Justin Fields’ heroics didn’t necessarily go to waste, but the rookie quarterback will not get to pad his résumé in Monday night’s 29-27 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
When the chips were down and the Bears were facing a 6-point deficit with under three minutes to go, the hope was that Fields could show his mettle. Could the promising rookie lead the offense on a game-winning drive?
Indeed, Fields did have a successful drive, completing passes to Allen Robinson and Darnell Mooney while also scrambling to pick up some yards on his own. And with just under two minutes to go, Fields found Mooney at the side of the end zone for the game-tying touchdown. A Cairo Santos extra point put the Bears ahead and the fans were ready to anoint Fields the next great one.
But, alas, it was not meant to be. There was too much time left on the clock and the defense caved, allowing the Steelers to kick the game-winning field goal. A last-ditch 65-yard field goal attempt by Santos fell short, ending his consecutive field goal streak as well as the Bears’ hopes of winning that game.
When a team fails to win a game, the fingers start pointing. And yes, I get it. Matt Nagy is Chicago’s favorite punching bag and he receives the most fingers — which digits, I’ll let you decide. But this game was not won or lost by Nagy or the coaching staff. It was on the players.
For as impressive as Fields looked on the go-ahead drive, and for the 21 points — 14 by the offense — that the Bears scored in the fourth quarter, let’s not let the rest of the game get lost in the shuffle. The Bears scored 6 points through three quarters and looked awful. And everybody wants to blame that on Nagy and his offensive scheme, but the fact remains that the players just aren’t good enough.
For that, I blame general manager Ryan Pace more than I do Nagy.
- First drive, a three-and-out. Fields hits Allen Robinson two yards short of the first down marker.
- Second series, three and out. A first down negated by penalty, Fields misfires downfield on one pass, and then he throws underneath on third-and-12.
- Third series, Fields throws into the mitts of a defensive lineman. Interception. Turnover.
- Fourth series, three and out. Incomplete pass to Marquise Goodwin and a scramble on third down.
- Fifth series, four and out. Good pass to Cole Kmet for 25 yards, but then nothing. Fields runs backwards on a sack trying to get out of trouble and only makes things worse. Should have taken the short loss and lived to play another down.
The Bears finally scored a field goal on their sixth series, but that was an atrocious opening to the game. That’s not all on Nagy. That’s a personnel problem.
The Bears opened the second half with a 10-play drive that led to a field goal, followed by a 6-play touchdown drive that bled into the fourth quarter.
The Bears had five offensive series in the second half, scored on three of them, and also added a special teams score at the conclusion of another one. What happened between the first and second halves? If the Bears can find that out and put together a four-quarter effort when they return from their bye week, they just might turn their offensive fortunes around.
I hate to tell fans what they can and can’t be excited about. That’s your right and not my place to interfere. But I think Bears Nation needs to pump the brakes on Fields love a little bit. He had a good second half, no doubt. And his composure under pressure in leading that go-ahead drive was impressive beyond his years.
But he’s still a rookie and he continues to make mistakes. We need to let this season play out, let his career develop a little bit, and focus on seeing progression rather than hyping up statistics and “wow” plays.
The Bears are 3-6, tied for the third-worst record in the NFC, and heading into a bye week where they’ll have two weeks to prepare for a tough Baltimore squad.
For those fans still clinging to some kind of playoff hopes, I applaud your optimism. But the Bears are headed down the drain pretty rapidly right now.
For those fans hoping the Bears keep losing badly so that Nagy and Pace are fired … I’ve got nothing but an eye roll for that kind of thinking.
But for those fans looking for incremental progress and for the Bears to be as competitive as possible the rest of the way, I’m with you.