Bernstein: Less is more for Matt Nagy, Bears

At long last, Nagy has adjusted to his personnel and let go of his ideal vision.

(670 The Score) It would be no small amount of irony if Bears coach Matt Nagy has become more likely to keep his job because he made the decision to fire himself.

But it's clear after Chicago's 33-27 victory in Minnesota on Sunday kept its flickering playoff hopes alive that this offense has become something other than Nagy's vision, and it's functioning better in the hands of a different play-caller. It's operating now under the Joe Maddon philosophy of "do simple better," and the result is the closest thing to anything resembling an offensive identity for the Bears that we've seen in the last three seasons.

The opponent was no beast, but it was a real game -- on the road in the division and with life on the line for two 6-7 teams. The Bears' 397 total yards can't be dismissed as being merely against the Houston Texans, in other words.

Mitchell Trubisky had us taking notice last week when he revealed that the coaches were finally responding to his input in a material way he appreciated, calling into question what has taken so long if there had been such resistance.  Whether out of wise realization or sheer desperation, Nagy's ego may be enough out of the way for the Bears to optimize what they may do well instead of chasing whatever magical fantasies play on a loop in their coach's head.

With the exception of the inexplicable late end-zone interception -- both a terrible decision and a bad throw -- Trubisky was in charge of an offense that made sense and executed a plan. The half-field reads off of bootleg and waggle actions work because he isn't skilled at reading the entire field. He kept plays alive with his feet, turning near losses into short gains. He made good calls in the run-pass option game, converted half of the Bears' third-down opportunities, made accurate throws against both man and zone coverages and spread the ball to seven different receivers.

And what a difference a committed rushing attack makes, led by an intrepid and relentless young back.  David Montgomery had 146 of the Bears' 199 yards on the ground, hitting holes with vision and finishing runs by always falling forward.  There were some creases, too, with this iteration of the interior line getting to the second level, staying assignment-sound and keeping the play calls on schedule by avoiding penalties.  Montgomery's 32 carries stand out as much as any other number from the game, an old-fashioned bell-cow performance that will satisfy a steadfast and vocal contingent of fans and observers.

The Bears played from the lead and never relinquished it after going up 10-7 in the first quarter. The defense had its struggles as it surrendered 407 yards but stiffened when it mattered most. The Bears stopped Dalvin Cook on third-and-1 at the Vikings' 29-yard line late, then forced an incompletion to take over on downs. On the final Vikings drive, the Bears kept plays in bounds and ultimately defended Kirk Cousins' final last-ditch heave.

We shouldn't take a placekicker's performance for granted either, as long as we're doing irony. The same Bears team that believed mistakenly that Cody Parkey was all that was holding it back now has completely lucked into a weapon. Cairo Santos was here only as insurance for the injured Eddy Pineiro, and he has connected on his last 22 field-goal attempts, including three more Sunday.

We have no idea how this late-season spasm of competence is viewed by whoever in the shadows of Halas ​Hall is deciding the larger future, only the evidence at hand that this is now markedly better than the Nick Foles disaster that made up most of the Bears' six-game losing streak. If the decision to acquire and promote Foles is examined alongside those to trade up for Trubisky and spend two years forcing him into a bad fit of a system, the judgment on Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace is still anything but pretty.

And yet, through all the hard-headedness and wishful thinking it does appear that something at least viable has finally emerged, as a simpler, more practical approach has produced tangible results.

Nagy has let go of some things, seemingly to the benefit of an offense that just needs a core of plays it can run confidently to keep the key contributors in comfortable positions.

It's just happening awfully late.

Dan Bernstein is the host of the Dan Bernstein Show on middays from 9 a.m. until noon on 670 The Score. You can follow him on Twitter @Dan_Bernstein.

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