I’d like to apologize to the Bears’ defense for the Bears’ offense. I didn’t do anything wrong Sunday against the Panthers, didn’t throw a bad pass, didn’t design a game plan of purported intelligent design. But I’ll feel better if I say sorry.
I want to apologize for Nick Foles’ miniscule 5.1 yards per pass, for the coaching that helped produce that and for the quarterback’s terrible interception in the third quarter. It was the dreaded ill-advised floater. It was Foles dressed up as Mitch Trubisky for Halloween.
I need to apologize for David Montgomery’s 3.1 yards per carry, but let’s give Matt Nagy a tip of the cap for giving his running back 19 carries. I didn’t think the coach had it in him.
I should also apologize for the Bears’ second-to-last series when, clinging to a seven-point lead, they went three-and-out in a combined 15 seconds. I mean, you can’t reheat a cup of coffee in 15 seconds.
I want to apologize for Nagy’s decision to throw the ball on third-and-two on that series, when running the ball would have kept the clock running, whether the Bears picked up the first down or not. Nagy later said a run play in that situation would not have been “an aggressive approach.’’ It was a moment that called for clear thinking, not aggression. An incomplete pass gave the Panthers the ball and the chance to tie or win the game.
That wasn’t going to happen, not with the big, bad Bears’ defense on the other side of the line.
The day was saved when defensive back DeAndre Houston-Carson intercepted the Panthers’ Teddy Bridgewater with 1:28 left. After that, all the Bears had to do was kneel three times in a row, and kneel they did, with no fumbles and no knee injuries. I’d call that a huge success, but huddled together as they were with the seconds ticking down, a -superspreader moment can’t be ruled out, not with this group.
Bears 23, Panthers 16. Usually the final score is closer to the top of a newspaper column, somewhere in the first several paragraphs, but that wasn’t story of the game. Neither was the Bears’ record improving to 5-1, though that’s what they wanted to discuss afterward. Not surprising. You’d rather talk about your luxurious hair than the large mole on the tip of your nose.
But the story was this: The Bears’ defense shouldn’t have to put up with this offense. It shouldn’t have to put up with the offense’s substandard talent level, nor a game plan dominated by dainty passes. I’ll say this for Foles: If Trubisky were still the quarterback, the Bears probably would have lost this game. Not exactly the biggest compliment you can give a quarterback, but it’s an important distinction.
Of the Bears’ pallid offensive effort, Foles went with the bold and seldom-used bad-is-good gambit after the game.
“We can improve,’’ he said. “I think that’s exciting. If we were winning these games and playing perfect and [the games] were this tight … what do you do? Where do you improve?’’
The Bears’ first touchdown came after Tashaun Gipson picked off a Bridgewater pass, giving them the ball at the Panthers’ 7-yard line. I’d call a touchdown in that situation a near gimme, but the Bears had to call a timeout on third down to avert a -delay-of-game penalty, then followed the timeout with an honest-to-goodness delay-of-game penalty. After rookie Cole Kmet’s first career touchdown, the Bears would manage just 16 points the rest of the afternoon.
So, taking Foles’ lead, a citywide holiday is probably in order, what with all the room for improvement.
It’s hard to see how the Bears’ defense can improve. Bridgewater came into the game completing 73% of his passes, second-best in the NFL. On Sunday, he was 16-for-29 (55%) for 216 yards and no touchdowns. The Bears intercepted him twice, sacked him four times and hit him six times. In three hours of work, they reduced a mountain to rubble. Oh, they also had six tackles for loss and a fumble recovery.
The defense is so, so good right now. If you’re a fan of this team, you don’t need to be reminded of that. You just need it to be a given, like oxygen and the movement of planets. A law of nature.
Can the Bears keep winning with such a meh offense? Yes, but that doesn’t make it right. It’s hard to sit through this. Of course, that’s not how the Bears see it, at least the Bears who work on the offensive side of the ball.
I didn’t know a 5-1 start and first place in the NFC North could feel so weird.
“I refuse to take away the excitement that we have as a team right now in that locker room,” Nagy said.
I will. My apologies.