Yet another game where the Chicago Bears not only were defeated by their opponent but simply beat themselves. It was an ugly game in which they gave up four turnovers, and the Arizona Cardinals cashed in 24 of their 33 points off those four interceptions. While things appear to continue to unravel, their schedule doesn’t really let up over their final five games. They’ll head out on the road next Sunday night to face the Green Bay Packers.
So what now? Can fans expect any changes in the coming week or will things be status quo? There are many questions to answers but none likely coming this week. With that being said, there’s still plenty to talk about after their 11 point loss.
1. On a day where not much went right, running back David Montgomery shined in a big way.
Montgomery was basically the entire Bears offense on Sunday afternoon. His 141 total yards and touchdown were only part of why he was so impressive in Week 13, though. After the game, the third-year running back was brutally honest about what type of season this has been.
“We short. It’s just this. If you pay attention to the game, it’s just this. But what you realize in the league, that be the difference. You’ve just got to keep going. I ain’t got no quit in my blood. I’m gonna make sure nobody else in there ain’t got none in theirs, either.”
Montgomery was also asked if him having a good game does anything to help the loss. “I really don’t care about it individually, honestly, I couldn’t care less.” he continued. I’ll be way more happy if I had 12 yards averaging 0.1 yards per carry if we got the win. I couldn’t care less about individual stats because the feeling that you get when you win is completely different than having good stats when you lose, and I’m telling you that from my perspective. So individual stats, I don’t care, I just want to win.”
Frustration is clear in this locker room, but for guys like Montgomery, personal numbers don’t matter as much as winning. As the Bears start to re-tool this roster, these are the types of leaders they’ll need in the new era of Chicago Bears football.
2. Speaking of impressive offensive players, I like what I’ve seen from Jakeem Grant offensively.
The 29-year-old is in the midst of sixth year in the league. Despite his speed and overall explosiveness, his best asset has been his ability to return both kicks and punts. Going into the 2021 season, Grant’s career high receiving yards in a single season was 373 yards. While he’s not likely to eclipse than this year, the former Texas Tech product may carry some value into the future for the Bears.
On Sunday, he was the team’s leading receiver with five catches for 62 yards and a touchdown. It’s clear the Bears are slowly transitioning him into the Tarik Cohen role. With Cohen’s future up in the air due to a knee injury he suffered last year, it’ll be very interesting to see if Grant is someone they prioritize retaining this upcoming offseason. A lot of that may depend on who is in charge by that point, but if the contract makes sense, Grant could be a valuable tool for the Bears moving forward.
3. Rewinding just one year ago, both of these teams were fighting for the final Wild Card spot in the NFC. How times have changed...
The 2021 NFL regular season ended with both a Bears and Cardinals loss. Both teams finished (8-8) on the year, but due to a better conference record the Bears won the tie-breaker and took the seventh and final seed into the playoffs.
Flash forward a year later and these two teams are in vastly different spots. The Cardinals are (10-2), have the best record in football and appear poised to win the NFC West for the first time in years. The Bears are (4-8) and are undoubtedly headed to big changes this offseason. So where did things go so differently for these teams over the offseason?
At least in my opinion, it was clear these two teams were headed in different directions last year. Arizona was learning how to win with a new head coach and a young quarterback. Chicago was simply trying to do enough to stay afloat. The Cardinals have made some bold decisions over the past few years to get them where they are but they have paid off. The real question becomes- Can the Bears follow suit?
4. If there’s one parallel fans can hope these two teams share, it’s the development and rise of Kyler Murray and Justin Fields.
Obviously, situations are never apples to apples in any sport, especially the NFL. With that being said, the Bears’ ownership may want to take a deeper look into how the Cardinals have got back to a winning culture. After former head coach Bruce Arians decided to retire, Arizona was in scramble mode. That led to a poor head coaching hire and a big swing and a miss on quarterback Josh Rosen.
Despite that, they quickly changed course. First, they fired former head coach Steve Wilks after one failed season. Next on the list, they decided to shake up the NFL world and hire a college coach (who was recently fired) in Kliff Kingsbury. I’ll be the first to say that I didn’t think it was going to work. Finally, they realized that Rosen wasn’t the guy and quickly pivoted to taking Murray No. 1 overall in the 2019 draft. All of this despite having just started one full college season. Since that point, it’s been a steady rise for this franchise and now they hold the best record in the NFL.
One of the big reasons why they were able to build around Murray? Patience. They didn’t simply believe he was going to come in and change the trajectory of their franchise in Year 1. They also knew they had some work to do with their personnel. Yet, they added DeAndre Hopkins, drafted Rondale Moore and kept a focus on both sides of the ball.
Again, I’m not saying the Bears can follow the exact same path. What I am saying is that they need to start with step one and that’s getting a new coach that can get the best out of their young quarterback. After that, they need to start surrounding him with better talent. With one receiver under contract for 2022 in Darnell Mooney, they’ll have plenty to figure out. Whether this plan has general manager Ryan Pace in it, remains to be seen, but Fields is the team’s best shot at a bright future.
5. Since we are talking about quarterbacks, I guess this is the time to say that Andy Dalton had one of his worst games in recent memory.
Sunday was just the fourth time in Dalton’s career that he has thrown four or more interceptions in a single game. Granted, I would only really credit fault to him on three of those interceptions, he still had rough game. His accuracy was off from his first throw of the game and he didn’t have an attempt of 20 air yards or more on the day out of 41 passing attempts.
More than anything, I think this proves a few things:
- Dalton is not the same quarterback he was in his prime with the Cincinnati Bengals.
- This offense needs a lot of help and there’s no quick fix on this roster for 2021.
- When healthy, Fields gives this team just as good of a chance to win on a weekly basis that Dalton does.
Only time will tell if Fields can start these last five games but if healthy, he should be the guy. One other thing we continue to learn? Fields might be the only reason worth watching this team right now.
6. Matt Nagy continues to show why he’s not going to be a successful NFL coach. At this point, what more do the Bears need to see?
It seems like each week there are a few damning moment for Nagy. Sunday’s game was no different. Not only is Nagy now (5-13) in games with more than seven days to prepare, but his in-game decisions continue to baffle most.
The best example of this in Week 13? It came in the final two minutes of the first half. The Bears were down 21-7 and had the ball and they faced a fourth and two around midfield. Nagy opted to punt the ball, despite them being down 14 points and the Cardinals getting the ball coming out of the half. Following the punt, the Cardinals got themselves in a third and medium situation. Nagy called a timeout with 22 seconds left.
What’s confusing about that situation is quite simple. He wasn’t willing to take a chance on fourth down in a favorable situation, despite going for it on fourth and eight earlier in the game. Yet, he was willing to call a timeout with the Cardinals pinned back in their own territory with 22 seconds left on the next drive.
When Nagy took the job back in 2018, he talked about his manta “Be You”. Part of that “being you” was being aggressive. Yet, as we’ve seen far too many times over his four years in Chicago, he’s not aggressive at the right times. The Bears went into that game at (4-7) with a pair of games against the NFC’s elite. Those are the situations where you have to be aggressive, especially when your team is already down two scores. This will be yet another example in five weeks of why the Bears were forced into yet another head coaching change.
7. While everyone is hoping for changes in-season, one change became apparent in Sunday’s game with an interesting post-game explanation.
In the second half on Sunday’s game, a few of the beat reporters that were at the game had noticed Nagy was calling the offensive plays. This comes off the heels of Fields looking good in practice, yet not being “cleared” for the game.
In his post-game press conference, Nagy was asked about it. He noted that they were having headset issues (which has happened multiple times this year) and that he was having to take play calls from offensive coordinator Bill Lazor (who was in the booth) over a walkie talkie and give them to Dalton over the headset.
While Nagy could very well be telling the truth, his track record of doing such hasn’t been a good one. This will be yet another thing to monitor over the next five games. Surely, Nagy knows his time in Chicago is coming to an end and it wouldn’t shock me to see him go out doing things his way.
8. Speaking of changes, at what point do more fans start holding general manager Ryan Pace more accountable for his part on the field?
If you’ve been paying attention to Chicago sports over the last month or so, I’m sure you’ve noticed all the “Fire Nagy” chants that have popped up at various sporting events. The “#FireNagy” hashtag is becoming more popular, as has the fanbase’s distain for their current head coach.
The notion that Nagy should be fired is completely justified and very likely to come to fruition over the next five weeks. Yet, I cannot help but wonder why Pace is not taking more heat than he is. Yes, he has had a quality track record of mid-round picks in the draft. Yes, he was able to rebuild the Bears’ roster in a three-year period and get them back to a playoff team.
My issue is that while he has done some good, he is responsible for hiring two bad head coaches, multiple missed draft picks, a gross misuse of draft capital, a bad cap situation and most importantly, a roster that has bled talent over the past few years and is now the second oldest roster in the NFL with virtually zero depth.
In Pace’s seven years as general manager, he has just two playoff appearances, one winning season and no playoff wins. He’s had two head coaches, multiple different quarterbacks and every financial asset from ownership at his disposal. At some point in time, the finger needs to be pointed back at him because, after all, he is the one who has built this team and made the decisions on everything you see on the field.
9. Is it just me or is this one of the more unpredictable head coaching candidate pools in recent memory?
Over the past 10 seasons, there has been a minimum of five openings with an average of six jobs up for grabs on a yearly basis. This year, we could see job openings on the lower end, though.
Outside of the Las Vegas Raiders, no jobs are currently open. Not counting the Bears, there appears to be just one “obvious” job that should open up with the New York Giants. Outside of that, there will be questions with the Minnesota Vikings, Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos. It’s possible that things could shake up with the New Orleans Saints or Pittsburgh Steelers, but that seems like more hope from opposing fanbases rather than a reality. It’s possible that things continue to blow up in Jacksonville with the Jaguars and they cut ties with Urban Meyer, but the majority of the bottom-end teams in the league right now all have first-year coaches.
Long story short, there aren’t likely to be a ton of job openings this year. That may end up being a good thing though, because as of now, I’m not sure there’s that one sure-fire candidate that everyone will be chasing.
Without getting into too much detail on every name, all of the top young coordinators in the league carry question marks. In the college ranks, it’s hard to know who will actually break free, especially with the amount of chaos the college world has seen with Lincoln Riley and Brian Kelly abandoning ship for different programs. Don’t be surprised if this ends up being the year of second-time retreads, since they have a more established track record.
Two names to keep an eye on: offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels (New England Patriots) and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles (Tampa Bay Buccaneers).
10. The highlight of the NFC North might have just been the Detroit Lions getting their first win of the 2021 against the Minnesota Vikings
For my money, the Vikings have been the “weirdest” team in the NFL this year. “Inconsistent” doesn’t begin to describe their season so far. Despite having led in every game this year and keeping every game close, they find themselves at (5-7) with five games left to go. One reason for that? A walk-off win by the Lions, who won their first game in over a calendar year.
I’m not sure Dan Campbell will ever be a good coach, but one thing I’ve noticed is that he has his team fighting and clawing on a weekly basis. They almost beat the Bears on Thanksgiving and if it wasn’t for an NFL record 66-yard game winning field goal from Justin Tucker earlier in the year, they would have had their first win a long time ago.
Either way, that game could end up being the reason there are two teams in the NFC North looking for new head coaches. If so, it will be very interesting to see who has the more attractive job of the two. While the Vikings look like the better team on paper in 2021, their long-term outlook may not be viewed as favorable due to their quarterback situation and overall cap situation.