Saints 36, Bears 25: Whose arrows are up and down after a demoralizing loss at Soldier Field

Saints 36, Bears 25: Whose arrows are up and down after a demoralizing loss at Soldier Field

Yuck. Just … yuck. YUCK. The Bears just put the finishing touches on the first blowout loss in the Matt Nagy era, getting worked, 36-25, by the Saints. There’s not a whole lot of good things to be said about Sunday’s performance, and the Bears have found themselves firmly in 'Panic Mode' before the season’s midway point. Whose arrow is up and whose arrow is down? Bet you can guess!

ARROW DOWN – Matt Nagy 

Everyone wants a switch at QB, but I actually think there’s a case to be made that giving someone else the play calling duties should come first. Nagy spent the last two weeks talking about how they were going to fix the run, and his solution – at least in the first half, when the team put up 70 yards of total offense – was just to… not run at all? David Montgomery finished the afternoon with two carries. Two! The Bears traded up to draft a running back and then gave him two rushes against one of the NFC’s elite teams. There were also some head-scratching third down play calls in the opening half – like the Anthony Miller sweep that ended with a fumble – and his clock management during the final two minutes of the second quarter was clumsy. The Bears didn’t run ONE play in the red zone in that first half. Let that marinate. 

There’s always some unwarranted blame placed on the coach when his players aren’t making plays, but this offense isn’t innovative, or creative, or even functional. How much more of the same do the Bears think they can get away with?

ARROW DOWN – Mitch Trubisky 

The misses were especially horrendous on Sunday. He badly overthrew an open Taylor Gabriel on a third down out pattern early in the first half, and then missed Anthony Miller – who had a step on two defenders – up the seam right before halftime. There was also a comically-underthrown Hail Mary attempt to Allen Robinson and a 4th quarter rollout pass on 4th-and-3 didn’t land within 10 yards of a blue jersey. There’s no way around it anymore; those are throws that successful – even average – NFL QBs should make. He finished the game 34-54 for 251 yards, 2 TDs and 0 INTs, though much of those stats were accumulated with the game well out of reach. Trubisky has probably used up all of Chicagoland’s patience for the next five or six months, and it’s wild to think that a season with so much promise has already gone sour after seven weeks. The bleakest part is that, given all that Trubisky has shown this year, spoiling on the Bears’ 2019 season doesn’t feel like an especially hot take. Between Nagy’s inability to draw up successful plays and Trubisky’s inability to make those plays go, the Bears don’t have too many places to look for answers right now. 

ARROW DOWN – David Montgomery 

I know that you can only do so much when your name is called twice in the first half and four times on the afternoon (if you count his two receptions for 13 yards), but Montgomery didn’t impress much on the touches he did get. The biggest play he was involved in was his own fumble, which was recovered by New Orleans. Who would have guessed that Montgomery’s best game of the season’s first half would be a 13-rush, 67-yard performance against a terrible Washington team. The Bears’ offensive line wasn’t outstanding against the Saints, but they played well enough to keep the running game alive – had the coaches wanted to do that. Full judgement will continue to be withheld until the Bears can show the competency to put Montgomery in successful situations, but his play has been thoroughly underwhelming so far. 

ARROW DOWN – The Defense 

*This* is what regression looks like, huh? Teddy Bridgewater threw for 281 yards, Michael Thomas had 131 yards on nine catches, and Latavius Murray ran for 113 yards and two touchdowns. The Bears only got to Bridgewater once (Abdullah Anderson) and didn’t force a turnover. After giving up four 100-yard rushing performances all of 2018, they’ve already gotten halfway to matching that in the last two weeks alone. It’s incredibly difficult (/almost impossible) to remain an elite defense when you’re on the field for 30-40 minutes per game, but Chuck Pagano’s unit hasn’t shown quite the same bite that Vic Fangio’s did last season. 

ARROW UP – Cordarrelle Patterson 

Taking a kickoff back 102 yards for a touchdown is cool as hell.

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The Packers beat a bad Bears team in Week 1. In Week 15, they'll get a totally new one.

The Packers beat a bad Bears team in Week 1. In Week 15, they'll get a totally new one.

All week, reporters at Halas Hall tried to get Matt Nagy and the Bears to compare who they were during Week 1’s game against Green Bay to where they are now. And all week at Halas Hall, Matt Nagy and the Bears wouldn't bite. 

“We're both different. They're a little bit different, we're different,” Matt Nagy said. “They did a great job both as players and their coaches, so like I said yesterday, it feels like a while ago and that's why you play. You have a 16-game season and in division you get two chances. We'll just do everything we can to put it behind us and try to be better.” 

Different might be an understatement. Gone are Kyle Long and Bobby Massie. The Starting-Center-James-Daniel experiment is over, and Mike Davis is playing in the NFC South now. Adam Shaheen and Trey Burton – though the latter didn’t play in Week 1 – are on IR, too. Normally, losing two starting tight ends, a ‘starting’ running back, and the entire right side of the offensive line means you’re spending the last month of the season scouting for 2020. Instead, the Bears head to Lambeau Field on Sunday with a path to the playoffs still in front of them. 

“I just feel like we’re kind of in a rhythm now. We’re a different team,” Mitch Trubisky said. “There were some things that we had to go through in the first game and the beginning of the season that just didn’t go our way, and there’s things we definitely learned from as an offense. 

“I just feel like we have a new-found identity of what we want to do and everybody is really locked into what they have to do within their job description on the offense.” 

Perhaps the biggest difference between Week 1 and Week 15 has been the play of Trubisky, who looked like he was headed for a clipboard in 2020 before regaining his form over the last month or so. His comfortability in the offense is night and day compared to some of the struggles he went through during the first half of the season. If you ask him – which, duh, we did – he’ll tell you he’s felt the most growth off the field. 

“I just would say mental toughness, the ability to block out things on the outside,” he said. “Adversity, obviously, early in the season with people talking on the outside and then having to play through injuries and stuff, and just coming together closer as a team. My teammates having my back, that really gives me the most confidence.” 

The 14-week turnaround isn’t all about confidence, as Nagy 202 has morphed into something not expected but effective nonetheless. The running game has stabilized and they’ve found successful plays out of 4 WR sets – even if one of those receivers is Montgomery/Tarik Cohen. In Week 1? Montgomery had six rushes and the Bears ran two plays out of 10 personnel. Nagy said that he thought something clicked on Trubisky’s touchdown pass to Ben Braunecker against the Lions. 

“There's something there,” he said. “We felt it a little bit in the Chargers game, we just weren't effective in the red zone. But because we won the [Lions] game it magnifies it a little bit more … And then we just kind of started putting things together and I think over time we've just felt like it's just started to click. I don't know if it's specifically one play or not but that's probably my best guess.” 

It couldn’t have come at a better time, as the team prepares for what Nagy calls a “cat-and-mouse” game against Packers’ defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, who perhaps knows Trubisky better than any other opposing coordinator in the game. 

“Coach Pettine has done a great job throughout his career of being almost tendency-free,” he said. “And they’re even better now with how they deploy those guys, and it’s kind of a perfect, perfect storm of scheme and talent, and the guys on the back end help them out too.” 

The Bears are playing with a looseness that might come from essentially being mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, but oddly, it continues to work for them. And when you have to go play Aaron Rodgers in Lambeau with your season on the line, you don’t question what works. 

“I love it. You want to go against the best all the time,” said Akiem Hicks, who was taken off IR and will start on Sunday. “If you’re a true competitor, you want the best competition.”

Clippers coach and Chicago native Doc Rivers weighs in on Bears-Packers

Clippers coach and Chicago native Doc Rivers weighs in on Bears-Packers

With Doc Rivers, Patrick Beverly and the Los Angeles Clippers in town to face the Bulls, you knew the question was coming. Both Rivers and Beverly are from Chicago and not shy about their affection for the city. 

"Do you and Pat talk about coming to Chicago?" a reporter asked, during Rivers' pregame media scrum, Saturday night.

"We talk about Chicago, probably every single day," Rivers said with a hint of a smile. "We talk about the Bears the most."

That led to Rivers rapid-fire addressing a number of ruminations on the current state of the Bears, including his respect for head coach Matt Nagy.

"I’m a big Bears fan. A big Nagy fan. I think he’s a terrific coach," Rivers said. "I just do, every once in a while you get a feeling about someone, and I have that about him."

High praise coming from Rivers, the 13th-winningest coach in NBA history and an NBA Finals champion in 2008 with the Boston Celtics.

Now, he coaches the third-winningest team in the league in the Clippers, but he still finds time to keep up with current Chicago affairs.

"[Beverly and I] talk about everything with Chicago. We talk about the dominance of Proviso East [Rivers' high school alma mater] over Marshall [Beverly's alma mater], and every other team. He doesn’t like that conversation very much," Rivers said.

He added that he even contemplated driving down for the Bears' Week 14 matchup with the Cowboys on Thursday Night Football (the Clippers were in town for a game with Milwaukee that Friday).

And as for tomorrow's crucial division game against the Packers, Rivers made his position abundantly clear.

"Well, you know what I think," Rivers said, when asked for a prediction for the contest. "Are you kidding me?"

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