Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy was supposed to have spent the Bears’ bye week engaging in self-reflection and trying to figure out ways to get his offense going. As it turned out, the Bears returned from their bye week looking lackluster, rusty and unprepared. Instead of Club Dub, it was Club Drub.
The Bears were handily outplayed by a New Orleans Saints team that was without its starting quarterback, its starting tight end and its star running back. This looked like the John Fox-era Bears–and that’s not a good look, especially considering this team is much more stocked talent-wise than the teams Fox had. Here are the winners and losers from the Bears 36-25 loss to the Saints:
LOSER: Mitchell Trubisky
Mitchell Trubisky returned to action for the first time since Week 4, and he looked like a lost tourist on the field. He had several overthrows, and he seemed to be in a constant state of confusion.
At one point, with just over six minutes in the second quarter, on a third and two, Trubisky sprinted over to the sidelines when he had a full play clock to talk to Nagy. Whether Trubisky was called over by Nagy or needed to go over is irrelevant–if he doesn’t know what play he should call early on in a game in that situation, should he even be on the field?
Thom Brennaman, who was announcing the game with former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman, asked Aikman how he ever survived as a quarterback in the NFL without a head set and constant communication with his head coach. It was a tongue-in-cheek comment, but there is more than a grain of truth in there.
It seems as though Trubisky is lost without his coach, and that’s not the sign of a quarterback who has good instincts for the game. It’s also disconcerting that both of his touchdown passes came in garbage time. Moving forward, this type of play simply will not cut it.
LOSER: Khalil Mack and the Bears Defense
Yes, they were on the field for most of the entire game, and yes, Sean Payton is an excellent offensive-minded coach, but this did not look like the same Bears defense that manhandled the Vikings in Week 4. Roquan Smith has not looked the same since missing time with whatever personal issue kept him out. Eddie Jackson doesn’t look like the same player he was last year. Nor does Kyle Fuller.
Khalil Mack, after failing to net a sack against his former team, the Oakland Raiders, looked flat and failed to make any sort of impact plays in this game. The defense let Latavius Murrary run all over them, and they gave up a back-breaking drive to the Saints immediately to start the third quarter. They allowed both a 100-yard receiving game to Michael Thomas and their second 100-yard rusher in a row–this time to Latavius Murray.
The Bears are clearly missing Akiem Hicks–that’s plain to see. But they have also had weeks to prepare for his absence. To come out after a bye and play this kind of uninspired defense at home is inexcusable. This was easily their worst game of the year.
LOSER: Chris Tabor
Cordarrelle Patterson kept the Bears in it early with his 102-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, but the Bears’ special teams coverage, as well as their punt unit, is playing undisciplined and sloppy ball. They had a 60+ yard punt return for a touchdown negated by a Saints holding penalty, and they also allowed the Saints to block a Pat O’Donnell punt that resulted in a safety. O’Donnell’s heads up play to push the ball out of the end zone led to the safety instead of a potential touchdown.
Tabor has been the weakest link in terms of position coaches for the Bears for several seasons now. The team needs to start looking for a new special teams coach–one who emphasizes discipline, and one that can sniff out trick plays. Tabor is not that guy. But he’s not the only coach who laid an egg today.
LOSER: Matt Nagy
Matt Nagy was supposed to at least attempt to fix the Bears’ woeful running game over the bye. He didn’t come close, although it’s difficult to fix something that you don’t work on. Nagy called up a measly five rushing attempts in the entire first half.
The criticism of Nagy is all deserved. He’s an offensive-minded coach–or he’s supposed to be–yet the Bears had 85 yards of total offense for the entire game at the end of the third quarter. With 10:09 left in the fourth quarter, the Bears had just 17 rushing yards. Trubisky was clearly struggling, yet Nagy refused to pull him.
Nagy will likely reference the Bears’ 3-3 start last season, and try to compare this Bears team to the team last year in his post-game press conference, but this was by far the worst Bears loss in his tenure. This is not the same team–not by a long shot, and Nagy cannot pretend that it is.
WINNER: Cordarrelle Patterson
In a game like this, it’s difficult to find a winner–but Patterson’s 102-yard kickoff return for a touchdown was the Bears’ best play of the game. With his excellent returns in this game, Patterson also improved his career kickoff return average to 30.3 yards–which is second in history to Bears legend Gale Sayers.
The Bears no longer have a bye week to do any soul-searching, and if Mitch Trubisky cannot play better–regardless of whether he’s playing this way due to his injury–this team may not even finish the season out at 8-8.