settling for a 19-yard field goal. Nagy used his final timeout with 33 seconds left, and Trubisky missed receivers on 1st and 2nd down (one was called back on a LAC PI). Then, on 2nd-and-1 from the 1, with 25 seconds left, the Bears failed to punch it in on a David Montgomery handoff. Picking everyone (including a lot of Chargers dead weight) up, getting set, and spiking the ball took 10-15 seconds, leaving the Bears scrambling to make sure the kicking unit could get on the field.
“No, we were good there. I was fine with all that,” Nagy said. “What I didn't like is that we took it down to one second. That to me, that became almost bad. But we needed one second on the clock in order to have that opportunity. I was fine with that part. It was just the fact that we were real close to not getting it off.”
Having his play-calling second-guessed to his face is clearly (and understandably) wearing thin on Nagy. On more than one occasion, he was even – for his standards – openly angry.
“It hurts everybody involved,” he said. “Everybody that likes Chicago Bears or everybody that plays for the Bears, it pulls at you. I just need to make sure that I lead them the right way.”