If Matt Nagy wants to give Mitch Trubisky a confidence boost heading into Sunday’s game against the Lions, he should show his quarterback a tape of the Lions game a year ago at Soldier Field. Or maybe Trubisky should be showing Nagy a tape of that game.
Either way, last year’s home game against the Lions in Week 10 stands as a shining example of just how good Trubisky and Nagy’s offense can be at peak efficiency — and a stark reminder of just how far both have fallen since that 34-22 victory that improved the Bears to 6-3 on their way to the playoffs.
Three days after Nagy’s offense hit rock bottom in the first half against the Eagles — five three-and-outs on the first five possessions for a net minus-20 yards — it’s hard to believe how good this same offense was against the Lions last year. Nagy’s plays were well-designed and well-executed, creating open receivers for the Bears and confusion for the Lions — including a literal conflict-of-assignment when Lions safety Quandre Diggs pointed post-snap toward Taylor Gabriel in a trips formation, and Anthony Miller was left wide open for a 45-yard touchdown reception.
That was Nagy’s offense at its best. The Bears scored touchdowns on their first four possessions to take a 26-0 lead — driving 75, 86 and 71 yards on the first three. They had passing plays of 55, 45, 36, 35, 27, 26, 24 and 20 yards. The Bears had more pass plays of 35 yards or longer in that one game (four) than they’ve had in eight games this season (two).
Receivers not only were wide open in that offense, but Trubisky was finding them — the 45-yard touchdown to Miller, a 55-yard play to Miller, a 24-yard play to tight end Trey Burton and on a perfectly executed two-point conversion to Burton on a Trubisky roll-out.
Though Trubisky had thrown six touchdown passes against the Buccaneers in Week 4 last year, the Lions game was his finest hour. He completed 23-of-30 passes for a career-high 355 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions for a 148.6 passer rating.
That day seems like much more than a year ago. Trubisky capped the first-half perfection with a four-yard touchdown on a quarterback draw — punctuating the well-executed play with an emphatic spike of the ball and a primal scream. Whatever happened to that quarterback, that play-caller and that offense?
2. Stat of the Week: After going three-and-out against the Eagles to start the game, the Bears have punted seven times on their opening possession in eight games. Their only success was a 14-play, 75-yard touchdown drive against the Vikings in Week 4.
The Bears’ first possession production in Nagy’s first 25 games accurately illustrates the rise and fall of the Bears’ offense under Nagy:
In the first four games of the Nagy era in 2018, the Bears scored three touchdowns (75.0 percent) on their opening possession — with no punts, 76 yards per drive and 8.0 yards per play.
In their last 21 games, the Bears have scored three touchdowns (14.3 percent) on their opening possession — with 14 punts, two interceptions, 27.6 yards per drive and 4.5 yards per play.
3. Can the Bears still make the playoffs? In the previous 10 seasons, 8-of-66 teams that were 3-5 made it (12.1 percent), including the Colts and Cowboys last season.
But six of those teams made it as division winners. Only the 2018 Colts and 2012 Bengals made it as a wild-card team, and the Bears have a bigger hill to climb than either of them. The Bears trail the Vikings (6-3), Rams (5-3), Panthers (5-3), Eagles (5-4, with the tie-breaker) and Lions (3-4-1) for the second wild-card spot in the NFC.
Since the advent of the 16-game schedule in 1978, 17-of-231 teams that were 3-5 made the playoffs (7.4 percent).
4. Blast from the Past: The Bears have rallied from 3-5 to make the playoffs twice — in 1979 and more famously in 1977, when they limped home from the Astrodome after an embarrassing 47-0 loss to the Oilers to fall to 3-5, then won their next six games to win the NFC’s lone wild-card berth at 9-5.
The streak was bookended by exhilarating victories — a 28-27 victory over the Chiefs on Bob Avellini’s 37-yard touchdown pass to Greg Latta with three seconds left after the Bears had trailed 17-0; and a 12-9 victory over the Giants in the Meadowlands on Bob Thomas’ 28-yard field goal with nine seconds left in overtime. It clinched the Bears’ first postseason berth since the 1963 championship season.
5. The Bears’ offensive regression under Nagy this season has been easy to illustrate: Trubisky, Tarik Cohen, seven rushes for 17 yards, Anthony Miller. Sunday’s loss to the Eagles highlighted another one: Trey Burton and the tight ends.
Not only did Burton not have a catch in the game, but no tight ends did — an egregious lapse for an Andy Reid-born offense. In fact, it’s the first time a tight end has not caught a pass in a game coached by Reid, Doug Pederson or Nagy since Dec. 10, 2010, when Reid’s tight ends were shut out in an Eagles victory over the Cowboys. That’s a span of 234 consecutive games with a tight end catching at least one pass in Reid’s offense.
6. Speaking of tight ends, Adam Shaheen seems entrenched in Kevin White territory — a high draft pick who never has shown the NFL skills he was purported to have. Finally healthy for most of the season, Shaheen has nine receptions for 74 yards. His longest play is 18 yards.
7. At the beginning of the season — with the Bears coming off a rejuvenating 12-4 season and the Raiders on tilt after the Antonio Brown debacle — the possibility existed that the 2020 first- and second-round draft picks the Bears and Raiders exchanged as part of the Khalil Mack trade could be Nos. 32-33 — a virtual wash.
Not anymore. With the Bears (3-5) sinking and the Raiders at .500 (4-4), those picks currently are 10th and 49th — a 39-pick disparity with eight games to go.
8. Jacob Eason Watch — The Washington Huskies quarterback, a fourth-year junior, completed 29-of-52 passes for 316 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions in a 33-28 loss to Utah. A former five-star recruit who started as a freshman at Georgia, Eason has completed 186-of-285 passes (65.3 percent) for 2,297 yards, 20 touchdowns and five interceptions in nine games.
9. Josh McCown Ex-Bears Player of the Week Award: Colts backup quarterback Brian Hoyer came off the bench in place of injured starter Jacoby Brissett and nearly led the Colts to a victory over the Steelers. Hoyer completed 17-of-26 passes for 168 yards, three touchdowns and one interception for a 105.9 rating.
10. Bear-ometer: 5-11 — vs. Lions (W); at Rams (L); vs. Giants (W); at Lions (L); vs. Cowboys (L); at Packers (L); vs. Chiefs (L); at Vikings (L).