By Ryan Bukowiecki (@ryanbski)
Sunday marked an ending and starting point for the Chicago Bears after their lose to the rival Green Bay Packers 21-13.
By the end of Sunday the Bears were officially eliminated from playoff competition. Going into the game the team had about as much hope as it did at the start of September. Playoffs were still unlikely but having something to play for was great even if the season ended just outside the wildcard.
Sadly even this last gasp goal was ended with a “meh” type game in Green Bay. Not that the Bears played outright poorly but clearly they didn’t play well enough from players down to coaches to earn it. There’s still a lot of dust in the air that needs to be settled at the end of this season, when that time comes attention will turn to what the future holds for the team.
Fans will have to wait for some answers until the end of the season press conference from head coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace. As for the game itself, fans can definitely wonder what the heck was that. Defensively the Bears were okay but poor tackling and too little pressure on quarterback Aaron Rodgers were significant enough mistakes. Offensively the Bears racked up a ton of yards but couldn’t convert those yards into points.
Add insult to injury also as the Bears were subject to a horrendous call by the officials. This game will leave a lingering bad taste, especially with the playoffs over and two games remain. Here are a few more observations from Sunday’s loss.
Offense Can’t Score
Playing the Packers this season was interesting as well as very telling for the Bears. In this year’s season opener, the Bears were only able to muster three total points. At the time many people, in trying to figure out what happened, believed it was early in the season and given time everything will turn around.
Nothing turned around though and the offense steadily regressed. Then thanks to some bad teams consecutively on the schedule, the Bears found some life offensively setting up the rematch with Green Bay. A lot of fans expected to see a different game against the Packers this time around. Shockingly for some, things sort of played out the same way or worse.
Clearly the defense didn’t play as well as the opener and the offense moved the ball better, but like the opener the offense was able to move the football far enough to only come up short of the end zone. In two games the Bears scored 16 total points against their main rival and the usual NFC North winner. Where the Bears lack compared to the Packers is finding a quarterback head coach combination that can truly challenge the Packers combination.
Even in a game where Rodgers wasn’t his usual dominant self, the Bears couldn’t find the end zone until the fourth quarter. Last week the Packers played a tougher game against Washington compared to the Bears which is just sad. Usually the Bears offense comes up small in comparison to the Packers offense, but Sunday’s effort was beyond unacceptable.
Disconnect at the Top
Some kind of disconnect exists between the head coach and quarterback that must be resolved before next year’s off-season activities start.
Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky was playing well coming into this game and he did some nice things on Sunday. Same could really be said about Nagy but who cares about some good here and there. Against good competition and when the stakes are at the highest, this offense goes into hibernation.
Most teams have a very good idea of what the Bears are going to run each week. Trubisky for his part is able to do certain things well like throw on the move and run but other aspects of quarterbacking are things he simply cannot do.
The obvious idea would be to only run the football and when they do throw get Trubisky on the move. Yesterday’s game plan was nothing like the obvious. Once again, like much of this season, the run game was abandoned early and not well executed with the few that were called. It was up to the Bears pass offense to win the game and aside from 334 yards, it was a bad day. All types of speculation is out there for why this disconnect exists.
Theories are based around either Nagy being bad or Trubisky being bad, but if its one and or the other then that’s a huge problem. Pace needs to provide fans with answers on how the team will fix this. Getting out of neutral or reverse and into drive as a NFL franchise only can happen when the quarterback head coach combination is on the same page and they believe in each other. Right now, the Bears have a real problem in that combination and the entire franchise has to own that.
Now that the playoffs are done its all about looking ahead to next season. The Bears do not have a lot of draft capital and their salary cap situation can only be figured out after they decide who to keep on the team or let go.
Over the course of these next two games, a couple young players may get some extra playing time for development but no significant names stand out. A lot of improvement is likely going to have to come from within. Quarterback will be the position with the most attention because something has to change in that position group, but not a lot of obvious solutions present themselves.
If there is any good news it is that this team isn’t miles away from competing. Aside from one or two games, the Bears were in most games while looking terrible offensively. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the Bears would still be in playoff contention right now if their offense ranked towards the middle of the league instead of 29th. There are good players on offense and defense but those players either haven’t played well enough or weren’t put into positions to succeed.
The front office and coaches must come together and start making preparations to fix this thing now after playoff contention ended Sunday. At worst the Bears will be 7-9 and at best 9-7, that’s not far away from competing unless they have as bad of an off-season as they did last year.
Ryan Bukowiecki covers the Chicago Bears and professional football for WARR