I’m positive that is what some folks are already doing, rationalizing a terrible showing by the offense on a little rust that wasn’t knocked off in preseason. The Bears were so bad on offense that it’s not something 40 or 50 snaps in preseason games would have cured.
It’s a best-case scenario that the reason the offense was disjointed and terribly ineffective on third down and suffered from communication breakdowns because the starters were observers throughout the preseason. But it’s really difficult to imagine how the Bears — who had since April to prepare for the rival Packers — could come out and look simply awful.
Nagy was the NFL’s Coach of the Year last season, an award he deserved. He didn’t forget what he was doing since then. But there’s no other way to describe it other than to say he was completely outclassed in this game. Never before had the Bears been held to three points or less in the season opener at home and this was in front of a national television audience with a huge crowd in Grant Park watching an offensive implosion.
Credit is due to the Packers, who reshaped their defense in the offseason with some bold moves in free agency, including a $36 million, four-year contract for former Bears safety Adrian Amos. Green Bay also made moves to bolster the front seven, signing outside linebackers Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith. But the Packers don’t have the 1985 Bears defense. Heck, they don’t have the 2019 Bears defense.
Quarterback Mitch Trubisky was as bad as he was in the playoff loss to the Eagles last January. He completed 26 of 45 passes for 228 yards and was sacked five times, a couple of them avoidable losses. Amos picked him off in the end zone with 1:58 remaining to just about end the game. A good chunk of his 228 yards came on check-down throws.
Wide receiver Allen Robinson, the intended target on the interception, had a nice game with seven catches for 102 yards. But that’s about it if you’re searching for offensive highlights. I told Robinson folks will be wondering if a preseason without any action would be an explanation for a poor showing.
“They can keep wondering that,” he said. “We can’t change that. I felt very prepared to go out here and make plays and I think everyone else did the same. But we just got behind the sticks, whether it was a penalty, no matter what it was. In a crucial situation, for whatever reason, we end up getting — what — first-and-40? You know what I am saying? We were down four points at that time. First-and-40? It’s hard like that. We’ve gotta do a better job on first and second down to give ourselves a shot on third down. And we also have to do a better job on first and second down to stay out of some third downs too.”
Said Trubisky: “I know you guys are going to try to draw comparisons like that, but really it had — I wish I could have said this before, the snaps in the preseason has nothing to do with the way we execute or the sloppiness of tonight because we weren’t doing that in practice. We were smooth in practice, it was crisp getting in and out of the huddle, getting calls in and just everyone doing their job and executing our plays. So it just seemed a little scattered tonight with all our personnel (groups) and just trying to find a rhythm and trying to find our identity on offense, and we just put ourselves in bad situations and shot ourselves in the foot.
“You could maybe attribute it to that, but I think it’s kind of a stretch. It’s just we were uncharacteristic of usually who we were tonight as an offense, and I think we just need to do our job. But we just couldn’t find a rhythm, and I don’t think it’s because we didn’t play in the preseason, because we were rolling in practice, and it just didn’t translate the week of practice we had to the game. We’re going to look at the film and try to find out why and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
None of the other wide receivers distinguished themselves. Taylor Gabriel has only been over 52 yards once in the last 13 games, including the playoff loss. Cordarrelle Patterson caught one pass for three yards and Anthony Miller and Javon Wims were held without catches.
Robinson is right — the Bears were abysmal on third down, converting only 3 of 15. They failed on third-and-1 on two occasions. On one of them, Patterson lined up as the only running back and took the handoff on what was essentially a dive play. That didn’t work and it might not be the best use for Patterson. Yes, he carried the ball some for the Patriots last season, but if New England’s coaches, who are genuinely regarded as pretty sharp, can’t get a ton out of him, maybe the Bears can’t. On another failed third-and-1, the Bears ran an RPO that turned into a sack.
“Just trying to do too much with the pull,” Trubisky said. “It should have just been an easy hand and ride the wave and convert on the one I pulled. It kind of looked like I was going to have a throw with the RPO, so I know that one was on me.”
One thing the Bears wanted to improve this summer was huddle efficiency. They wanted to get in the huddle and get out of it quickly, giving Trubisky more time at the line of scrimmage to survey the defense in order to get an edge in the pre-snap process. The Bears had two delay of game penalties; that’s not managing the huddle.
What’s done is done in terms of the preseason. The Bears have a healthy roster, so maybe Nagy tweaks his approach next summer. But this was so bad in so many ways that I refuse to believe preseason is the explanation.
“It was terrible, absolutely terrible,” Nagy said. “It’s unacceptable. There’s no excuses. Every fan that showed up from Chicago today, that was a Chicago Bears fan, they should be upset, because that’s not who we are. We’re better than that. And like I said, it starts with me. Again, I told the guys that. “We didn’t have that all year last year. So, is it a preseason thing? No, it’s not a preseason thing. Our defense, they played pretty well today not playing in the preseason. But what it comes down to is just us needing to be better. If there’s one thing that I feel like is one of my strengths, it’s being able to accept this kind of stuff and then try to do everything you can to fix it. You man up, you talk to your players, you get input, you talk to your coaches, and you demand better, and that’s what we need to do.”
I wrote last season and in the offseason that Matt Nagy has appeared bored with the running game at times.
That sure seemed to be the case once again as the Bears handed the ball off five times on the first two possessions and then just seven times the rest of the game when they never trailed by more than seven points. It was a four-point game most of the way, but Mitch Trubisky dropped back to pass 53 times and there were a total of 12 handoffs.
“I think it was the flow of the game,” Nagy said. “We just couldn’t get in a rhythm. It’s as simple as that. And then you have a big play — I think we had that play to (David) Montgomery down the seam and then it happened, and then we have the miscommunication, the personnel, and then it’s just like, here we go again. We had a third-and-40 at one point. I don’t have a play call for third-and-40. You know, now you’re just trying to flip the field and do whatever you can.”
It’s hard to see what they have in the rookie Montgomery when he gets a total of six carries and only one in the second half. His 27-yard reception on a seam route was nice, but he didn’t get the ball enough, especially when the passing game was backfiring. This has to be a point of emphasis for Nagy and his coaching staff over the weekend and into next week because Trubisky isn’t good enough for the Bears to win this way consistently and the defense is good enough to carry the team to victories if they are more balanced.
“When (Montgomery) had his touches, which I think there was six of them, he did well,” Nagy said. “He had that nice catch down the sideline. It’s hard for me because I want to watch the tape and truly see, again, all three of those (running backs). That part is new to us a little bit, so we’ve got to make sure that, again, we figure out how to get that thing right. And luckily it is the first game of the year.”
Perhaps in Nagy’s evaluation he will determine that the running game needs to be a bigger factor, even if the flow of the game is choppy or worse.
“We’ve got to get the run game going a lot more,” Trubisky said. “I think when this offense is at its best, it’s a balanced attack with the run game and the pass game, and we just didn’t do a good enough job to get in a rhythm, and we had to lean more on the pass, which made it easier on the defense because they know it’s coming. When this offense is at its best, it’s balanced, it’s running, it’s passing, and we’re definitely getting the run game going.
“So I think that’s something we’ll look at. I’ve still got to watch the film and see exactly what happened. But we’ve got three great running backs. We definitely need to get them going and get the ball in their hands, and we’ve just got a bunch of playmakers, and it’s frustrating when we have all these playmakers and you just feel like you left a lot of plays out there with not getting the ball in these guys’ hands.”
Adrian Amos had a pregame lunch with outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith, another free-agent signing for Green Bay— and Smith told him he was going to make a big play to help the Packers win.
Amos did just that and the irony is that if there was a consistent knock on Amos’ game during four seasons with the Bears, it’s that he didn’t make enough plays on the ball. This wasn’t a particularly difficult play. Trailing by seven, the Bears were facing third-and-10 from the Packers’ 16-yard line just before the two-minute warning. Allen Robinson ran a corner route and was fronted by cornerback Tramon Williams. Amos bracketed him on the back side and it was an easy catch for what turned into a game-sealing interception.
“I had a real feeling that play was coming and I felt right,” Amos said. “I wanted to make a big play to help us win.”
Amos figured Robinson, lined up in the slot to the left, would try a corner route as he had earlier in the possession.
“He called it,” Williams said. “He came to the sideline and said it. He came up with the play. Big play for Amos, especially here in Chicago.
”We wanted to make Mitch play quarterback. We knew they had a lot of weapons. We knew they were dangerous. We knew all of those things. We knew if we could make Mitch play quarterback, we would have a chance. Plus we got some new toys up front. They did their thing today.”
The Packers did get good pressure on Trubisky and I think what Williams means is they wanted to keep the quarterback in the pocket and make him beat them that way. They brought only four rushers on a zone pressure on the interception.
“That was a frustrating one,” Trubisky said. “I wish I would have had that one back. It felt really good when it left my hand and I thought I put it in a good spot for A-Rob. Didn’t keep my eyes on the safety (Amos) long enough, and it looked like there was a little contact there, that maybe I should have went in a different spot.
“But we kind of were in our stuff rolling there, and that’s one where I’ve just got to protect the ball and try to find the completion, to allow us to stay on the field. That’s one of the tough ones that I’m just going to have to look at on film, see what actually what happened, and then see if it was what I saw on the field at the time and just make a better decision next time and come back and can’t put my team in a position like that. It’s very frustrating. You don’t want that stuff to happen.” …
The last time the Bears were held to three points in a season opener was in 2007, a 14-3 loss at San Diego.
This one ranks worse, in my opinion, for the simple reason that the Bears performed so poorly at home. They scuffled in San Diego that day and Rex Grossman was hammered by outside linebacker Shaun Phillips on one of the hardest hits I’ve ever seen a quarterback take.
There are some similarities, though, as that Bears team was coming off a Super Bowl appearance and expectations were sky high. Expectations for this Bears team are massive, but there’s a difference between laying an egg on the road and doing it at home. That Chargers team had Ron Rivera as an inside linebackers coach and he had a good idea what the Bears were doing on offense. In that regard, you better believe Broncos coach Vic Fangio has an idea of what to expect next week when the Bears travel to Denver.