After the 38-31 loss to the Patriots on Sunday at Soldier Field, Bears coach Matt Nagy rattled off a list of mistakes — two touchdowns allowed on special teams, a stalled running game, a weak pass rush, an inaccurate quarterback — but then he paused.
“We were a yard away from tying the game,” Nagy said defiantly. “So take that and think about that for a little bit.”
Just because quarterback Mitch Trubisky completed a 54-yard Hail Mary to Kevin White when the team needed 55 to score doesn’t mean the Bears were only three feet worse than the defending AFC champs.
Plus, Trubisky said that’s not good enough, anyway.
“I mean, close doesn’t cut it,” he said. “And it’s good that coach Nagy is hard on us because there’s a new standard here, and coming up one yard short and not tying the game and going into overtime, that’s not good enough anymore.”
That standard includes being hard on Trubisky. The Hail Mary completion made his stats (26-for-50, 333 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions) look better, but Trubisky had a season-worst 69.8 passer rating. He threw second-half picks at the Patriots’ 21- and 4-yard lines.
The Patriots dropped two more interception chances, including an end-zone pass intended for — wait for it — backup tackle Bradley Sowell.
Trubisky was at his best when running for his life. He ran six times for 81 yards, more than double that of the Bears’ next leading rusher (Jordan Howard, 39 yards). His best highlight of the year came with a minute left in the first quarter. On third-and-five from the 8, he rolled right. The Patriots, in shell coverage, took away his top three receiving options.
“I decided to spin around and see what I could see on the other side,” he said.
Trubisky ran backward to the 31-yard line and then across the field. He reached the left sideline and followed center Cody Whitehair’s block for an eight-yard touchdown.
He ran 71.9 yards, per NFL Next Gen Stats, the most on any play of less than 50 yards this year.
Later, he scrambled for 39 yards, running left and then, at the Patriots’ 21, stopping. He hesitated, cut back inside and gained 20 more yards.
“Some people get nervous when I run because quarterbacks, they gotta go down and stay healthy,” Trubisky said.
Trubisky’s touchdown run gave the Bears a 10-7 lead. After Patriots running back Sony Michel fumbled while injuring his knee — he was carted off to the locker room — Howard scored on a two-yard plunge. Patriots receiver Cordarrelle Patterson returned the ensuing kickoff 95 yards for a score, atoning for a fumble on a kick return in the first quarter. James White’s five-yard touchdown catch gave the Patriots a 21-17 halftime lead.
Four plays after Trubisky’s 39-yard run in the third quarter, he threw a six-yard touchdown to Tarik Cohen. The Patriots countered with Stephen Gostkowski’s 29-yard field goal for a 24-24 tie.
The Patriots’ second special-teams touchdown gave them the lead with 5:53 left in the third quarter. Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower plowed past Ben Braunecker to block Pat O’Donnell’s punt. Kyle Van Noy scooped up the ball at the Bears’ 29 and scored.
The teams traded touchdowns in the fourth quarter before the Bears tried one last prayer. With one second left, Trubisky heaved the ball to White, who caught it at the 1. He was able to turn toward the end zone but was met by a slew of defenders.
The loss stung for the 3-3 Bears, who fell out of first place. But it was a “very different” feeling than last season, defensive end Akiem Hicks said.
“This year, we know what type of team we have,” he said. “We know we got a quarterback that’s developing and throwing the ball down the field really well. We know we have a great wide receiver corps. We know we have rushers that can get to the quarterback.
“We have a really good team. And we’re going to have to figure out how to capitalize on that big-play momentum and finish games out.”