(670 The Score) Chicago spent the past week debating whether winning ugly was a bad sign for the Bears.
Everyone can agree losing ugly is worse. What exactly was that, Matt Nagy?
“Unacceptable,’’ Nagy said.
On that, a football city agrees unanimously.
If the Bears’ 5-1 start revealed obvious weaknesses, their embarrassing 24-10 defeat to the Rams on Monday night at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif. exposed every conceivable flaw in every phase of the game, especially offense.
This was a football eyesore, a surprisingly poor performance against a Rams team that appeared smarter, faster, stronger, tougher and simply better overall. This was the shoe meeting the ant, a complete mismatch that exposed the problems that made many question the legitimacy of the Bears’ 5-1 start. In fairness, this was also only one game in the context of a 16-game season, a single loss that the Bears can’t let mushroom into something worse, a bad memory they have to forget fast with the Saints coming to town Sunday.
But, boy, that’s easier said than done for everyone who made the long flight home from Los Angeles to O’Hare.
This one threatens to leave a mark.
In front of a Monday Night Football audience, the Bears clearly weren't ready for primetime, having the national stage only to face plant with a resounding thud. And even if the reality is as hard to accept as the game was to watch, Nagy must confront a most uncomfortable truth after perhaps the worst loss of his tenure: His offense needs an immediate overhaul, regardless of what the record is.
“This is hard,’’ Nagy said. “I've never been a part of something like this. We have to look at everything."
Every. Thing. Every aspect of the offensive approach requires a quick but thorough re-evaluation, from play-calling to personnel at every position. If that means Nagy asking a Bears assistant coach to call plays, consider it. If that means toying with the idea of going back to Mitchell Trubisky to make use of his mobility behind a shoddy offensive line, discuss it. If that means pursuing trade possibilities to shore up that awful offensive line, start calling the 31 other NFL teams Tuesday morning.
Seven games into this NFL season, still sitting at 5-2 with a realistic shot at the NFC playoffs, the Bears must exhaust every option to find ways to make a talent-deficient offense better than the sum of its parts. Resolve and resiliency mean little without results, which continue to elude the Bears offense.
It’s broken, Coach. Fix it.
Not until Eddie Jackson returned a fumble eight yards for a touchdown with 7:35 left in the game did the Bears score a touchdown.
Bears defense 7, Bears offense 3. That’s as troubling as any stat.
“Amazing the Bears were 5-1 with this offense,’’ respected football journalist Peter King of NBCSports.com tweeted.
Added ESPN analyst Brian Griese from the booth: “This offense is not a 5-1 offense.’’
It easily was the biggest reason the Bears fell to 5-2.
Nick Foles took a giant step backward, reminding everyone an NFL quarterback must look the part as much as he talks it. Passionate postgame speeches and engaged sideline discussions only go so far. Intangibles matter much less with every interception, especially ones thrown into double coverage in the end zone like Foles threw in the third quarter. At some point, Foles has to consistently provide actions during games as impactful as his words after them. His numbers – 28-of-40 for 261 yards and two interceptions – barely indicate how sloppy it was.
Nothing summed that up more than Foles’ interception in the end zone with 5:14 left in the third quarter with the Bears trailing 17-3 but threatening to make it a one-score game. Eyeing receiver Darnell Mooney in the corner, Foles forced a sloppy floater that was deflected into the hands of Rams safety Taylor Rapp. The Rams responded with an eight-play, 80-yard touchdown drive to put it out of reach. It was the kind of judgment from the quarterback position that Foles was promoted to improve.
Before that costly pick, the Bears missed another terrific opportunity to change momentum. The rookie Mooney beat All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey on a double move, but Foles had to rush his throw with the pocket collapsing and released the ball before Mooney even made the break.
Instead of a 95-yard game-changing touchdown pass, Foles overthrew Mooney and left frustrated Bears fans to debate how many quarterbacks in the league could've made that play. The miss was a microcosm of all the issues confronting the Bears: pinned deep in their own territory, the pocket collapses and the quarterback misses a receiver who had gotten open.
As much as execution remains an issue, apparently so does communication. Griese shared with viewers a conversation he had with Foles that created quite a stir.
“We were talking to Nick Foles yesterday and he said, 'You know, sometimes play calls come in and I know that I don’t have time to execute that play call. I’m the one out here getting hit,'’’ Griese said, quoting Foles. “'Sometimes the guy calling the plays, Matt Nagy, he doesn’t know how much time there is back there.'"
Asked about that postgame, Nagy denied that was the case.
“We never had that conversation,’’ Nagy said. “Nick and I have a pretty good relationship.’’
Foles shared similar sentiments and a different version of the conversation than Griese’s.
“That was definitely a miscommunication with Brian and I,’’ Foles said. “That’s not what I was trying to bring across.’’
Nagy needs all his allies now.
Outside the Bears locker room, Nagy’s legion of skeptics only will increase. In the first half when the game still was competitive, Nagy provided plenty of fodder with two questionable decisions.
The first came when Nagy decided to go for it on fourth-and-1 from his own 19, which smacked of unnecessary desperation at that point of the game. Left guard Rashaad Coward jumped early, making it moot whether Foles had pushed forward enough on the quarterback sneak to gain the first down as a result of the bold call.
Nagy’s second head-scratcher illustrated just the opposite instinct: fear. Rather than call timeout to stop the clock with around 20 seconds to play before halftime and force the Rams to punt, Nagy allowed time to expire without forcing another snap. Why not stop the clock and try to block the punt? Or set up a return? The aggressiveness Nagy showed in going for it on fourth-and-1 from deep in his own territory was nowhere to be found by the end of the half.
In the second half, Nagy raised more questions in calling an all-too-familiar fourth-and-1 outside pitch to Cordarrelle Patterson that the Rams stopped for a two-yard loss. The Rams could’ve seen that one coming from Pasadena. When will Nagy stop asking a backup wide receiver to get a tough yard?
The only offensive highlight came on a leaping 38-yard catch by rookie tight end Cole Kmet in the first half, but all that did was beg the question of why Kmet hasn’t been more involved with game plans.
Nothing else worked. Everything must be addressed.
What a frustrating night for the Bears, who also had to endure the ignominy of watching former first-round bust Leonard Floyd register two sacks for the Rams. It got so bad that Rams punter Johnny Hekker put himself in contention for NFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors after averaging 44.2 yards per punt and landing four inside the 10.
It helped that Bears punt returner Ted Ginn Jr. did little but watch those punts bounce instead of catch them. Ginn apparently was the only spectator allowed inside SoFi Stadium on Monday night.
The Bears defense struggled more than usual against a Rams offense that picked up the tempo with no-huddle and established the run with an impressive stable of backs. On the Rams’ first touchdown, for example, a four-yard pass from Jared Goff to Josh Reynolds with 3:57 left in the first quarter, the Bears defense appeared to still be aligning itself when the Rams rushed to the line to snap the ball. Goff moved the pocket to mitigate the Bears’ pass rush and did just enough in completing 23 of 33 passes for 219 yards and two touchdowns to keep his team out of harm’s way.
The Rams didn’t win pretty, but they didn’t have to after the ugliest of efforts from a Bears team that knows the difference.