After an awesome 12-4 season that was preceded by four last-place seasons, the Bears fell short against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday at Soldier Field. We are all upset about the loss, but nobody has received more blame than kicker Cody Parkey, who obviously had a very rough season.
I am 19 years old, and this is only the fifth time that the Bears have made the playoffs in my lifetime (and I surely don't remember 2001). So, when Parkey's kick ultimately failed, I was quick to blame him.
But Parkey is not the biggest reason why the Bears lost. We all tend to remember the last thing that happens. I used to be a cross country runner. While the final stretch may be what we remembered more than anything else, the beginning and middle of the race were always just as important.
So whether or not you are blaming Parkey for the loss (I'm not giving Parkey more than 20 percent of the blame), it's best to look at everything that factored into the Bears getting eliminated.
1. Matt Nagy's play calling was terrible
Coach Nagy had an outstanding first year in Chicago. Even though he shouldn't get credit for the roster he inherited, he coached the Bears to 12 wins in his rookie season. John Fox had 14 in three seasons combined.
That's not to say that Sunday wasn't a terrible game by his part. Nagy went completely bland against the Eagles, with few exceptions. The worst part, however, was how he called the Bears' running game.
First of all, the Bears didn't do it enough. You're at home. SO RUN THE BALL! The Bears passed the ball a total of 43 times against the Eagles. The ran it 18 times. Jordan Howard, one of the best power backs in the league, only ran the ball ten times.
And then there's the fact that Taylor Gabriel ran the ball more times (2) than Tarik Cohen (1). Cohen may have had a lot negative plays this season, but he is also explosive. How many of those insane Tarik plays have there been? Nagy choosing to only give it to him once on the ground most certainly robbed the Bears of a few great plays.
And then Nagy's odd fascination with Taquan Mizzell continued, who also had as many carries as Cohen, for reasons I just don't understand.
So, all in all, Nagy failed the Bears' running game, both in terms of how often they did it (not enough), and which players got the chance (not the right ones).
Oh, and back to Gabriel running the ball. Hardly anyone's talking about the Bears' failed two-point conversion that resulted in them only being up 15-10, not by a touchdown that the Eagles would've only been able to tie with Nick Foles' magic. Of all the things that the Bears have done this season, and with Khalil Mack on the field, what did Nagy come up with? Well...a run up the middle by Gabriel.
2. Mitchell Trubisky was shaky and indecisive
Make no mistake, I love Trubisky. He's a great quarterback and a great man. And he led the Bears down the field when they needed him to. That's something that Jay Cutler more than likely would not have done.
Trubisky's stats were also really good. All in all, he went 26 of 43 for 303 yards and a touchdown to Allen Robinson (who was phenomenal). Statistically, he outplayed Foles. Statistically.
Trubisky, as well as the entire offense, did not get off to a good start on Sunday. Trubisky threw at least two passes that should have been intercepted, one of which was initially called a pick but was ruled incomplete after review.
Generally speaking, Trubisky looked questionable in the pocket and demonstrated a lack of ability to read the defense. The Eagles have a tough defense and I'm not taking anything away from them. Yet Trubisky didn't play like a championship quarterback on Sunday and was outplayed by Foles. Trubisky made tremendous strides in his sophomore year, but he's another year or two from being a finished product.
3. The defense didn't make a stop when they had to
The Bears didn't lose because their defense was bad. They lost because their defense wasn't good when it needed to be.
The Bears' defense didn't stop the high-flying Eagles on their final drive. All the top-ranked squad had to do was keep them out of the end zone with five minutes remaining. They didn't.
The Bears' defense also committed three costly penalties on the drive that put the Eagles on top 10-6. While those were the only penalties that the Bears committed the entire game, they came at a bad time. A defense that was reliable all season let the team down in a big way on Sunday, but they were also what had kept them in the game early on.
4. Pat O'Donnell's punt just plain sucked
Maybe it sounds strange to be putting O'Donnell on the blame list, but his last punt was uncharacteristically bad. O'Donnell is one of the league's better punters and had a fantastic game on Sunday, but the one exception was his final boot. Four of his punts had gone inside the 20-yard line, including one at the 1-yard line and one at the 7.
O'Donnell's punt to the Eagles in the fourth quarter, however, wasn't very good. The Bears were at their own 24-yard line, and the punt only made it to the Eagles' 40, making it a 36-yard punt. We all know what happened next.
5. Trey Burton and Eddie Jackson didn't play
Burton was a great addition to the Bears last offseason. And the man who threw the ball to Foles in the Philly Special in the Super Bowl didn't disappoint at all in his first season with the Bears. He was an excellent blocker and was one of Trubisky's most trusted targets.
Burton, however, was added to the Bears' final injury report on Saturday with a groin. It was a bizarre injury, and it ultimately kept him on the sideline on Sunday.
There's no doubt Burton would've made a difference in the Bears' sluggish passing game during the first half. And perhaps he would've saved the Bears on their failed two-point conversion.
Jackson's absence was even more detrimental. Jackson, who was a stud all season and scored three touchdowns, sat out with an ankle injury he suffered intercepting Aaron Rodgers in the Bears' Dec. 16 victory against the Green Bay Packers.
No doubt would the Bears have benefited if Nagy played him. His backup, Sherrick McManis, was beaten by Golden Tate in the Eagles' go-ahead touchdown.
The final verdict
Blame Parkey all you want for the loss, but you shouldn't because the Bears fell short in many other areas. They were 7-1 at home this season. They won the turnover battle. They had more yards in both passing and rushing.
Yes, Parkey should have made the kick. There's no doubt that he was a major disappointment in his first and perhaps only season with the Bears. But blaming him solely for the loss is oversimplistic.
Also, as I'm writing this article, Vic Fangio is going to be the next head coach of the Denver Broncos. Man, that hurts.