Anyway, the great ones never forget, even if postgame Mahomes downplayed doing anything but enjoying the moment. The great ones find motivation wherever they can -- not that Mahomes needed any help in beating the Bears in a matchup that invited inevitable comparisons of two quarterbacks headed in opposite directions. While Mahomes looks bound for Canton one day, Trubisky faces a murky future as an NFL starter. Near the end of the first half, to show NBC’s commitment to comparing the two, a full screen showed game statistics for Mahomes and Trubisky with announcer Al Michaels sarcastically chiming in, "But Mitch does have five more rushing yards."
Nobody in Chicago was laughing. This was a joyless night of football on the lakefront. This season is the ugly gift nobody can return.
"Too sloppy across the board," coach Matt Nagy said. "We’ve got to figure out the why part."
Why? How? When? All questions are fair ones. All the answers start with Nagy, even if he has yet to put it in those terms.
The schedule says the Bears will play the season finale against the Vikings next Sunday in Minneapolis, but the sooner they can start thinking about 2020 at Halas Hall, the better. The Bears are broken and need as much time as possible to fix all that has gone wrong. On Sunday, Nagy’s once-vaunted offense gained 234 yards and failed to score a touchdown in the first half for the 10th time in 15 games, managing only a meager Eddy Pineiro field goal. A defense that kept the game respectable against Mahomes committed too many careless penalties.
The Bears remain among the league leaders in underachievement. After 15 games, the offensive identity is that it has none. The situation calls for a complete and thorough re-examination of the offensive philosophy and roster – in that order. Not having the right players is one problem, but not having coaches who understand how to get the most out of the players is a bigger issue.
So don’t fall for NBC’s trap. Don’t make the mistake after the three-hour, nationally televised retrospective Sunday on the 2017 NFL Draft of believing that the Bears would resemble Chiefs if they only had picked Mahomes instead of Trubisky. The Bears were better off when America was under the impression that quarterback play was the only difference between these two teams. This was no way for Nagy the pupil to impress his mentor, Chiefs coach Andy Reid. This was an exposure of everything the Bears lack: a dependable quarterback, a reliable offensive line, explosive playmakers, an imaginative play-caller and the list goes on…
That in no way excuses Trubisky’s shortcomings; his shaky performance in 2019 warrants the Bears strongly consider making a change at the game’s most important position depending on who’s available. But as much as Trubisky could help mask some of the offense’s problems, he can’t hide them all. That’s not fair or realistic. That’s on Pace and Nagy -- especially Nagy.
It's almost inconceivable to think that the same Bears team embarrassed in its home finale was the same group that opened the season in September on the same field in front of the same NBC cameras considered legitimate Super Bowl contenders. It’s hard to fathom how a Bears team that created such a buzz before its first snap at home looked up before its last one to see a stadium more than half empty. The descent has been as sudden as it is startling. This was John Fox-era bad, with anger and apathy competing within many a Bears fan’s heart.
It started to go downhill for the Bears early. A promising drive appeared to be moving the chains too conventionally for Nagy’s taste, so he couldn’t help but get too cute. The Bears had converted two third downs when Nagy called for an end-around pitch to Anthony Miller, who dropped it for a 10-yard loss. It was like turning the music off at a holiday party. The rhythm disappeared. The momentum stopped. A punt ensued. If one drive could epitomize an offense, that was it.
More bad defensive discipline by the Bears buoyed the Chiefs on a 13-play, 95-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter that included a second-and-28. But linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis ran into the kicker on fourth-and-4 – shades of him making the same mistake against the Raiders in London – and you can’t give Mahomes second chances. He will make you pay every time.
And he did, toying with the Bears in what amounted to a playoff tune-up by completing 23 of 33 passes for 251 and two touchdowns and adding another rushing score. The difference in confidence was as obvious as in the execution. Mahomes plays like a kid on recess. With all his sidearm releases and no-look throws, Mahomes is what Cubs star Javy Baez might look like if he played quarterback: free, fun, fearless.
Consider the contrast in approaches to respective third-and-long plays. On a third-and-18 in the first quarter, Mahomes commanded the pocket, kept his eyes downfield and drove the ball with his rocket-like release into the hands of Tyreek Hill for a 19-yard gain over the middle. On the next series for the Bears, a third-and-8 situation produced Trubisky hitting Miller for a two-yard swing pass that underscored how horizontal a non-threatening offense has become.
The most egregious miss for Trubisky – the one that accentuated the inaccuracy that has interrupted his ascent – came when he overthrew Allen Robinson for what would have been a 46-yard touchdown pass. Robinson ran a terrific wheel route across the field to split the defense deep and was open, but Trubisky sailed it over his head. Besides missing on a chance to give the Bears a rare first-half touchdown, Trubisky reminded everyone why the Bears struggle so mightily in the downfield passing game. Everything starts with the downfield passer.
But when it comes to fixing the Bears, unfortunately it sure doesn’t end there.