Shaking out the odds and ends from the notebook in the aftermath of the Bears’ 19-14…win… over the New York Giants.
The single biggest, overarching takeaway or impression from a game that kept the Bears within hailing distance of .500 was that this was a football team still without a clear handle on itself. Four of its five wins have been over teams with three or fewer victories; the fifth was over a team (Minnesota) that appears to have thought, “How did we lose to the BEARS?” and reeled off six wins in their last seven games.
The win over New York contained precious few positives beyond the big one – the ‘W’ – and was within a final Giants drive or two missed Giants field goals from going the other way. No phase – offense, defense, special teams – played a complete football game, although special teams covering a 61-yard Pat O’Donnell punt in the final minutes was a dagger.
The problem is that too often this season the coaches and players have literally said that they don’t have a clear answer for whatever the issue, or “we have to figure that out.” That’s a problem in itself.
Getting down to cases:
Unhappy QB = very good thing
Based on tone and other indicators, coach Matt Nagy was considerably happier with the win than his quarterback was, which frankly is a very good thing. Mitch Trubisky’s postgame demeanor and comments were blunt and forceful in declaring that the individual and collective performances were “not nearly good enough” and he did it in a way that pointed the thumb as harshly as any finger. It wasn’t just what he said; it was how he said it, which had the ring of a team leader, which a shaky Trubisky has not sounded like in recent weeks:
“Happy we won, but it's not good enough,” a reserved Trubisky said. “Not nearly good enough from this offense, from myself. We can't have the turnovers. Got to be better on third down. Got to be better in the red zone. Enjoy the win, but quick turnaround this week obviously playing on Thursday, so we've just got to find ways to get better, improve and quit making mistakes, especially myself.”
Having the by-definition team leader declare, “I’m mad as hell and not going to take it anymore” is something the Bears have needed for quite some time. It doesn’t make Trubisky good but his forceful demanding more of himself and teammates is a very good thing. Best guess is that this Mitch Trubisky doesn’t give a damn what’s on any Halas Hall TV.
The Bears’ eyebrow-raising third quarters – more total points (84) than the first (24) and fourth (28) combined – suggest a few things. One would be that perhaps Matt Nagy, upon winning the coin toss, should defy the conventional wisdom of choosing to receive the second-half kickoff and take the ball to start the game.
Forget the rationales. Nagy would be making a statement to and with his offense, declaring that today the Bears are going to come out and impose their will before your defense has caught its breath.
Making a point(s)
After 11 weeks the Bears are scoring 17.1 points per game and allowing exactly the same. 188 points for, 188 points against. The former, however, is deeply concerning. The latter, very impressive.
And it is even more impressive for a defense that lost its beloved coordinator (Vic Fangio) and two of its true emotional and performance leaders (Akiem Hicks, Danny Trevathan). Chuck Pagano still ranks as the Bears’ most important offseason addition.
The final five games do pit the Bears against three top-10 scoring offenses (Kansas City, Dallas, Minnesota) plus top-15ers Detroit and Green Bay. And the defense hasn’t produced the huge number of defensive scores and sacks that it did last year. But it is worth noting that the defense already has more than done its job vs. the Lions (13 points), Packers (10) and Rams (17).
What was all THAT?
The botched (being polite) PAT in the second half, which included, in no particular order, Mitch Trubisky scoring on a two-yard keeper, disorganization that forced the Bears to burn a timeout getting ready for a two-point try, a 10-yard loss via pass-interference (albeit dubious) penalty on Allen Robinson that negated a successful Trubisky-to-Taylor Gabriel, a second flag on a confused illegal substitution, all capped off by Eddy Pineiro missing another kick, a 48-yard attempt. (No word from Pineiro if he thought the official placed the football on the hashmark that he didn’t like).
At this point of the 2019 season and after 28 games under the Nagy coaching staff, the chaos reflects poorly on players and also coaches. Toward that point...
The question still stands…
This late in the 2019 season, Matt Nagy isn’t likely to delegate (am using that word “delegate” on purpose, because that’s what good, experienced chief executives do in all lines of work) the playcalling duties this season to offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich. But it is difficult not to wonder if some of the chaos is due to an absence of big-picture oversight. Nagy is deeply involved with trees; it’s the forest that doesn’t always look managed.
Playcalling, like any task in professional football, requires extreme attention and concentration. Other details on offense and even defense and special teams are too often ragged, which Nagy could blame on his assistants. But a bumbling team needs the top guy ready to be involved everywhere, particularly one well-liked and trusted by all areas of his team.
Until the playoffs are officially closed to the Bears, and maybe not even then because it’s not fair to the players involved, the hope here is that the season doesn’t degenerate into a fourth preseason game or some mass audition of seeing what backups can do with play time. Here’s why:
No one outside of the team watches practice pretty much once training camp wraps up. So the public is not seeing every day if Riley Ridley isn’t on time where Trubisky needs him to be, or if Alex Bars isn’t being taken to the shed in pass-pro drills.
But more than a few poor or indifferent practice players (see: Dent, Richard; Iverson, Allen) have proved to be very, very good players when it counted. Not picking on anyone here, but unless Bars or Ridley, for example, are complete practice train wrecks or attitude problems, there’s a nagging question whether they wouldn’t play as well or better at right guard or wide receiver than the current starters.Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.