Haugh: Bears' Dumbfounding Loss Leaves A Mark

Losers of three straight games, the Bears are spiraling downward at 3-4.

David Haugh
October 27, 2019 - 5:52 pm

CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- I’m not an idiot, but please help me understand how taking a knee at the 21-yard line with 43 seconds left to play Sunday improved the chances of Eddy Pineiro kicking a 41-yard game-winning field goal when Pineiro already had missed from 33 yards.

Bears coach Matt Nagy defiantly tried after the Bears lost more than a 17-16 heartbreaker to the Chargers when Pineiro missed wide left on second down. But the longer and louder Nagy talked, the harder his decision – and his stubborn demeanor – was to grasp.

Here’s the transcript from Nagy’s testy postgame exchange:

Q: Can you walk us through your thought process on taking the knee before…
Nagy: Yeah, I'm not even going to get into that. I had zero thought of running the ball and taking the chance of fumbling the football. They know you're running the football, so you lose three, four yards, so that wasn't even in our process as coaches to think about that. We were in field goal range before the scramble, and then we got the scramble, so that didn't even cross my mind.

Q: No thought of throwing it there, either?
Nagy: Throw the football?

Q: Yeah, just to try to get a little closer.
Nagy: Throw the football right then and there, what happens if you take a sack or there's a fumble?

Q: You lose the game.
Nagy: That's right, yeah, exactly. So no, there was zero thought of that. I'll just be brutally clear: Zero thought of throwing the football, zero thought of running the football. You understand me? That's exactly what it was. It's as simple as that.

Rest assured, it isn’t that simple. Not in Chicago. Not after losing to a Chargers team that kicked off at 10 a.m. Los Angeles time and arrived with a 2-5 record. Not given what the fourth loss of the season means to a one-time Super Bowl contender suddenly stuck in last place in the NFC North. No, this one could leave a mark.

Not since Marc Trestman called for a 47-yard field-goal attempt on second down against the Vikings in overtime has a Bears coach made such a baffling late-game decision. At least Trestman trusted Robbie Gould in that indelible moment on Dec. 1, 2013. Nagy invested all his faith in an unproven kicker who already had doinked a 33-yard attempt off the right upright earlier in the game. The next time Nagy says he believes in his quarterback and his offensive line, remember the time his lack of confidence in both compelled him to make the most illogical call of his short tenure. Do the Bears need a coordinator of common sense?

Related: Bernstein: Matt Nagy, Bears losing games, trust

The Bears were averaging 4.3 yards per carry. They were facing a tired Chargers defense that had been on the field for 38 minutes. They were needing to get as close as possible for a kicker who clearly needed every yard.

How many times do the Bears have to have their hearts broken by a kicker attempting a field goal into the north end zone of Soldier Field before they learn? Why was Nagy more scared of a running back fumbling than a kicker missing a makeable field goal when only one of those things had happened Sunday?

"If there’s a fumble in that play, that’s the biggest risk," Nagy said. "We’re wasting our time right now talking about that."

That was one way to divert the focus from the travails of Mitchell Trubisky, who did little to dispel growing doubts under ideal conditions. Trubisky completed 23 of 35 passes for 253 yards and connected on three pass plays of 30 or more yards against a banged-up defense but committed two unforgivable fourth-quarter turnovers with the game on the line. The first came when Chargers cornerback Casey Hayward Jr. sunk into coverage to pick off Trubisky’s floater intended for tight end Trey Burton on the fourth play of the fourth quarter.

"A savvy vet making a play," Trubisky said.

His most egregious mistake came on the next series when he escaped the rush and lost control of the football, allowing Melvin Ingram III to recover at the Bears’ 26. Three plays later, the Chargers had taken a one-point lead on an 11-yard pass from Philip Rivers to Austin Ekeler.

"One second I had it, then I didn’t ... That can’t happen," Trubisky said. "I’ve got to have two hands on the ball."

Once full of hope, Trubisky’s third NFL season has been defined by steady, incremental regression. The turnovers negated any growth seen in improved accuracy – and he still overthrew Taylor Gabriel for what would have been a long touchdown pass. His most memorable play came on an 11-yard scamper before Nagy ordered the kneel-down.

The Bears offense fulfilled Nagy’s pledge – "I’m not an idiot, I know we have to run more," Nagy said last week – by rushing for 162 yards on 38 carries. David Montgomery finally looked like the running back everybody expected with 135 yards on 27 carries, providing balance that helped Trubisky in the play-action passing game. But for whatever reason, the Bears struggled by scoring only one touchdown in five trips to the red zone – where the difference in the team’s quarterbacks was magnified. The future of Trubisky remains murkier than ever.

Despite his shortcomings resurfacing, Trubisky actually had earned a measure of redemption after the Bears took over at the 35-yard line with 1:33 left and trailing 17-16. Looking anything like a guy whose two straight turnovers invited the Chargers back into the game, Trubisky made plays on the final drive to put the Bears in a position to win the game by completing two of three passes for 31 yards before his big scramble.

Then Nagy pulled the plug on his once-fearless offense, gambling that he would be right about Pineiro. Alas, Nagy was wrong, raising questions the coach had no interest in answering and renewing doubts about his kicker.

What if ...?

Never mind.

"I'm not into all that what-ifs," Nagy said. "I don't work that way. That's for you guys to go through and have a storyline all week to talk about. That's not for me. I don't deal with that. I just know that we felt confident that we were going to make that kick. We didn't, and now we don't dwell on it, we move forward."

It sure feels like the Bears – who went 0-for-October – are headed in the opposite direction

David Haugh is the co-host of the Mully & Haugh Show on 670 The Score weekdays from 5-9 a.m. Listen to the show here. You can follow him on Twitter @DavidHaugh and email him at david.haugh@entercom.com.