Haugh: Bears Make Suckers Of Us All

Even this early in a season, great teams don’t look that shoddy.

David Haugh
September 06, 2019 - 12:06 am

CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- Matt Nagy saved his best judgment for the podium.

"Three points is ridiculous," Nagy said after his Bears bungled their way to a 10-3 loss to the Packers on Thursday night at Soldier Field.

And a football city said amen.

Ridiculous. Regrettable. Embarrassing. Tatter the pages of your thesaurus. All synonyms of awful apply.

You don’t need a good memory to call this the worst effort of the 18-game Nagy era. Nor do you need to consult Pro Football Reference to call this the most deflating game of quarterback Mitchell Trubisky’s career. When former Bears safety Adrian Amos picked off Trubisky in the end zone late in the fourth quarter when a touchdown would've tied the game, it removed any doubt.

There was enough lousy football to make the George Halas statue swear. It was worthy of one of those lists ranking the most disappointing season openers in Bears history.

Related: Bernstein: Unprepared Bears offense ruins the party

Even this early in a season, great teams don’t look this shoddy. So, until further notice, let’s all stop calling the Bears a great team.

"There are no excuses," Nagy said. "Every fan who showed up from Chicago should be upset."

Rest assured, they are. Talk about an audible -- did the Bears just change the course of their season at the line of scrimmage?

"I’m in zero panic mode," Nagy said.   

OK, but how many people in Chicago – present company included – went to bed Thursday night feeling a little foolish for lavishing such preseason praise on the Bears? How many gamblers watched the game with deep regret for plunking even a dollar down in Las Vegas on the long odds that Trubisky would be the league MVP?

The Bears made suckers of us all and polluted a perfect night on the lakefront with the foul odor of ineptness. Their vaunted offense billed as more explosive fizzled. Their lone points came from an unlikely source: With 4:09 left in the first quarter of the 100th NFL season opener, Bears kicker Eddy Pineiro produced a giant sigh of relief throughout Chicago by kicking a 38-yard field goal. Who knew it would be one of the night’s biggest plays? The Cubs outscored the Bears, for goodness sakes.

Jay Cutler had to be sitting in the stands thinking he was the best Bears quarterback in the building. Jim McMahon, even at 60, had to be wondering the same. The last time a Bears player was this inaccurate in a big game, they held auditions to replace him, but enough about Cody Parkey.

Even Trubisky’s numbers – 26-of-45 for 228 yards with an interception and a passer rating of 62.1 – are deceiving. He again flunked the eye test. Nobody looked like they needed preseason more than No. 10.

"Not that good," Trubisky said of his play. "I definitely left a lot out there."

He definitely deserved the most blame for this clunker.

On the final drive that started at the Bears' 14-yard line with 1:33 left, Trubisky’s inaccuracy cropped up on back-to-back passes the way it had throughout the game – failing to thread the needle to Anthony Miller and missing high on a third-down pass to Javon Wims. A fourth-down sack appropriately ended the agony.       

The whole thing was painful to watch for anyone looking for progress in Trubisky’s second season in Nagy’s offense.

On one third down late in the second quarter, Trubisky escaped the rush and rolled left. Allen Robinson had run a deep out and was open, but Trubisky either didn’t see him or couldn’t pull the trigger. Either way, it went down as a missed opportunity. That contrasted sharply when, on the previous drive, Trubisky should've been tentative and forced a telegraphed pass to Robinson, who was never open.

Too often, Trubisky showed the kind of poor judgment the Bears hoped experience would improve – such as when he threw across his body only to have Packers cornerback Kevin King drop the gift interception. Too often, Trubisky used his legs to gain yardage rather than buy time for his receivers to get open.

If you want to know the difference, Aaron Rodgers demonstrated it the way he has so often against the Bears.

Rodgers, a workmanlike 18-of-30 for 203 yards and a touchdown with a passer rating of 91.4, regularly kept his poise in the pocket only to wait until the right moment for a receiver to clear. It’s a gift that makes Rodgers an all-time great, a sense of timing and intuitiveness that distinguishes him – and a sense of timing and intuitiveness that Trubisky still lacks. Rodgers was sacked five times but never looked rattled.

Rodgers reminded everybody that the Packers changed coaches, not quarterbacks. Nothing illustrated his greatness better than the 47-yard completion to wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling on a play that deflated Soldier Field like a pin to a balloon in the second quarter. The fake handoff and masterful ball-handling froze the pass rush just long enough for Valdes-Scantling to get behind Deon Bush, the deep safety who wasn’t deep enough. All of a sudden, Rodgers had made another Packers receiver a little less obscure and NFL fans all over America Googled "Marquez-Valdes-Scantling." Three plays later, Rodgers hit tight end Jimmy Graham for an eight-yard touchdown pass.

The Bears defense played fast and well enough to win, giving up 10 points to one of the league's most dangerous quarterbacks. They limited the Packers to 213 total yards and sacked Rodgers five times, yet it wasn’t good enough. Why?

The offensive genius of Nagy was harder to detect in his 2019 debut. The coach who showed up in a fedora as a nod to Halas turned his back on old-school football by again abandoning the running game. Even Nagy acknowledged calling 15 runs in 65 offensive plays wasn’t enough.

A few head-scratching calls stood out.

On third-and-one in the first half, Nagy called a fullback dive to a new wide receiver, Cordarrelle Patterson. The Packers stuffed it. On third-and-short in the third quarter, the Bears operated out of the shotgun, faked two handoffs and took a sack on a slow-developing pass play to tight end Adam Shaheen. Second-guessers also found plenty of fodder looking a stat sheet that showed Tarik Cohen – who caught eight short passes – with zero carries. Zero. That can’t happen.

Perhaps Nagy’s most questionable call came with the Bears facing fourth-and-10 at the Packers' 33-yard line down 7-3 in the third quarter. Instead of letting Pineiro – whose big leg Nagy praised in keeping him – try a 51-yard field goal that Pineiro made during pregame warmups, the Bears went for it. Pass protection broke down, and a Trubisky scramble fell short, inciting more boos. Even Pineiro admitted in the locker room he expected the nod that never came.

"We weren’t at our number what we said at halftime and the beginning of the game," Nagy explained. "That’s just what (special teams coach Chris Tabor) told me and I have to stick by it. It just breaks our rules."

Instead, a heartbreaking loss will shake civic confidence in Trubisky and serve as a humbling experience for the Bears on a night that ended so differently than it began. The Bears lost more than a football game to their rivals. They lost the benefit of the doubt they had regained in 2018.

"We didn’t lose the Super Bowl," Nagy said. "We lost the first game of the season."

True, but it was bad enough to wonder if their last game of the season really will be the Super Bowl.

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.