New Orleans Saints

First and Final Thoughts: The Chargers could be a good bounce-back game ... right?

First and Final Thoughts: The Chargers could be a good bounce-back game ... right?

Not unlike Matt Nagy and Mitch Trubisky, it's Year 2 of First and Final Thoughts. Insider JJ Stankevitz and producer Cam Ellis talk about what's on their minds between games.

Final Thoughts on the Week 7 

J.J. Stankevitz: The Saints represented a measuring stick for the Bears against one of the best teams in the NFC, and, well, you know what happened. The Saints are a great team that was able to sustain not having Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara and Jared Cook, while the Bears’ defense did not handle the absence of Akiem Hicks well. The offense didn’t help, of course, and that defensive line needs the most help to get breathers with first downs from the offense, not three-and-outs. There are so many concerning developments for the Bears in the aftermath of the worst loss of the Matt Nagy era, but none more so than a general feeling that this team doesn’t have what it takes to fix things. I may be proven wrong there, but it’s awfully hard to see how a team with so many flaws can get things right. 

Cam Ellis: There are a half dozen bigger issues that need to be addressed first, but Roquan Smith's performance against the Saints was discouraging in a way that's stuck with me. His legs looked a little heavy against Oakland, but considering that it was his first game back and also played on another continent, a quiet day was understandable. Last Sunday's tape against New Orleans was arguably worse, and Matt Nagy spoke bluntly about his performance during Wednesday's press conference, saying "he can definitely play better, and he knows that." 

Nagy also couldn't say whether he thought the personal issue was still affecting Smith's performance. It's entirely possible that he just played poorly the last two weeks – he certainly wouldn't be the only one. With that said, Nagy's non-answer was telling in its own way, and cryptic tweeting from Smith over the last couple days only adds fuel to the conspiracy fires. Calling for Nick Kwiatkoski still feels a little too Takey, but there's no denying it's been a rough season. 

First Thoughts on Week 8

Stankevitz: If you think the Bears are disappointing, imagine being a Chargers fan (insert rimshot here). Los Angeles is 2-5, and while getting offensive tackle Russell Okung back this week is a boost, Derwin James is still out and this team hasn’t re-captured the mojo it had a year ago. The Chargers are 22nd in DVOA, four spots behind the Bears. This is a game the Bears should win, and if they do, afterwards you’ll probably hear a lot about it being a “spark.” But the real test for the Bears awaits in a week when a trip to Philadelphia looms. Win that — even with the Eagles nearing self-destruction — after beating the Chargers and maybe we can start talking about saving the season then. 

Ellis: The Bears should be the better team on Sunday, which bodes well for Nagy's theory (with some strong anecdotal evidence, granted) that even one good performance can a spark season-defining winning streak. They took advantage of a bad Buccaneers secondary last year to jumpstart an offense that would score at least 25 points in the next six games, so maybe something similar's possible against a Chargers defense that's ranked 28th in DVOA? You also can't help but wonder how another anemic performance from the offense on Sunday would affect Ryan Pace's approach to the trade deadline two days later.  

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Studs and Duds from Bears' Week 7 loss to Saints

Studs and Duds from Bears' Week 7 loss to Saints

The Bears played what may have been their worst game in the Matt Nagy era in Sunday's 36-25 loss to the New Orleans Saints. This despite the fact that the Bears were coming off of a bye week that was supposed to be used to establish the team's identity on offense.

Instead, Nagy and quarterback Mitchell Trubisky created more questions than answers about not only this year's Bears, but also about Nagy's ability as a play-caller and Trubisky's potential to ever emerge as a legitimate starting quarterback in the NFL.

They weren't alone in their struggles on Sunday. The defense was atrocious, too. Facing a depleted Saints offense that was without Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara and Jared Cook, the Bears allowed 424 total yards, including 119 rushing yards for Saints running back Latavius Murray.

There were a lot more duds than studs in Week 7:

Dud: QB Mitchell Trubisky

Beware the final stat line for Trubisky on Sunday. It will lie to you. Sure, he completed more than 63 percent of his passes, threw for more than 250 yards and had two touchdowns, but Week 7's effort against the Saints may have been the worst we've seen from the third-year quarterback. He was inaccurate. He made bad decisions. He floated turnover-worthy throws. And, the worst part? We're getting used to it by now. The Bears are stuck with Trubisky for the rest of this season and if the former No. 2 pick doesn't make a marked turnaround over the final 10 games, you can add quarterback to the team's wishlist this offseason.

Dud: OLB Khalil Mack

For the second consecutive week, Mack was invisible. And while it feels unfair to call him a dud considering all he's done for the Bears over his first 20 games, the fact remains that the Bears' pass rush was non-existent on Sunday, and it starts with Mack. He isn't getting any help from outside linebacker Leonard Floyd and there was no interior push without defensive lineman Akiem Hicks in the game, but generational players step up and make the key play when it's needed most. Mack hasn't done that in either of Chicago's last two losses.

Dud: ILB Roquan Smith

Smith is trending toward one of this team's biggest disappointments of 2019. His talent is undeniable, and when he's on his game, there are few linebackers who can match his heat-seeking style. But his struggles at the point of attack and in coverage were exposed yesterday. Murray's size and power gave Smith trouble. He has to play better considering the Bears need to make a decision on linebacker Danny Trevathan's future this offseason. If Smith's struggles continue, it could force GM Ryan Pace to keep the steady veteran around on another multi-year deal.

Stud: WR Allen Robinson

The impact Robinson is having on offense can't be understated at this point. He's the only sign of life from a unit that's been dead on arrival for most of 2019. Robinson ended the game with 10 catches for 87 yards and a touchdown. He was Trubisky's first read on almost every pass play and was targeted 16 times. A-Rob is everything the Bears hoped he'd be. It's the other 10 guys on offense who haven't been.

Dud: RB David Montgomery

Montgomery's rookie season may have hit rock bottom on Sunday. He finished the game with just two carries for six yards and lost a costly fumble. The struggles with the offensive line have been well-documented, but at some point, Montgomery has to prove he can make something out of nothing. Right now, he hasn't done that. And it appears like the coaching staff is beginning to lose some faith in him.

Dud: RB Tarik Cohen

Cohen joins Montgomery as a dud from Week 7. He didn't fare much better on the ground (just 10 yards on three carries) and managed only 19 yards on nine receptions. His biggest moment in the game came at his own expense when Saints defensive back Chauncy Gardner-Johnson mocked his height. Cohen has to start flipping field position for this offense to stand a chance over the last 10 games. 

Stud: WR/KR Cordarrelle Patterson

Patterson has to be a stud, right? Even if it's for just one play? It happened to be a pretty good one -- kickoff returned 102 yards for a touchdown -- and looked like the spark the Bears needed to wake up. Unfortunately, it would be one of the few highlights from an otherwise brutal four quarters at Soldier Field.


NFC North Standings: Bears are worst team in division through Week 7

NFC North Standings: Bears are worst team in division through Week 7

It seems like such a long time ago that optimism and hope were the feelings that best described the Chicago Bears fanbase. Optimism was bred from the talking points around quarterback Mitch Trubisky in training camp; Hope was the result of knowing this defense was good enough to win a Super Bowl.

Yet, here we are, seven weeks into the 2019 season, and the Bears sit at 3-3 and in third place in the NFC North. And it's not like they've had a few bad breaks, either. Nor is it because another team or two in the division is fool's gold. Instead, the Bears are a pretty bad club right now. They have the division's worst offense, led by the North's worst starting quarterback, and a defense that's suddenly drifted closer to a middle-of-the-pack group than the elite squad that was drawing comparisons to the 1985 team.

Chicago's embarrassing 36-25 loss to the Saints on Sunday makes it back-to-back one-sided defeats that were the result of an equal parts offensive and defensive failure. But it's impossible to talk about this team without bringing up the obvious and most necessary issue: Mitch Trubisky.

His performance in Week 7 was more like an undrafted rookie making his first career start than a former No. 2 overall pick in his third season. Sure, he was restricted by a shoulder harness and probably wasn't 100% healthy, but the Bears are running out of excuses for Trubisky. The boo birds were out in full force in the second half of Sunday's loss and it's a trend that will continue unless, of course, he rights the ship quickly.

His passes fluttered high and wide when they mattered most, and despite finishing the game with over 250 yards and two touchdowns, he was downright bad. 

And to make matters worse, the NFC North may have already slipped away in 2019.

The Packers walloped the Oakland Raiders, 42-24, to improve to 6-1. They're the class of the division, and if quarterback Aaron Rodgers starts to click like he did on Sunday (he threw for 429 yards, five touchdowns and had a perfect passer rating), Green Bay could end up being the favorite in the NFC.

The Minnesota Vikings defeated the Detroit Lions, 42-30, to improve to 5-2. The Vikings are now in sole possession of second place in the NFC North at 5-2.

The Lions, meanwhile, drop to 2-3-1, and are currently in last place in the North. That said, they aren't the worst team. That distinction belongs to the Bears, and it isn't particularly close.

You'll hear a lot about the Bears being 3-3 after six games last season, too. Unfortunately, this team is very different. And it starts under center, where Trubisky has taken a big step back in a season that he was expected to develop into Chicago's franchise quarterback.

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