Fortunately for Matt Nagy, the Bears didn’t get blown out in Sunday’s 31-28 overtime loss to the Miami Dolphins. But for a team that espouses legitimate playoff aspirations this season, they couldn’t have been less inspiring.
Every head coach undergoes a litmus test in the game immediately following a bye week. How prepared and focused does that coach keep his players during their week off? Some coaches are more adept at that than others.
For instance, Nagy’s mentor Andy Reid has a near-flawless post-bye week record. Reid is somewhere around 90% successful in games following a bye week.
Nagy, on the other hand, did not get off on the right foot.
Did Bears suffer from big heads?
Not only did the Bears enter Sunday’s game with two weeks of preparation for the Dolphins, but they came off their most impressive performance of the season against the Buccaneers in Week 4.
One can’t help but wonder if the Bears sauntered into Miami with puffy chests and big heads.
Did six passing touchdowns from Mitch Trubisky give them a false sense of security? Already boasting one of the league’s best defenses, did the Bears offense now think they were one of the big kids on the block?
Dolphins owned the Bears at the line of scrimmage
Every respectable football mind will tell you that games are won and lost in the trenches. The Bears on Sunday found a way to lose in that arena on both sides of the football.
It started with the defense, who gave up 541 total yards of offense. They allowed a 100-yard rusher for the first time this season as Frank Gore pounded out 101 yards on just 15 carries.
The defense applied little to no pressure on Dolphins backup quarterback Brock Osweiler. The Bears failed to register a sack and couldn’t generate much of a pass rush. All-world linebacker Khalil Mack’s name was hardly mentioned, other than when he had to have his ankle taped.
The Bears offense again neglected to run the football with Jordan Howard. Howard has been one of the leading rushers in the NFL since his rookie season.
But don’t tell that to Nagy. Straight line, one-cut running plays aren’t innovative enough to excite Nagy’s play-calling sensibilities.
Howard finished with just 14 carries for 69 yards. Nearly half of those yards came on two carries on the Bears’ final drive of the game. Howard essentially has been phased out of the offense over the past few weeks.
It’s not like Howard’s usage mattered much considering the Bears offensive line couldn’t get any push up front.
Bears couldn’t handle Dolphins’ speed
When the defense fails to apply pressure on the quarterback, they’re extremely vulnerable on the back end.
That couldn’t have been more on display than on Albert Wilson’s two touchdown receptions.
The Dolphins’ speedy wide receiver broke off catch-and-run touchdowns of 43 and 75 yards. The tackling — and the failure to even attempt such — were clearly evident as Wilson left Bears defenders on ice skates.
On one of Wilson’s touchdowns, Bears safety Eddie Jackson got spun around like a 50-year-old man in a rec league pick-up basketball game.
If speed kills, turnovers slaughter
As if chasing Wilson all over the field wasn’t bad enough, the Bears offered gifts in the form of two red zone turnovers for good measure.
Late in the second quarter with the Bears approaching the end zone, Howard fumbled away the football at the one-yard line. The turnover cost the Bears a touchdown and a chance at tying the game before halftime.
The Bears again were knocking on the door near Miami’s goal line towards the end of the third quarter. Trubisky forced a pass into the end zone which was picked off, effectively killing the Bears’ momentum out of halftime.
Late in the game with the score tied at 28, it was Tarik Cohen’s chance to cough up the football. The Bears’ diminutive back caught a pass from Trubisky before being stripped near midfield.
Turning the ball over three times is a killer for a team whose offense wasn’t clicking early and whose defense couldn’t stop its opponent.
Bears have tough test coming next week
I don’t believe in trap games, personally. Even the worst team can give one of the best a run for their money any given week. This is why I don’t think the Bears were looking past the Dolphins toward the New England Patriots in Week 7.
I do think that the Bears underestimated Miami’s speed. I also believe that Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio didn’t have an answer for how the Dolphins were protecting Osweiler. All quarterbacks can stand in the pocket and complete throws if they’re given enough time (witness Exhibit A in Trubisky’s performance against the Buccaneers).
Now, if the Bears’ pass rush has a similarly bad, repeat performance next week, then Tom Brady will pick them apart faster and more thoroughly than a fat man at Thanksgiving dinner.
If the Bears were puffy chested heading into Sunday’s game, they sure got a healthy dose of reality from the Dolphins. Here’s hoping they come out more prepared for the Patriots than they did after two weeks getting ready for Miami.