CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- Two years ago, during the first extended losing streak of his head-coaching tenure, Matt Nagy preached to his Bears the importance of blocking out negativity. Wear the metaphorical horse blinders and earmuffs and ignore it all, he told his players.
Now, the noise is too loud to dismiss. The frustration is too vivid not to acknowledge. Nagy can’t hide himself from it any longer. On Sunday, the Bears blew a late lead and lost 16-13 to the Ravens at Soldier Field, with the final minute of a heartbreaking defeat filled with a chorus of boos and chants of “Fire Nagy” that he admitted hearing.
“Everyone is competitive and wants to see the Bears win,” Nagy said. “That’s what we all want.”
For all the gut-wrenching losses during Nagy’s time leading the Bears – and the list is quite long – this one felt different. It wasn’t an isolated incident, not just one tough game in a challenging season. Sunday seemed to mark the point of no return for Nagy and his time in Chicago, a fall to rock bottom with no chance to rise back up.
Every aspect of the loss started and ended with Nagy, from the poor game plan for rookie quarterback Justin Fields before he left with a ribs injury to the constant pre-snap confusion and indecisive coaching decisions. Nagy didn’t have his team prepared well enough and mismanaged the Bears' opportunity to snap a losing streak, beat a Super Bowl contender without its star quarterback and inspire hope moving forward.
With seven games remaining in a regular season that's more hopeless by the day, Nagy seems to have lost the buy-in of his team. Veteran pass rusher Robert Quinn called the loss “sickening” before expounding on his frustration.
"No need to be sensitive — call a spade a spade,” Quinn said. “When the play call is called, everybody has a 1/11th. Do your 1/11th. If you don't do your 1/11th, you're going to get called out. Don't be sensitive. Get yourself fixed and get it right. I’ll just leave it at that.”
It was unclear whether Quinn was referring to any specific teammate or miscue in the loss, but the Bears made far too many mistakes. Their shorthanded defense – missing star edge rusher Khalil Mack, defensive lineman Akiem Hicks, safety Eddie Jackson and linebacker Danny Trevathan – allowed Ravens backup quarterback Tyler Huntley to lead a five-play, 72-yard game-winning touchdown drive with less than two minutes remaining. The Bears made key errors late with cornerback Kindle Vildor's pass interference penalty and a coverage breakdown that led to Huntley finding wide-open receiver Sammy Watkins for a 29-yard gain to the 3-yard line, which set up running back Devonta Freeman's winning touchdown run.
The Bears’ latest defensive collapse was reminiscent of the one they had in a 29-27 loss to the Steelers on Nov. 8. This time, it came after veteran quarterback Andy Dalton -- in for the injured Fields (ribs) -- led a 10-play, 75-yard scoring drive that was capped by a fourth-and-11 heave to receiver Marquise Goodwin that went for a 49-yard touchdown pass.
The Bears had just burned their final timeout before that play and then were pushed back five yards when 18-year veteran offensive tackle Jason Peters was flagged for a false start. Still, It appeared Dalton and Goodwin had saved the day.
“What I can kind of compare it to is like when your girlfriend breaks up with you, and you’re having a good time, and she just dumps you out of nowhere,” Goodwin said. “You know what I mean? You just got to bounce back. That’s the best way I can explain it.”
As for Nagy, there wasn’t much to be said that could satisfy his critics. This loss was a clear reflection of his leadership, and his future grows more precarious by the day. What was especially cruel for Nagy is the Bears could've had one more chance with 22 seconds remaining had they not used all three of their timeouts in the second half on pre-snap confusion, including one when Nagy recognized late that he should go for two instead of kicking the extra point when the Bears went up 13-9 with 1:41 left. Even having one timeout left might have made a difference.
The Bears did everything they could to lose Sunday, and the blame started with Nagy. The fans felt that well before the final whistle, and they made their frustration so loud and clear that it couldn’t be ignored.
Nagy can no longer block out the negativity. He recognizes a doomed fate that feels inevitable.
Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.