The Chicago Bears had a huge opportunity last night. They had the chance to go on the road to play a legitimately good football team, and show that they belong in the conversation as one of the best teams in the NFC. Opportunity squandered.
The Bears went to Los Angeles and lost on Monday Night Football to the Los Angeles Rams 24-10. The score may have been 24-10, but it felt like 42-0. It was just one of those games where the offense was never able to get anything going. We all kept waiting for the offense to pick it up, and it just never happened. The defense came out flat in the first half. I will admit the defense did go into another gear in the second half, the fourth quarter in particular, but it wasn't nearly enough, the damage was done.
After a game like this, there is a lot of blame to go around. Who deserves the blame for this loss? Well, there is no short answer here.
It's probably not fair to put a lot of blame on the defense. The Rams offense is a very skilled unit, with one of the best offensive minded coaches in the league right now. However, the Rams were able to run all over the Bears defense in the first half. Also, the Bears defense is the most penalized defense in the NFL. At some point, that will have to change if this group wants to be considered an elite unit. Props to the defense for not quitting and finishing the game strong, even scoring a touchdown on their own. I have a feeling this team will need more of that going forward.
Ted Ginn Jr.
I have never returned a punt, and I do believe that is a difficult job. You have to have a feel for the coverage team that is sprinting toward you, trying to take your head off. You also have to know where you are on the field. All while watching the ball, so you don't drop it. This is not an easy job. However, Ted Ginn Jr. needs to do a better job of catching the ball. I can specifically remember 4 punts that he let hit the ground, and roll inside the 10 yard line. I have to give some credit to the Rams' punter, Johnny Hekker, he is probably the best punter in the NFL right now. With that said, starting a drive at the 12 yard line, compared to the 3 yard line is a HUGE difference. All Ginn has to do in those situations is call a fair catch, and catch the ball. Instead, he let EVERY punt go and the Bears offense was put in an even bigger disadvantage. And the last thing this offense needs is to be put in a worse situation.
When Matt Nagy (who we will get to later) decided to pull the plug on Trubisky and go with Foles, we were told that Foles would not make the mistakes that Trubisky makes. We were told that he is a game manager that makes the right reads, and doesn't turn the ball over. Well, is it just me or does this offense somehow look worse with Foles at QB? I'm not saying Trubisky is the answer here, or that he would have done any better last night, but it never seemed like Foles knew what he was looking at out there. Also, when is Nick Foles going to hit a wide open receiver downfield? There have been at least 3 opportunities to hit deep throws since he came in, and he has missed badly on all 3. Not to mention, that interception Foles threw in the end zone might have been the worst throw I've seen in a long time, all things considered. It was second down. Mooney was clearly double teamed, while running out of space in the end zone. Sometimes you have to throw the ball away and live to see another day, especially when you're losing and desperate for points.
Running Game / Offensive Line
The Bears offensive line is bad. This one is pretty simple. To their credit, they have lost James Daniels, probably their best lineman, for the season to injury. To make things worse, Cody Whitehair, their second best lineman, was injured early and did not return. So when you lose your two best pieces of an already bad unit, it's going to get worse. Much worse. The Bears offensive line cannot protect the quarterback. The offensive line cannot open holes for David Montgomery or Cordarelle Patterson. I do not think either Montgomery or Patterson should be getting significant carries for an NFL team. This is not their fault, I think they are put in a bad situation. With that being said though, if they're out there, they need to start being able to get 1 yard when necessary.
Matt Nagy as a Play Caller
Let me start by saying that I believe Matt Nagy is an excellent head coach. This team obviously plays hard, which I attribute to his coaching style. I do think he leaves a lot to be desired as an offensive play caller though. A good play caller sets up a defense so they can exploit them later. I just don't see that out of Nagy. I do believe everything does come down to the offensive line though, so it is difficult to establish the run game when there are no holes for the running backs. I have seen a lot of people give him shit for not sticking to the run game. I would like to actually say that if the team averages 2 yards per carry, establishing the run is not really a viable strategy for this team. I would like to point out that he needs to get creative running the ball. It seems like every run is either a dive up the middle, or a toss sweep. If the running game is not working, he needs to get the wide receivers involved. Or try a draw. or try some off-tackle type runs. If I can sit on my couch and guess what the Bears are going to do on 4th and 1, then I bet a professional defensive coordinator can as well. This team is so predictable, which is not something you would expect from an offensive minded head coach.
With all of this said, the Chicago Bears are still 5-2, and a half game behind Green Bay for the lead of the NFC North. They are in a much better situation than I imagined they would be at this point of the season. The defense is a very good unit, with the potential to be an elite unit. Allen Robinson is a very good receiver, and I think rookie Darnell Mooney could be a nice weapon for this offense. There are pieces in place. I still believe this team is a playoff team, and 10-6 is still not out of the question for this team. They need to cut down mistakes and penalties on defense, and mix it up on offense. If they can do those things, I think this team has the heart and fight to go far into the playoffs. I am very interested to see how they play against New Orleans next week. If they come out and play a solid, competitive game, I think they will be in good shape. If it is more of the same, specifically on offense, Bears fans are in for a long season.