It's been an entire month since the Bears won a game, and even though Halloween just passed, the nightmare continues for Chicago fans. Stuck on three victories, questions of accountability are increasing exponentially. Is it the head coach’s fault, the starting quarterback’s inability to execute plays, talentless players or bad luck that’s contributing to this ineffectiveness? Is it all the above?
Being “accountable” for these problems means displaying ownership and a willingness to admit mistakes in order to move forward. Let’s use P.A.W.S. (Predictive Analysis With Statistics) to take account of what’s ailing the Monsters of the Midway.
After a home playoff loss to the Eagles, Bears fans were still haunted by the spectre of placekicker Cody Parkey’s infamous double-doink miss entering the 2019 season. Maybe his replacement, Eddy Piñeiro, was spooked by a “lake wind” effect last weekend, as he yanked a 41-yard field goal attempt that cemented another Bears defeat. To his credit, Piñeiro owned up to the miss, plainly stating that he should have made the kick. However, could the process of getting him in range for the game-winning attempt been better executed?
The Bears had plenty of time to do several things differently and create an optimal situation for the game-winning try. After Mitchell Trubisky ran for a first down to the Chargers' 21-yard line, Los Angeles called a timeout with 43 seconds remaining. The Bears made no attempt to get closer, choosing to kneel and run the clock down to four seconds before using a timeout for the field goal attempt. The kneel-down wasn’t centered — which Piñeiro later revealed was his preference — and consequently, he missed left of the goal post.
Piñeiro needed to make this kick, despite his coaches and teammates mishandling a few opportunities to improve his margin for error. The miss is his responsibility, yet accountability for the team’s win/loss records ultimately rests with their head coach.
Speaking of wins and losses, the Bears are currently on a three-game losing streak ahead of Sunday's matchup against the Eagles. During their last three games, the Bears have averaged just 73.7 rushing yards per game (the NFL average is 110.9 yards/game) and have turned the ball over twice in each of the last three games. Inefficiency on third down conversions is another component killing the Bears’ chances to win.
During their current losing-streak, the Bears have converted on only 29.7 percent of their third down chances — No. 26 in the NFL. The league average for successful third down conversions sits at 39.4 percent, so the Bears are considerably lower in this area.
Those are some fancy numbers, but what they tell us is that Nagy has to do a better job of helping his offense convert on third down in order to sustain drives. Sustained drives lead to more scores, and more scores increase the chance of winning. Last season, the Bears converted on 41 percent of third down situations (No. 11 in the NFL), which helped them average approximately 26 points per game and finish with a 12-4 record.
Nagy has won 15 games since taking over as head coach of the Bears; in those wins, his offense has successfully converted on 40 percent of third down attempts. In his nine losses, the Bears' conversion percentage is substantially lower at 34.8 percent. Against the Chargers last week, Nagy constructed a more balanced game plan to help a struggling Trubisky. This season, the 25-year-old quarterback is only completing 40.9 percent of his red zone attempts (No. 41 in the NFL), a far cry from his 64.1 percent completion rate he posted in 2018. The presence of a running game last year helped Trubisky's completion percentage and in turn made the Bears a more diverse offense.
The Bears will need to be less predictable, yet more efficient, with their play-calling. They're facing someone who's undefeated against them as a head coach in Doug Pederson (3-0 lifetime versus Chicago) and he seems to have the Bears’ number. In every one of those games, Pederson’s Eagles have thrown more touchdown passes (6 to 1) and won the time of possession battle. As a matter of fact, the greater the time of possession, the higher the margin of victory for Philadelphia against the Bears.
According to Next Gen Stats, Eagles running back Jordan Howard is the 10th-most efficient rusher in the NFL. Howard, a former Bear, was traded away in the offseason because he supposedly didn’t fit Nagy’s offensive system. Ironically, playing in a similar offensive with the Eagles, Howard is averaging 4.4 yards per carry with five touchdowns. His backup, rookie Miles Sanders, is averaging 4.5 yards per carry on the season and has a rushing score, too. More than likely, Howard holds the Bears accountable for how he was treated last season and will seek some retribution on Sunday.
To a man, the Bears, from the coaching staff to the players, must hold each other accountable if they are to salvage this season. Winning against the Eagles is imperative because the Bears' remaining schedule is daunting (39-28-1 opponents record) with only one team (the 2-6 Giants) having a losing record. Winning on Sunday will depend on how well the Bears:
- Convert on third down (26.9 percent in four losses, 40.0 percent in three wins)
- Run the ball to create favorable play action passes (the Eagles are seventh-worst in passing yards allowed and have surrendered 16 touchdown passes)
- Limit the number of Howard/Sanders rushing yards per carry (both average 4.4 yards or better per carry and have scored six rushing touchdowns combined)
Let’s see which team owns its effort on Sunday.
Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.