2020 season ‘can’t get here soon enough’ for Bears after they beat Vikings to finish 8-8
While it was mildly refreshing to see the Bears do some things right, winning a preseason-like game doesn’t change anything about their hefty to-do list for the offseason.
MINNEAPOLIS — Finally, when it couldn’t have mattered less, everything looked pretty good for the Bears.
Not great, but good. And given how this season went, a 21-19 road victory Sunday against the playoff-bound Vikings and their backups was mildly refreshing. It was mostly a field-goal fest, but the Bears have had plenty of games in which they couldn’t even manage that.
‘‘Club Dub was in effect,’’ receiver Allen Robinson said. ‘‘I mean, we won. It’s a true testament to everybody. It’s been a tough year for us. We’ve had a lot of key guys miss games, but everyone kept fighting.’’
It was nice simply to see the Bears get some basic things right.
Coach Matt Nagy called some running plays, including a few that worked. He kicked prudent field goals, too, taking any points he could get instead of overthinking whether to go for it on fourth-and-too-far. He managed the clock well at the end and even made an effort to set up Eddy Pineiro on his preferred hash mark for the winning field goal.
Quarterback Mitch Trubisky’s passer rating topped the temperature, which is never a given. It was probably about 70 degrees inside U.S. Bank Stadium, and he has had a half-dozen games below that this season.
And the defense, which has been superb but not as overwhelming as it was last season, came up with seismic plays.
If only the Bears could have done some of that when the games counted.
Instead, all this does is keep a losing season off Nagy’s résumé and send the Bears into the offseason on an artificial high after beating a Vikings team that started 16 backups, including quarterback Sean Mannion, in a game that had a Week 4-of-the-preseason vibe to it.
The Bears led 18-6 in the third quarter behind three field goals by Pineiro, a safety by linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski and a 14-yard touchdown run by David Montgomery.
That wasn’t enough, however, to topple the Vikings’ second- and third-stringers. The Vikings clawed back into the game with two scoring drives and cashed in on Trubisky’s fumble with 6:20 left by kicking a field goal to go up 19-18.
Trubisky kept the Bears alive with a 34-yard completion on fourth down just before the two-minute warning, and Pineiro won the game with a 22-yard field goal with 10 seconds left.
Those details are mostly trivial, however. The Bears were eliminated from the playoff chase two weeks ago, and the Vikings were locked into the No. 6 seed either way.
It’s hard to get too down about 8-8 in Chicago, by the way. This was the Bears’ 10th-best record in the last 28 seasons.
‘‘Looking back at the year and how everything went, for us to go 8-8, I don’t think we’re far at all from winning 12 or 13 games,’’ Robinson said. ‘‘I think we’re pretty close.’’
With all due respect — and Robinson deserves a heap of it — that notion wouldn’t poll well in Chicago.
Now that the charade of the season finale is over, let’s get serious. The Bears need to make substantive changes to avoid a repeat of the drudgery they put everyone through this season.
They almost certainly are retaining Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace, so those two will attempt to clean up the mess they made.
‘‘For me, it can’t get here soon enough,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘That 2020 [season] starts right now, literally the second I walk off this stage. . . . I’m ready to go in attack mode and figure out with Ryan how we want to go about this thing.’’
The first item on their to-do list is quarterback, where few teams are in worse shape. Trubisky ended the season with 17 touchdown passes, 10 interceptions, 224.1 yards passing per game and an 83 passer rating. It was total regression.
Pace and Nagy can’t trick themselves into assuming he’ll leap to stardom in 2020. There needs to be a viable Plan B, and it needs to be better than Chase Daniel or Tyler Bray. The Bears must decide whether to fish in free agency, where Marcus Mariota and Teddy Bridgewater will be available, or go all-in on a big trade for Cam Newton.
Whatever they do, it should be Nagy’s call. Pace has had enough chances to get it right at quarterback.
They’ll need to collaborate on the offensive line, too, and that’s the first step to them re-creating the Bears’ ground game. The second is for Nagy to do some critical self-assessment of his play-calling.
One common question runs through all of those things: Can Pace and Nagy admit what they got wrong and do the difficult work of making changes?
It seems the window for the defense will be open for a while, but there are no guarantees. Pace and Nagy can reasonably count on getting only one offseason to straighten this out. If they can’t do it in 2020, the Bears probably will be headed for another rebuild — and that’ll be far more painful to watch than this season was.