Column

Hoge: That better not be the Bears' offense with Nick Foles

Column

No, you were not having flashbacks to 2019 on Sunday.

Although 2019 sounds pretty good right now.

But the 2019 version of the Chicago Bears offense was not good and the Nick Foles-led offense we saw Sunday in the Bears’ 19-11 loss to the Indianapolis Colts at Soldier Field was also extremely not good.

“I didn’t execute well enough and we didn’t execute well enough,” Foles said after his first start with the Bears.

It wasn’t just that the Bears lost – it was how they lost. The Colts might very well have the best defense the Bears face all season and that should be factored into the equation, but alarm bells should be going off at Halas Hall on Monday as the coaching staff reviews an offense that looked way too similar to last year’s group.

And this time, no one can blame Mitch Trubisky.

New offensive line coach… 28 rushing yards.

Revamped tight ends room… 5 catches, 39 yards.

New quarterback… 76.4 passer rating.

The play caller was the same though and when the Colts shutdown the Bears’ running game, Bears head coach Matt Nagy fell into too many habits that didn’t help his offense last year.

Taking the fourth quarter out of the equation -- when the Bears lined up in the shotgun 20 times out of 21 because they were catch-up mode -- here’s a breakdown of how things looked:

1st quarter: 11 passes, 6 runs, 10 plays out of shotgun, 7 plays under center.

2nd quarter: 7 passes, 4 runs, 5 plays out of shotgun, 6 plays under center.

 

3rd quarter: 11 passes, 2 runs, 11 plays out of shotgun, 2 plays under center.

A big question going into this game was how the offense might look different with Foles taking over. He’s primarily a shotgun quarterback, but the Bears had operated more under center with more play-action with Trubisky in the first 2.5 games of the 2020 season.

In the first half Sunday, the Bears were mostly balanced in that regard, as Foles operated out of the shotgun 15 times and under center 13 times. But the Bears threw the ball 18 times in the first half and only ran it 10 – granted, the quarterback can check out of a run if the defense dictates.

The problem was, the Bears gained just 17 yards on the ground in the first half on 11 carries – an average of 1.5 yards per carry.

Perhaps he had no choice, but Nagy essentially abandoned the run from that point on. In the third quarter, and the game still within reach at 13-3, the Bears threw the ball 11 times and ran it just twice – for just one yard and two yards.

“A rush for two, a rush for three, a rush for two, a rush for three, a rush for two — a long rush of six. You felt that,” Nagy said. “And then all of the sudden you look up and it’s the end of the third quarter and we’re trying to get a rhythm. It was hard and that’s a credit to them.”

The Colts do deserve a lot of credit. They were stopping the run while sitting back in a Cover-2 shell, preventing any deep shots. And with the run not being much of a threat, play-action was useless. By my count, the Bears used play-action seven times on 42 passes and only twice in the second half. At times, it looked like Nick Foles was facing Lovie Smith’s defenses from the 2000s, except for the fact that Colts star linebacker Darius Leonard wasn’t even on the field in the second half because of a groin injury.

Here are some realities: The Bears came out flat, the offensive line took a big step backward, Foles didn’t play well, and until Allen Robinson’s touchdown catch in the final minutes, no one seemed like they wanted to make a play. It’s tough to call plays when all that is going on.

“We've gotta go back and make sure that we're putting our guys in great situations and then when we get a chance to execute, we've just gotta execute,” Nagy said.

But when the head coach goes back and reviews the tape Sunday night, he’ll notice some tendencies that became too obvious as the game went on. In the first quarter, the Bears were not predictable in what they were running, mixing in runs, passes and play-action out both the shotgun and under center. But that changed dramatically after halftime. Starting with the Bears’ final drive of the second quarter and encompassing the entire third quarter, the Bears ran the ball four times, all from under center, and threw the ball 12 times, all out of shotgun.

 

So when Foles lined up under center on a crucial 3rd-and-1 to start the fourth quarter, what do you think the Colts defense was thinking? Even with Cordarrelle Patterson in the backfield instead of David Montgomery, it sure felt like a run was coming.

And by the way, why was Cordarrelle Patterson in the backfield instead of David Montgomery?

The run went nowhere as Patterson lost a yard. Punt.

Look, Sunday was bad. The coaches, quarterback, offensive linemen, and receivers all share the blame for what happened. And they were facing the league’s No. 1 defense, which certainly contributed.

But it’s still alarming that it looked far too much like the 2019 Chicago Bears offense. And that needs to change in a hurry.

Especially because the Bears play Tom Brady in four days.

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