Go ahead and hold the Bears’ players accountable for the 24-23 season opening loss on Sunday night in Green Bay.
The blame can fall on them, but for the most part, it shouldn’t.
I know Dion Sims (he failed to convert a key 3rd and 1 in Packers territory early in the fourth quarter), Kyle Fuller (he dropped an easy interception that would have ended the game), Prince Amukamara (he got burned often in the second half) and Mitch Trubisky (certainly looked weaker in the second half).
Regardless of all that, the tone and energy was set by one man. That was head coach Matt Nagy.
The first year NFL head coach blew his chance to put a gimpy Aaron Rodgers away for good at Lambeau Field.
Despite taking a 17-0 lead into the half where the Bears looked like offensive geniuses and played dominant on defense, it all unraveled over the final 30 minutes.
Nagy decided to opt for a 32-year field goal by Cody Parkey with his team ahead 20-17 and the clock showing 2:39. It was a 4th and 2 from the Green Bay 14-yard line and the Bears had just taken over six minutes off the clock with a nice Trubisky led drive.
To make matters worse, Nagy opted to call a passing play on the previous play, a 3rd and 2 as Trubisky couldn’t connect with rookie Anthony Miller and the clock stopped.
The Packers owned no more timeouts but had the two-minute warning left. Everyone in the stadium knew that was more than enough time for Rodgers to lead a comeback. Everyone watching on television certainly knew as well.
Even the NBC cameras panned to Rodgers, who clearly perceived it because he was smiling on the sidelines and ready to get back onto the field.
Of course, it all ended like we saw coming as Randall Cobb burned the Bears for what seems like the 1,000th time in his eight-year career. This occurrence came on a 75-yard touchdown right down the middle of the field on a 3rd and 10.
Safety Eddie Jackson was blitzing and there was no last line of defense for the Bears. Leonard Floyd was the only guy in the picture who had a chance at bringing Cobb down, but he was blocked easily.
Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio called a nice first half alongside Nagy, drawing up blitzes and letting Khalil Mack and Roquan Smith get after Rodgers. In the second half, Fangio certainly didn’t seem to quite realize that Rodgers was highly injured. Blitzes didn’t come often, but of course, on that ill-timed call, it was there.
I’ll repeat my sentiments from the opening paragraph of this story. Do not blame the players. Nagy led his team to their demise.
I know it is a cliche to blame the coaches. But Trubisky is a second-year player who started only 12 games last season and isn’t quite ready to be changing calls at the line of scrimmage (evident by the -5 yard pass to Taylor Gabriel pass that led to his team settling for a field goal to make the game 10-0 early on).
Nagy made it clear he was more concerned about being conservative instead of piling it on against a Packers team that looked deflated from the start. Instead, he allowed Rodgers to continue to add to his legacy and continue to look like a superstar against the Bears yet again.
Conservative play calling rarely wins in this new-aged NFL. Especially against All-Pro quarterbacks like Rodgers. Settling for a field goal to go up only six points with nearly three minutes left is a poor strategy.
The Bears have to rally and prove to their fans on Monday Night Football against Seattle that this can get better. If not, not only does Nagy look bad, but so does general manager Ryan Pace, who is linked with him through his remaining contract.
I think this team has more depth than it has had in year’s and endless young talent, but the execution and a winning mindset is not quite there yet.
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