Ellis: For now, Bears are sticking with the plan, for better or for worse


CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- So that was really awkward, right? It felt really awkward.

Pick any narrative from the Bears’ 41-15 loss to the Buffalo Bills at Soldier Field on Saturday afternoon, and there’s probably enough meat on the bone for a different hour-long radio segment every day until the regular-season opener. The first-team offense? Non-existent, again. The first-team defense? Uninspiring, again. We won’t even get into special teams, but, you know.

“I feel like for us, we didn’t get into too much of a rhythm early,” quarterback Andy Dalton said. “Consecutive three-and-outs, we finally started to get a drive together and then we had the turnover. Some penalties set us back at time. We’d like to be more consistent and efficient with our performance.”

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Frankly, the first half Saturday would've been uncomfortable to watch even if it didn’t involve Bills quarterback Mitchell Trubisky (you remember him!) completing 71% of his passes (20-of-28) on his way to a 221-yard, one-touchdown afternoon. But it did, and reader, it got tense. Fans were on hand to watch the Bears and their rebound publicly run into an ex – one who’s working on himself and thriving while he’s at it. No one’s denying that they’re both still better off as friends, but watching Trubisky repeatedly march an offense down the field with tempo and precision – while Dalton and the rest of the Bears 1s continued to put up three-and-outs – was a stark reminder that breakups never quite go as smoothly as we want them to. Maybe that’s why the boos were so loud.

“I thought he looked very good,” Bears coach Nagy said of Trubisky. “I thought he was playing very efficiently, making good throws. You spend three years with somebody, you try to help and do everything you can, and he does the same. So he’s on a new path and we’re on a new path, and I think he did a good job today.”

One small problem is that the Bears’ new path, as currently set up, is getting harder and harder to defend. Maybe plugging running back David Montgomery, top receiver Allen Robinson and a competent offensive line into the game plan will help. The team (and the fans, basically all of Illinois, etc.) is certainly hoping that’s the case, because if the first two quarters Saturday were any indication, "the path" looks to be leading the Bears to an 0-3 start followed by a lot of meaningless late fall football. Much to the dismay of fans, it’s not as simple as saying that Dalton is bad and rookie Justin Fields is good; injuries and standard preseason roster shuffling have shaped the team’s approach to snap counts so far, but at this point, it’s not unfair to wonder what the ceiling of a Dalton-led offense really is.

“There’s variables in all of that,” Nagy said. “As much as I tell everyone I love the preseason, I hate the preseason for that reason too. You look at the coaches on the sideline and they’re scratching their heads, because there’s a guy out or you’ve got a guy at this position. You don’t even know who some of the positions are … that’s the most challenging part of preseason. That said, we want to make sure that we understand the variables, but we’ve got to still play clean. We’ve got to play clean.”

The plan for Week 1, at least right now, is very much still "the plan." While it wouldn’t be the first time that Nagy’s actions spoke louder than his words, he took multiple opportunities to stress the need to see what Dalton can do during the regular season, and he reiterated that the team can’t make too many judgement calls until then. Fields may see a lot of reps with the starters in the preseason finale in Tennessee next week, but come Sept. 12, it’ll be Dalton under center. After that, the plan (or was it the path?) gets a bit murkier.

“For people to want to see more of Justin, I get that,” Nagy said. “But we also understand where we’re at and what the true plan is. All we can do is ask Justin to do is keep playing -- and he’s doing it -- and Andy to keep playing.”

Cam Ellis is a writer for 670 The Score and Audacy Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KingsleyEllis.

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