Bears coach Matt Nagy

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Gabriel: Nagy Showing Conservative Tendencies Late

Matt Nagy has been conservative late three times in his past six games.

Greg Gabriel
October 16, 2018 - 12:02 pm
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(670 The Score) NFL coaches and players almost always share the responsibility in defeat, and such is the case for the Bears as they've started 3-2. 

In a 31-28 overtime loss to the Dolphins on Sunday, the Bears players didn't execute well enough to win. Beyond that, the decisions of coach Matt Nagy also hurt the Bears -- and in my mind were big factors in the loss.

It wasn't the first time Nagy's decisions cost the Bears, as they also factored heavily into a 24-23 season-opening loss to the Packers.

As a rookie head coach, Nagy carries the burden of new responsibilities that he's never had before. He'll made some great decisions and some poor ones, as we've already seen. I'm not here to pick on Nagy, but I do believe that early in his Bears tenure, he has shown a tendency to backtrack from his aggressive philosophy in tight games.

Foes game plan for tendencies in play-calling, and in the case of Nagy's, I see a tendency -- dating back to his time in Kansas City -- that needs changed. For the most part, Nagy calls an aggressive game, but when the contest is on the line late, he becomes more conservative. That has been the case in three of the past six games that he has called plays -- the Bears' first five games and the Chiefs' collapse to the Titans in the wild-card round last January.

In that loss, the Chiefs sat on a 21-3 halftime lead. In the Bears' loss to the Packers on Sept. 9, they were aggressive in jumping out to a 20-0 lead, only to scale back in their attacking in the second half.

The Bears were flat early on against the Dolphins on Sunday, trailing 7-0 at halftime. Nagy became aggressive with his play-calling in the second half, and the result was three quick touchdown drives.

But on the Bears' final drive, which came in overtime when they needed a score of any kind to win, Nagy was really conservative on his final three play calls. With a first-and-10 from the Dolphins' 41-yard line, the Bears called three straight running plays, netting six yards.

On first down, Tarik Cohen carried inside for two yards. I had no problem with that play call, as the previous two plays were runs that had netted a combined 34 yards. On second-and-8, the Bears needed to be more aggressive. Instead, they ran Benny Cunningham inside for four yards, then Jordan Howard for two more yards on third-and-4.

That left Cody Parkey with a 53-yard field goal for the win that he would miss. Given the way Nagy has called close games recently, the Dolphins had an inkling of what was coming from the Bears.

On Monday, Nagy explained that he felt fully confident that Parkey would make the 53-yarder, and with the lucrative deal Parkey signed last spring, it's understandable that the Bears would count on that. But a 53-yarder is always risky, no matter who's kicking it.

The odds would've been much better for Parkey if the Bears had picked up eight to 10 more yards. Given the way the Bears had carved up the Dolphins in the second half, they should've remained aggressive in the most critical moments and pushed for an easier field-goal attempt.

If Nagy's conservative play-calling had been a one-time event, I wouldn't be writing this column. But it has now happened three times in Nagy's last six, so it's a concern. Just like players need to improve and learn from mistakes, so do coaches. That will be Nagy's challenge.

Greg Gabriel is a former NFL talent evaluator who's an on-air contributor for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @greggabe.​​​