The Chicago Bears are (4-9) and the “nightmare” of the 2021 season still has four more chapters to go. After yet another loss at the hands of Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers, pressing the “fast forward” button on this season is something most fans find themselves begging for.
Despite leading 27-21 at half time, the Bears quickly crashed back down to reality as the Packers hung 14 points in the first five minutes of the third quarter. It was all downhill from there as every fan (from both teams) knew where this game was headed. So what now? Where do the Bears go from here? What motivation do fans have to continually put themselves through the misery of the games?
We’ll touch on all of that in more in Week 14’s 10 takes.
1. As a team, that may have been the best (first) half of football I’ve seen the Bears play all season.
If you were like most Bears fans, you probably expected a blowout. While the final score ended up only being a 15 point difference, things could have been a lot worse if it wasn’t for one of the better first-half performances we’ve seen from a Bears team since the 2018 season.
The defense came out with some juice as they forced a quick three and out and another punt in the first two defensive drives of the game. Despite the Bears settling for an early field goal, their offense was doing a quality job of moving the ball. At one point in the game, the Bears held a 24-14 lead. They were scoring points in multiple different ways, including a pair of touchdown passes from Justin Fields and a 97-yard punt return from Jakeem Grant.
I don’t think it’s an understatement to say that many were shocked the Bears went into the half with the lead. It also goes to show that despite them playing some of their best football for the first 30 minutes in a game, they were only able to hold a six-point lead against their most “hated” division rival.
2. With that being said... The second half was yet another prime example of the large concerns with head coach Matt Nagy and his continual negative trends.
Having “fun” quickly turned into another “here we go again” moment for this team. I’ve personally lost count of how many times the Bears have completely blown up coming out of the half. Despite having a six point lead with 30 minutes left to go in the game, the team quickly crumbled and gave up 14 points in the matter of minutes. The first was a long (and far too easy drive) from the Packers offense. The next was a Fields’ fumble that Green Bay quickly converted into another touchdown.
When looking at both sides of the ball, it was clear they were simply out-adjusted and overall, they were out-coached. That’s been a common theme in the Nagy era, but it seems to becoming more common and it’s not something that looks to be going away.
Defensively, they had no answers. Rodgers was easily marching down the field and head coach Matt LaFleur adjusted beautifully to the Bears’ strengths and schemed away from them.
Offensively, the Bears just stalled. Despite putting up 27 points in the first half, they had just one first down in the third quarter alone and could never get back on track. Again, these are the types of issues we’ve seen for multiple years now. It’s time for a change and that change cannot come soon enough.
3. Speaking of troubling Nagy trends, I’m still trying to find the logic in him punting on fourth and inches from midfield and then later kicking a field goal down 18 points with less than two minutes left in the game.
For a coach that sat in his introductory press conference and said he wanted to be an aggressive coach, he has sure had his fair share of “conservative” decisions. The more damning of those decisions have come late, which is frustrating considering how bad this team is and how much they could use a spark for some aggressive coaching decisions.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Bears faced a relatively easy decision. At (4-8) and down 38-27 on a fourth and inches, Nagy had two options.
- Go for it and risk giving the Packers the ball around midfield, which would have effectively ended the game.
- Punt the ball and hope your struggling defense could make a stop. If not, you’d be down three scores with less time remaining in the fourth quarter.
Nagy chose option No. 2 and it ended up costing them seven points and the Packers grinded over eight minutes of the clock.
In the final two minutes of the game, the Bears were down 18 points and faced another fourth down situation. Objectively speaking, the game was already out of reach. Yet, Nagy opted to kick a field goal and go for the onside kick instead of trying to complete an already lost game with some sort of positive in a touchdown.
Philosophically speaking, the two decisions paired together make little sense. Especially when considering that this is a team with nothing left to lose. Once again, Nagy has shown that at heart, he’s a conservative coach battling with his own identity crisis. At least to me, that doesn’t sound very “Be You” to me...
4. Rookie quarterback Justin Fields wasn’t good on Sunday night and that’s OK. The reality of a rookie quarterback’s rollercoaster rookie seasons have been on full display in 2021 around the league.
If you weren’t able to catch the game and saw Fields’ final numbers in the box score, you probably would have assumed that he had a quality game. He finished (18/33) for 224 yards with two touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. He also led the team in rushing yards with with 74.
Yet, if you watched the game you saw a young quarterback that was clearly not 100% healed from his cracked ribs. You also saw a struggling offensive line, a well disguised defense and a quarterback that was late to process far too often. That’s just the reality of the situation the Bears are in. They failed to surround their rookie quarterback with enough talent, their coaching staff doesn’t have a clue how to develop a quarterback and Fields is simply not 100% healthy.
Looking around the league, Mac Jones in New England continues to be the only consistent quarterback. Why? Because he has the best head coach to ever do it, a quality offensive line and quality weapons around him. Guys like Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson and Fields all have poor situations around them and have struggled to be consistent because of it.
This is not the time to panic by any means, but it also highlights the importance of the Bears’ upcoming decisions at both head coach and key front office spots. The focus needs to be building around Fields and everything else will fall into place.
5. The offseason may be four weeks away, but it feels like wide receiver Allen Robinson has already checked out of Chicago.
After missing three consecutive games with a hamstring injury, the veteran was “back” out on the field for Sunday night’s game. I say “back” because while he had two catches for 14 yards, his level of interest and overall effort were very much in question.
Not only has he shown a lack of willingness to go up in contested catch situations, but his overall effort within his routes and blocking have been about as poor as you’ll see. Now, I won’t debate that the Bears have done a very poor job of handling one of the best receivers they’ve had in a long time, but I wouldn’t have expected to see that type of consistent performance out of a guy like Robinson.
One thing is clear — Robinson is out the door as soon as the season ends and I’d put the chances of him returning (with a new regime or not) as close to zero as possible.
6. Second-round rookie tackle Teven Jenkins saw his first NFL “starting” action and it did not go well... But what did anyone expect to happen?
Early in Sunday night’s game, veteran Jason Peters went down with an ankle injury. That led to Jenkins seeing his first NFL action at left tackle and simply put, it did not go well. I think it’s best to keep in mind that Jenkins missed most of the offseason due to his back issues (and eventual surgery). He has also seen limited snaps and overall contact since being pulled off of injured reserve and placed back on the 53-man roster.
Combine that with placing him at the toughest spot on the offensive line and the fact that he hasn’t played there in over two years and you have a product that likely won’t look very good.
My advice? Be patient. In Monday’s presser, Nagy did say that the Bears would weigh whether or not they would move Jenkins back to right tackle and slide fellow rookie Larry Borom to the left side. If Peters is healthy he’ll start, but my guess is he’s set to miss a few games to what has been speculated as a “mild” high ankle sprain.
7. At some point in the near future, the Bears need to abandon the notion that they are not eliminated from the playoffs and play their younger players.
It’s becoming increasingly hard to watch guys like Robinson, Alec Ogletree and Artie Burns play meaningful snaps when none of these players are a part of the team’s future. Now, obviously Robinson is a much better player than the other two, but in four games he’ll likely be off to greener pastures.
Now, more than ever, is the time to elevate players from the practice squad and play the young (bottom of the depth chart) type of players. If it were me, I’d be calling up guys like Dazz Newsome and Thomas Graham Jr. from the practice squad and playing other young names like Caleb Johnson, Kindle Vildor and Sam Kamara to see if you have anything for the future.
The issue? With a regime that looks like they are out the door in four week’s time, it’s hard for them to have any motivation not to play the “best” players. That’s yet another issue ownership created when trotting out the same regime in a “must win” type of year.
8. All-around weapon Jakeem Grant continues to impress and has furthered his campaign to be re-signed this offseason.
Grant continues to impress and be one of the lone bright spots in a year full of disappointment. Since Robinson and Marquise Goodwin went down a few weeks ago, Grant’s role on offense has grown and it has paid off.
The front office already knew he’d bring value and some needed explosion on special teams, but I’m not sure they thought he’d be able to slide into the Tarik Cohen role as well as he has. Especially when you consider he was an early-season addition and didn’t even get to learn the offense in training camp.
Obviously we need to see what happens with the impending new coaching staff (and hopefully) new front office, but Grant is a player the Bears should seriously consider keeping around for 2022 and beyond. There’s always a role for a player like him, especially if the price is right.
9. Cornerback Jaylon Johnson’s night may be remembered for his touchdown given up to Davante Adams, but make no mistake, his overall performance in Week 14 highlights his large strides in 2021.
Most may end up remembering Johnson’s night for the short touchdown he gave up to Adams late in the game, but fans should remember how impressive of a performance he had. He was stuck like glue to Adams for the majority of the first half until Green Bay decided to scheme away from him. Johnson’s overall growth in 2021 has been one that should give fans should hope. He’s a building block for the future and would look even better if he had more competent play around him in the defensive backfield.
He and Eddie Jackson have been the two best defensive backs for the Bears this year and will likely be the team’s two building blocks on the backend of this defense moving forward. Don’t overlook Johnson’s overall performance on Sunday night because it was an impressive one.
10. Four weeks from today will mark Black Monday, so expect the talk an impending Bears shakeup to grow louder.
Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen all sorts of rumors fly. It started with the false report that Nagy was told the Monday of Thanksgiving week that Thursday would be his last game. Then on Sunday morning, CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora reported that the Bears had talks with former Bears player and prominent agent Trace Armstrong to become the team’s President of Football Operations. The article also speculated that Armstrong would likely try to pull head coach Ryan Day away from Ohio State as his head coaching hire.
Hours later, Armstrong, himself, came out on Twitter and denied the report. Which makes complete sense, considering he represents both Nagy and Pace.
No one can say for sure if this was ever their plan or still is, but it does sound like a front office restructure is at least being seriously considered. Where that leaves Pace is anybody’s best guess, but don’t expect these rumors to go away any time soon. Everyone knows there will be sweeping changes in Chicago. The only real question is how deep they’ll go and how different things will look in early February once the hiring cycle is complete.