Before Matt Nagy was asked about the importance of the Bears’ upcoming games against the NFC North, the lights cut out during his postgame Zoom conference call.
With just enough light to see the white and red Motorola logo on the microphone, Nagy’s voice filled the dark and empty screen.
“We do got to right the ship, and we just got to do it by getting one win,” Nagy said. “ … Whatever that is by any measures find a way to do it. And I think our guys will do that. I think they understand where we are at.”
The lights cutting out two minutes into Nagy’s postgame presser was not just an electrical issue. It was symbolic and a clear message that the optimism and potential for this Bears team is coming to an end.
With the Bears’ 24-17 loss to the Titans, Chicago has now lost three straight, bringing their record to 5-4. Just two weeks ago, Nagy’s team had an opportunity to obtain sole possession of first place in the NFC with a win over the Rams.
But those times are long gone. Like a flick of a switch, the entire trajectory of the 2020 season has changed, and there is no indication the Bears offense will get any better moving forward.
“The only thing I can say is that we have to continue to keep working,” Nick Foles said. “I don’t know what you all expect me to say. But other than I believe that we have to keep working at it and keep grinding and keep figuring out what we want to do and how we want to do it. …”
Surprisingly, given how horrible the Bears offense has been all season, Sunday’s loss to the Titans was the first time Chicago failed to score in the first three quarters. In eight of nine games, Nagy’s offense has been shut out in the third quarter.
Along with the offense’s inability to score, excluding the 17 garbage points in the fourth quarter, the unit struggled on third downs, as it has all season. Coming into the game, the Bears converted just 34.9% of their third-down attempts, which was ranked 31st in the league. Against the Titans, they did even worse than their average and finished with a 13.3% conversion rate on 2 of 15 attempts.
Behind a makeshift offensive line, Foles did manage to throw for two touchdowns and 335 yards, making this his first 300-yard passing game as a Bear. Foles also didn’t throw an interception in Sunday’s loss, another first for the veteran QB this season.
But the 52 passing attempts, which was 10 short of Foles’ career-high he set in 2016, combined with bad O-line play and Foles’ inability to escape pressure proved the Bears can’t win games strictly throwing the ball.
The Bears also demonstrated they can’t run the ball either. Backup edge rusher Barkevious Mingo’s 11-yard run on a fake punt was the longest of the day for Chicago. David Montgomery and Cordarrelle Patterson had 17 carries for 43 total yards, making this the fourth game this season the duo has failed to reach 50 total rushing yards.
And it wouldn’t be a Bears game if there weren’t drive-crushing penalties. The most-penalized team in the league coming into Sunday’s game was flagged five times against the Titans, including two consecutive false starts on fourth down to start the second half. What started as a fourth-and-1 attempt on the Titans 31-yard line eventually turned into a fourth-and-10 at the 40, and the Bears were forced to punt.
“But the ones (the penalties) that bother me are the ones where you have the senseless ones with the penalties that set you back 5 yards and make it second-and-15 or they’re drive killers,” Nagy said. “And again, we’re discussing that. We talk about that and they are continuing to happen.”
There were also two fumbles lost — with one being returned for a touchdown — and another instance where Nagy had to call a timeout because his offense couldn’t line up properly. With the pre-snap miscues happening so often, it’s becoming more apparent that Nagy is failing to properly relay the details he talks to so much about in every press conference.
Lost in this defeat to the Titans was the effort and performance Chuck Pagano’s defense played with for the majority of the game. The Bears defense held running back Derrick Henry to 68 rushing yards and forced seven three-and-outs. This will go down as another wasted effort by a unit that did more than enough to put the team in a position to win.
Nagy’s offense is holding the team back, and that isn’t new, but Sunday the unit reached some new lows. The Bears are in a tough spot, and the NFC North is up next on the schedule.
If Chicago continues to play like a bottom-five offense over these next few weeks, then it will be lights out for the Bears and their chances to make the playoffs.