The Bears’ offense is still figuring out “who they are and what they want to be,” as quarterback Nick Foles said.
Well, we know what the Bears’ offense is. They’re bad. Just straight up bad.
Consider this: The Bears had seven plays of 10 or more yards before fourth quarter garbage time in Nashville. They averaged 20.9 yards on those plays. Pretty good, right?
On the plays immediately following those chunk gains, the Bears in total lost seven yards. Lost. Seven. Yards. They averaged minus-one yard right after seemingly putting a worse-than-okay defense on its heels.
That right there is a clear display of the rot that’s taken hold inside Matt Nagy’s offense over the last two years.
Add in the Bears converting 13 percent of their third downs against the worst third down defense in the NFL (Tennessee entered Week 9 allowing opponents to convert 62 percent of their third downs) and you get a pretty bleak outlook on the next seven games of the 2020 season.
But if Nagy's offense is going to be this bad – like, competing with the New York Jets for the league’s worst offense bad – the least they could do is stop committing so many damn penalties. They’re not bad because they’re undisciplined. They’re bad, and also undisciplined.
Right now, watching the Bears' offense is like watching an overmatched boxer slug himself in the stomach a few times before getting into the ring with Mike Tyson. What's that cliche about a "puncher's chance?" The Bears don't have a puncher's chance as long as they continue to play undisciplined football.
And it’s uncanny how those Bears' penalties, at least on Sunday, came at the absolute most soul-crushing times.
The Bears took over possession with just under a minute left in the first half in Titans’ territory, presenting a great opportunity to pick up 15-20 yards and give Cairo Santos a shot at a field goal going into halftime. On first-and-10, Charles Leno Jr. was flagged for a false start. On first-and-15, Rashaad Coward was flagged for illegal use of hands.
“You get to a point there at the end of the half where you get a couple completions and you’re just going backwards instead of forwards,” Nagy said. “And when you have that – and then the rest of the game, there’s just some stuff that went on that it just makes it hard.
“And we’re not in a position right now offensively to make things hard. That’s a simple fact.”
The Bears still made it hard for their broken offense after halftime, too.
On their first drive of the third quarter, the Bears had a fourth-and-1 at the Titans’ 31-yard line. Nagy did the right thing, not settling for a long field goal but aggressively trying to capitalize on a burst of momentum against this, again, suboptimal Titans defense.
Left guard Arlington Hambright, the Bears’ seventh-round pick starting his first NFL game, jumped before the snap. False start, loss of five. Nagy kept the offense on the field only to have tight end Jimmy Graham, starting his 120th NFL game, jump before the snap. False start, loss of five.
Fourth and inches became fourth and 11. The Bears punted.
“That's something where we have to look at the film and just talk, coaches and players, and figure it out,” Foles said. “I don't have that answer for you but I will say when we clean that up, it will help us in those situations because we will be able to keep the chains moving and have another set of downs. That will be a big emphasis for us."
And it’s not just penalties. For a while on Sunday, Barkevious Mingo was the Bears’ leading rusher despite being, you know, a linebacker. His 11-yard dash on a fake punt could’ve been a spark. The Bears had to call timeout right after it to get the right personnel on the field.
“We had a substitution with a wide receiver that was just a little bit off there,” Nagy said. “And I wanted to make sure that we were perfect. I didn’t want to do what happened last week where we had a 5-yard penalty and we just – so that happens. That probably happens across the league more than you think. And right now it’s a little magnified just because of our situation.”
Right. It is magnified because of the Bears’ “situation.” The situation is the Bears’ offense is bad and may not have a fix for being so bad.
Leaders need to step up and lead, coaches need to step and coach to reverse this trending lack of discipline. Being bad and being undisciplined can be two different things. The Bears are making them one in the same.
And they’re making themselves an unwatchable, embarrassing offense that – gulp – the nation will get to see, again, in primetime next Monday night.