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Bears need more from QB Nick Foles as offense collapses around him

With no running game or dependable blocking, his best receiver doubtful and he and Matt Nagy not being quite on the same wavelength, what is Foles supposed to do?

Foles ranks near the bottom of the NFL in passer rating and yards per attempt. The Bears need more from him if they’re going to survive the Saints.
AP Photos

The Bears’ offensive line is flimsy and just lost another starter.

The roster isn’t exactly loaded with playmakers.

The running game does not exist.

And the head coach has spent all week insisting his play-calling isn’t the problem.

So what exactly is Nick Foles supposed to do?

“Just keep playing quarterback, you know?” coach Matt Nagy said. “That’s all we can do — the entire offense, everybody, we just keep rolling, we keep plugging away . . . and just play hard.”

That would be a great speech for a cameo on “Friday Night Lights,” but the Bears can’t “just play hard” and stop being one of the league’s worst offenses. A continuation of what they did against the Rams will get them crushed by the Saints on Sunday.

Foles isn’t helping with his throw-first-check-the-coverage-later approach, and his 77.6 passer rating is about 10 points worse than what got Mitch Trubisky benched. Foles has outdone Trubisky in completion percentage (64.1 to 59.3), but he is second-to-last in yards per pass (5.9).

Foles hasn’t played anywhere near as well as he did in his best seasons with the Eagles, but those teams had everything the Bears lack.

Protection is Nagy’s biggest concern, and he defended Foles by pointing out that it’s nearly impossible to make a good pass when he doesn’t have time to step into his throw. That’s how he missed on a wide-open Darnell Mooney against the Rams, blowing a play that could’ve been a 95-yard touchdown to tie the game in the third quarter.

“Well, there’s different times where we can help with protection . . . and then you’ve gotta be able to move in the pocket, too,” Nagy said. “And I’ve seen Nick do that plenty of times.”

Mercifully for Foles, the Saints’ defense isn’t nearly as dominant as the Rams’. It is very good against the run, however, and that’s unfortunate for a Bears offense that has averaged 43.8 yards rushing over the last four games.

In Foles’ Pro Bowl season with the Eagles in 2013, they led the NFL at 5.1 yards per carry. When he helped them win the Super Bowl, the Eagles finished the 2017 season third at 4.5 yards per carry.

His current team is third-worst at 3.8 for the season, including 2.4 over the last month. It’s just about time to concede that a rushing attack simply isn’t going to happen for the Bears this season.

Nagy seems to know that. He has called a run on just 34.9% of the plays this season, second-lowest only to the Jaguars at 34.1%.

The ground game will almost certainly take a hit from the absence of center Cody Whitehair, who is out with a calf injury.

Foles caught a break Saturday, when star wide receiver Allen Robinson cleared the concussion protocol and the team announced he would play. Robinson has more than double the receiving yards of any other Bear, and of the team’s 12 games in which a receiver put up 80-plus yards in the last two seasons, 10 were his.

That’s a lot working against Foles, but if he needs everything around him to be perfect in order to be a functional quarterback, couldn’t just about anyone have done this job? Couldn’t any semi-competent NFL quarterback steer a ship that’s already steady?

If Foles is just another guy, it was extraordinarily wasteful of the Bears to give up a fourth-round pick and commit to a three-year, $24 million contract. He has to be more than that. He doesn’t need to be a game-changer like Drew Brees, who shines no matter what’s happening around him. But he must find a way to step up amid the Bears’ many problems.