It takes an unworldly positive attitude for coach Matt Nagy to believe the Bears’ offense is inching toward eruption when everything keeps malfunctioning.
Quarterback Mitch Trubisky has gone backward after an offseason in which Nagy constantly claimed he was rising.
In a system that depends on a pass-catching tight end, the Bears don’t seem to have one anymore as Trey Burton battles ongoing injury woes. He’s under 100 yards for the season.
All those skill players aren’t doing Nagy much good when there are never enough plays to get them going.
The offensive line, the recipient of tens of millions of dollars in contract extensions because the Bears thought they had it right, is consistently suspect.
“It’s not where we were last year,” Nagy said Monday. “That’s the part that bothers me. I want to make sure I do everything I can to do what I know we can do with these players.”
The only thing this offense is close to is the league bottom. Fortunately for the Bears, the Jets and Dolphins are safeguarding them from dropping all the way to the basement, but Nagy’s team ranks 29th in yardage and 27th in scoring.
When it comes to passing, supposedly Nagy’s specialty, they are 30th in yards with Trubisky at No. 29 in passer rating.
The futility keeps them spiraling, and it’s no surprise they’re getting the fourth-fewest offensive snaps in the NFL at 59.9.
The Bears got 45 snaps in their 22-14 loss to the Eagles, thanks largely to a 2-for-10 performance on third down. Trubisky completed 10 of 21 passes for 125 yards and went 2-for-7 for 15 yards on third down.
That’s how the Bears ended up with Tarik Cohen, once the most electric part of the offense, playing only 16 snaps and getting four touches. It’s how Allen Robinson finished with one catch. It’s how they went the entire afternoon without a tight end catching a pass.
When they keep going three-and-out, as they did on their first five possessions Sunday, there’s little chance to find a flow or get any player the right amount of touches. Cordarrelle Patterson was supposed to be an intriguing new element, for example, but when is he supposed to get the ball when the Bears can’t even feed mainstays such as Robinson, Cohen and Taylor Gabriel?
And when one-third of those plays on the first five “drives” in Philadelphia were third downs at an average distance of 10.6 yards to go, it severely narrowed Nagy’s choices.
“When you go three-and-out, all of a sudden it’s, ‘Man, I really wanted to get to this play,’ ” he said. “You have a whole section on your call sheet for third down that’s [limited]. First and second down, it’s open. It’s Pandora’s box. You can do whatever you want.
“Third-and-10, you’re one-dimensional. So when you don’t have those first downs, you don’t get into a rhythm as a play-caller. You can’t get into the whole play-action game, the movement, the screens, all that, because you’re trying to get a first down. And that was the struggle [against the Eagles].”
It’s a struggle pretty much every day. And it looks nowhere near close to clicking.
The Bears might look a bit better against the Lions and their 31st-ranked defense Sunday at Soldier Field, but that would be an outlier. They are halfway through the season and haven’t found their offensive identity yet, which means they don’t have one.
“What you do as a coach is you end up trying to figure out, ‘OK, when Week 6 comes, what is our identity?’ ’’ Nagy said. “Well, we’re past Week 6.”