Red zone a danger zone for Bears’ offense

The Bears’ inability to score touchdowns inside the 20 in the first half of their 17-16 loss to the Chargers was indicative of the myriad problems facing coach Matt Nagy.

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Bears rookie running back David Montgomery rushed for a career-high 135 yards and a touchdowns on 27 carries against the Chargers on Sunday. But he had five carries for three yards in the red zone — including a four-yard touchdown in the second half.

Bears rookie running back David Montgomery rushed for a career-high 135 yards and a touchdowns on 27 carries against the Chargers on Sunday. But he had five carries for three yards in the red zone — including a four-yard touchdown in the second half.

Paul Beaty/AP

On second-and-goal from the Chargers’ 4-yard line in the final minute of the first half Sunday, the Bears used three tight ends with an empty backfield and versatile receiver Cordarrelle Patterson lined up wide left.

Patterson went in motion and caught a screen pass, theoretically behind a wall of blockers. But Chargers cornerback Michael Davis, who was covering Patterson on the outside and simply followed his motion, was unblocked and tackled Patterson for a one-yard gain. Try again.

You could pick a red-zone play — almost any red-zone play — to illustrate the Bears’ offensive struggles in their 17-16 loss to the Chargers at Soldier Field. While Eddy Pineiro’s missed 41-yard field goal sealed their fate, the Bears lamented four first-half failures in the red zone that netted nine points as the bigger culprit in their third consecutive loss. The Bears ran 16 plays in the red zone in the first half and gained 14 yards.

It was even worse the closer they got. The Bears ran 11 plays inside the 10 in the first half and gained three yards. Their biggest play officially was no play — a pass-interference penalty on Chargers cornerback Casey Hayward that gave the Bears a first-and-goal from the 1 with 29 seconds left in the half.

But quarterback Mitch Trubisky threw incomplete to well-covered tight end Adam Shaheen and running back David Montgomery was stopped for no gain before, with no timeouts, the Bears scrambled for a hurried spike with a second left to set up Pineiro for a 19-yard field goal.

A run on second-and-goal with no timeouts and 25 seconds left? It seemed the Bears cheated themselves out of a valuable play that might get them into the end zone.

‘‘Yeah, that [run play] got drawn out,’’ coach Matt Nagy said. ‘‘We knew what we were doing. We had a plan that we were going to go out there with the clock [running]. When you go back and look at it, you’ll see it took awhile.’’

With time running out, Nagy’s only option was a wasteful spike.

‘‘There were guys down on the ground, and they couldn’t get up,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘There was, like, a big pile there. So when I saw that, that’s when I said to myself: ‘Uh-oh. This is going to be close.’ And you don’t really expect that, but for whatever reason that happened.’’

For whatever reason, the Bears were unable to capitalize on advantageous situations. After cornerback Kyle Fuller’s interception return to the Chargers’ 4, the Bears’ play-calling and execution quickly squandered the momentum.

Trubisky’s first-and-goal pass was to Patterson, who immediately was thumped by Davis for no gain. Incomplete passes to well-covered tight end Trey Burton and a well-covered Shaheen forced the Bears to settle for Pineiro’s 22-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead.

Does something change about the Bears’ mentality when they get into the red zone? It’s one of many quandaries facing Nagy in resuscitating his offense.

‘‘It’s a good question,’’ Trubisky said. ‘‘I think there’s a lot of things that go on when you get closer to the goal line. It could be a mentality thing where [it’s a matter of] who wants it more. It’s only 10 yards [or less] to go.

‘‘But [the Chargers] definitely played well down there, and we’ve got to find ways to punch it in . . . giving our guys opportunities to make plays. And I think just credit to [the Chargers]. When they got down there, they played really tough defense.’’

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