Sunday’s 22-14 loss to the Eagles was a bitter pill to swallow for even the most ardent Bears supporter.
It’s kind of hard to get excited about a listless offense. It’s downright difficult not to bury your face in shame over an offense that records 9 total yards of offense in the first half.
Prior to kickoff each week, I typically send out an overarching tweet that encompasses my main focus, and general feeling, of the game that I’m about to watch.
Here was what I tweeted before Sunday’s battle with the Eagles:
All right, can we get a respectable performance today? Just look like an NFL offense and defense. A loss is never easy to stomach no matter how good a team looks. But at this point, I just want to see a 2019 ball club. Get it done, #Bears. #CHIvsPHI
— BearsBeat.com (@bearsbeat) November 3, 2019
Whoops. So much for my wishful thinking. The Bears let me — all of us — down in that regard.
Bears offense reaching 1990s level of bad
Aside from a few years here and there — I can think of two offhand — the Bears have typically had mediocre offenses at best, and abominations at worst since the 1985 Super Bowl team.
In 2013 — Marc Trestman’s first year as Bears head coach — the offense finished as a Top 10 unit with 27.8 points per game and 381.8 yards per contest. Before that, the Super Bowl runners-up in 2006 averaged 26.7 points per game and 324.9 yards per contest.
But during the past two decades, nothing stands out as egregious as some of the 1990s Bears offenses.
Well, I think we’ve finally reached that level of bad.
Sunday’s loss, in which the Bears had 9 yards of offense in the first half and only 164 total yards for the game, may have been the worst offensive output I can ever recall watching.
And this was supposed to be solved by Matt Nagy’s innovative play calling.
But I guess when your offensive line can’t block for more than two seconds at a time, and you don’t allow your quarterback to throw the ball farther than five yards down the field, you’re setting the stage for a new level of bad.
Just let Trubisky grip it and rip it
We know what Trubisky is at this point in his career. At least, that’s what we fake amateur scouts tend to think. Our eyes don’t deceive us, do they?
We understand that Trubisky is a mediocre quarterback at best and might be a flat-out bust at worst. We realize Trubisky struggles to read defenses, can’t find the open receiver, and sails passes well off the mark when he does see his intended target.
But the Bears have to make a decision at this point: Yank him out of the lineup right now, or let him keep chucking it.
No, this does not mean I advocate neglecting the run. Nagy got grilled for ignoring the run twice this season, and rightfully so. He needs to keep running the ball.
All I’m saying is that when the Bears do run a pass play, let Trubisky throw it down the field a little bit.
Why the Bears waited until the middle of the third quarter to allow Trubisky to throw the ball past the sticks is beyond me. It’s no wonder they finished with just 9 yards of offense in the first half. Everything was a failed run attempt or a dump-off pass underneath five yards.
The only way to get better at anything in life is to keep practicing it. That’s why I’m advocating that the Bears continue to let him throw the ball downfield.
Yes, Trubisky is going to throw picks. And yes, he’s going to continue to sail passes out of his receiver’s reach. But I also feel that he’ll start to develop a little touch the more he keeps slinging it.
Offensive linemen make or break a play caller
One thing that is severely limiting the Bears offense is the play of their offensive line.
Trubisky was sacked three more times on Sunday and David Montgomery managed just 40 yards on 14 carries (2.9 yards per attempt).
And you may be wondering, how can I expect the Bears to let Trubisky throw the ball downfield more if the offensive line can’t sustain blocks long enough to allow the receivers to get open?
That’s true to some extent. But this is where I also feel that they need to allow Trubisky to use his legs to get out of the pocket and buy some time.
But the bottom line is this: offensive lines will make or break a play caller. Nagy looked like a mad scientist drawing up creative plays when the Bears blocked well last season. This season, Nagy looks like a mere mortal who is in over his head.
If the Bears are going to win anymore games this season, it’s going to be because the line starts to block better. But if they do not, then general manager Ryan Pace has his work cut out for him trying to add more pieces up front during the upcoming offseason.
Bears defense continues to fall down the ranks
Do you remember when we confidently declared that the Bears had the best defense in the NFL? Can you recall how many — but not I — compared this unit to the ‘85 Bears?
It really wasn’t that long ago. Many of those same feelings existed following the Bears’ dismantling of the Vikings in Week 4.
Since then, though, the Bears seemingly have been figured out.
The run defense has been abysmal in losses to the Raiders, Saints and Eagles. And the defense has failed to make a critical stand when it mattered most in the past two losses to the Chargers and Eagles.
The Bears were nursing a 16-10 lead early in the fourth quarter against the Chargers. Trubisky fumbled and set up the Chargers offense with a short field. Clearly, that is difficult for a defense to handle, but it’s not impossible. The Bears’ defense failed to stop the Chargers from putting the ball in the end zone, ultimately costing them the lead and the game.
On Sunday against the Eagles, the Bears punted the ball down to the Eagles’ 11-yard-line with about 8:39 left to play, down by 5 points. All the Bears’ defense had to do was prevent the Eagles from sustaining a long drive and stop them from getting points.
Instead, the Eagles engineered a 16-play, 69-yard drive that chewed up 8:14 of game clock and ended with a field goal. That Adam Shaheen muffed the ensuing kickoff, giving the Eagles the ball back with 0:25 to play, mattered little. It’d be hard to convince me that Trubisky could drive the team about 75 yards in that short of time for a chance to tie the game.
Is the defense noticeably worse without Akiem Hicks? Has the defense given up on the season? Whatever the case may be, it is not an elite unit anymore.
Where do the Bears go from here?
The most bitter feeling emanating from the Bears’ fourth-straight loss is the lack of hope for the future.
A team is supposed to progress in Year 2 of a new system, not regress.
And yet the Bears look about as inept as one with a coaching staff on its last legs. However, this coaching staff isn’t going anywhere. It’s only Year 2. And while we’ve seen coaches get fired after one season, I don’t see that in the cards for Nagy and the Bears.
The Bears must do whatever they can to keep the locker room from mutiny. There clearly exists frustration and despair to some extent. I wouldn’t doubt that some have all but quit. If not physically, then emotionally and mentally.
The Bears need to have a team that puts forth its best effort every week. That is, if they want to effectively self-scout and prepare for life after 2019.
I’ll repeat: my hope for the Bears is that they continue to let Trubisky throw the ball downfield. Maybe through repetition he learns to put better touch on his passes. Perhaps he develops some confidence by connecting on a few passes beyond the first-down markers.
The Bears can’t keep him under lock and key and continue limiting his throws to five-yards-or-less. If they do, they will never get to see what they fully have in Trubisky. Hell, they’ll never get to see what they have in their skill players.
And if they think they already know what they have in Trubisky, then yank him from the lineup. Because they’d just be wasting time at that point.