In Week 6 the Bears offense didn’t play poorly, but they didn’t play exceptionally either. There were good plays, bad plays and even some “special” plays, as Matt Nagy likes to say. They were able to run the ball for 140 yards, at a 5.4 YPC clip and scored touchdowns on each of their red zone opportunities. But those were the Bears’ only two red zone opportunities, and against a Hall of Fame quarterback like Aaron Rodgers, it simply wasn’t enough.
Any other week, you might be tempted to say, ‘Ok, Rodgers and the Packers offense did their thing. We weren’t able to keep up, but it’s on to next week and a new opponent.’ But the problem for the Bears is that their new opponent is another Hall of Fame quarterback: Tom Brady. In fact, in six of the Bears’ next nine games, they’ll be taking on great-to-elite quarterbacks. Between now and the end of December the Bears will face Brady, Lamar Jackson, Kyler Murray, Ben Roethlisberger, Russell Wilson, and Rodgers again.
“We understand we’ve got to score more points,” Nagy said. “Every opportunity we get. Now when you’re looking at it, is it the amount of possessions that you have in a game? Are you getting takeaways on defense that flip the field and have a short field? What’s your identity? The explosives to me, right now, are what signifies the big plays, which you can get more possessions through explosives. You’re not driving the ball in 10-play drives all the time.”
He’s right, and it’s something we mentioned in our “Three Keys to Beat the Packers” post from last Friday. The Bears were going to need to get several explosive plays, and couldn’t rely on several sustained drives to win. For the most part when the Bears did get those “explosives,” they scored. They just didn’t get enough of them.
So that goes back to Nagy’s question about the Bears' identity. The run game is working better than it ever has in Nagy’s tenure. He finally has a dynamic quarterback who has grown steadily. When things are clicking, they really click in a way we haven’t seen since parts of 2018.
Despite all that, the offense is still averaging less than 20 points per game over the last three games, when the team moved on from Week 3’s offensive debacle. So why isn’t all this improvement translating into points?
“I think we’re working through all that right now,” Nagy said. “I think we all feel good about the identity but now it’s like, within that identity, what else do we need to do to complement that, and how are we going to get to that point? We’re working through all that.”
One way to generate explosive plays for an offense that relies heavily on the run game is through the play-action pass. Nagy hammed that home on Monday, and looking back through the game, the Bears actually used the play-action for several big gains. By my count, the Bears ran 14 play-actions, on which Fields went 8-10 for 60 yards, adding two scrambles for 21 rushing yards. Those 14 play-actions accounted for nearly 25% of all the Bears' offensive plays.
But maybe the Bears offense isn’t ready to put up 30 points on their own. It’s clear that teams need to put up big scores to win consistently in today’s NFL, but that’s a tall task for a team that’s been offensively challenged for the past several, that’s now got a rookie QB under center.
“I really believe for our team in general, big picture, we need to work together in all three phases,” Nagy said. “That’s gonna be important. If we do that and defensively, we get three-and-outs, defensively we get turnovers. Offensively, when you get a turnover or three-and-outs you’re getting touchdowns. Not every game is gonna be 40-40. But we can score more and it’s gonna be complementary.”