One play away.
The Chicago Bears came just short of winning their first playoff game in eight years on Sunday, losing to the Philadelphia Eagles at home in a 16-15 shootout. Though it was a last-second missed field goal by Cody Parkey that put the final nail in the coffin, the Bears still had plenty of missed opportunities that could have won them the game.
For the last time this season, here are some of my notes and takeaways from this week’s game.
In the biggest game of his career, Mitchell Trubisky stepped up when it mattered most.
He was incredibly close to having multiple turnovers early on in the game. His decision making was fairly questionable in the first half, and he tried to force a lot of throws that simply weren’t there. As many as three of his passes could - and probably should - have been intercepted, and he got very lucky that the Eagles were unable to capitalize on them. However, Trubisky caught fire in the second half, completing 13 of his 20 passing attempts for 198 yards and a touchdown. He made several clutch throws and showed great poise in the pocket and incredible ball placement on a lot of his passes. He played very well to finish off the season, showing off traits of a true franchise quarterback. His further development heading into the 2019 season should be interesting to watch.
Part of Trubisky’s late-game heroics can be attributed to his receivers, who were able to unleash hell upon Philadelphia’s secondary. Allen Robinson put together his best performance of the year, catching 10 passes for 143 yards and a touchdown. He was a truly dominant factor in the passing game, and he looked like the No. 1 receiver that Chicago signed him to be. Taylor Gabriel caught four passes for 37 yards, and Anthony Miller had a good first half with three catches for 34 yards: he was not able to put up any more numbers in the second half.
One thing that was confusing was Matt Nagy’s use of Tarik Cohen throughout the game. The second-year running back only had four touches on offense, with only one of them coming on the ground. As their most electric playmaker, it was strange that the Bears used him so sparingly in this matchup.
Nagy’s playcalling in the first half was very conservative and timid, which had a major influence on Chicago’s only scoring six points in the first half. The offense rarely tried to test Philadelphia deep early on, which result in Pat O’Donnell’s punting the ball on three of their five offensive drives. The Bears had three plays that went for more than 10 yards in the first half, as well. He did a little bit better late in the game when he started trusting Trubisky’s arm more, but the team would have benefited from a more aggressive game plan.
Eddie Jackson is an incredibly important part of the Bears’ defense, and if anybody says otherwise, show them this game.
Jackson was active but rarely played due to injury, and his range and instincts were sorely missed on Sunday. Nick Foles had a very underwhelming game, making several ill-advised throws throughout the game that a player like Jackson could have picked off. Nonetheless, the Bears were still able to pick Foles off twice, with Adrian Amos and Roquan Smith coming through with turnovers.
Chicago’s run defense was fantastic all day, only allowing 41 yards on 23 attempts. Akiem Hicks was a force in the backfield, and he finished up the game with four tackles. Eddie Goldman also contributed four tackles. Khalil Mack did not have a sack, but he had six tackles and had a hit on Foles. Philadelphia left tackle Jason Peters did a good job of containing him in pass protection. Leonard Floyd helped out in Mack’s place, recording the Bears’ only sack of the game.
Chicago had nine deflected passes in this game, but they also allowed a handful of big plays through the air. Former Bear Alshon Jeffery had the upper hand over All-Pro Kyle Fuller, finishing the night with six catches for 82 yards and creating consistent separation. Zach Ertz was a physical threat across the middle of the field, and Golden Tate managed to snag the game-winning touchdown. Props to Sherrick McManis, though, who broke up three passes at the nickelback position.
Three and out
3. The instant reaction for many Bears fans after Parkey missed his field goal - or, rather, had it deflected - was to release the kicker. The reaction is more than warranted, as Parkey missed 11 total kicks this year. As a playoff team with loads of talent and a clear playoff window, they can’t afford to be held back by their kicker. Financially, cutting him would not be beneficial to the Bears until next offseason, when they can save over $2 million in cap space by releasing him. Cutting Parkey this offseason before June 1 would result in over $5 million in dead cap space and over negative $1 million in cap savings. Releasing him after the June 1 deadline would not save any cap space, and it would result in just over $4 million in dead cap space. Though money is tight and releasing him would not do them any favors from a monetary standpoint, one can argue that the price would be worth it if it means they could find a better kicker in the process.
2. This Bears team is far from finished. Trubisky is a talented quarterback who has shown a lot of growth this year, and having another offseason in Nagy’s system could result in even more progression. He is surrounded with multiple young weapons and a very good offensive line. Their defense - with or without defensive coordinator Vic Fangio - is a stacked unit with several key pieces locked up for the long haul. Nagy now has a full season as an NFL head coach under his belt, and he will be able to make adjustments this offseason as he continues to improve. While the end result this year was not ideal, the fact that the Bears managed to win 12 games and in the process, the NFC North just one season after winning five games is impressive. If they can improve that much in just one offseason, then the 2019 season could be a fruitful one for all of Chicago.
1. Thanks to everyone who has tuned in to all of our postgame articles this year. It has been a fun season, and it feels great to finally be able to cover a playoff team. I will have Shrine Game and Senior Bowl previews, as well as several NFL Draft articles throughout the offseason, and the rest of the Windy City Gridiron staff will do their best to keep you all entertained and well-informed this offseason. Until next season, Bear Down.