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How much more can you take? Bears find new bottom in 24-17 loss to Titans

The Bears lost their third straight game Sunday, falling to 5-4 with a performance that could cost some people their jobs.

Nick Foles and the Bears offense went nowhere Sunday.
Nick Foles and the Bears offense went nowhere Sunday.
Ben Margot/AP

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — There has been an assumption that no matter how bad the Bears got, they still could find a way to the playoffs.

They burst that bubble Sunday.

This performance was bad enough to lose to anybody. In a season in which scoring in the NFL is at an all-time high, the Bears were scoreless going into the fourth quarter of their 24-17 loss to the Titans.

This team is capable of anything — in the worst way. There are no surefire victories, especially next week against the 3-5 Vikings.

Calling this a debacle would be too generous. Excusing it because of a ragtag offensive line would be too lenient. There aren’t enough rationalizations to make this acceptable. In a season full of scuttled plays, three-and-outs and coach Matt Nagy seeming to wonder how all this is happening to him, this was a new low.

‘‘Obviously a high level of frustration,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘We didn’t do enough offensively to get the job done. . . . Recurring theme here on offense. That starts with me.’’

It seems Nagy rather would get fired than give up play-calling, and maybe it’s time for him to choose. He’s an offensive specialist running an offense that’s inept. No coach keeps his job in that scenario.

Don’t be misled by the final score, either. The Bears’ only meaningful points came on a 22-yard field goal by Cairo Santos with 12:30 left after the Titans had dropped a would-be interception. That was followed by two garbage-time touchdowns.

It would be hazardous to your health to read about all the miscues, so in the interest of time and safety, let’s zoom in on the Bears’ possessions going into and coming out of halftime.

The Bears got the ball at the Titans’ 48 with 1:07 left in the first half and self-sabotaged, with left tackle Charles Leno committing a false-start penalty and right tackle Rashaad Coward a hands-to-the-face penalty.

‘‘There will be a mistake that we make — everybody, whether it’s coaches or players,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘But the ones that bother me are the senseless ones.’’

Quarterback Nick Foles tried to save the drive from first-and-25 by throwing short passes in the middle of the field with no timeouts. He finally threw to the sideline — pointlessly — as the clock ran out.

The Bears trailed only 10-0 but came out in the third quarter and did what they always do.

Foles dropped the first snap he took, then handed the ball to Cordarrelle Patterson for a three-yard loss.

The Bears salvaged that possession and got to third-and-six at the Titans’ 36 before Foles honored one of their most storied traditions by throwing short of the first-down marker. They were 2-for-15 on third-down conversions.

That’s when Nagy made a bad situation worse. The Bears scrambled as though they were going for it on fourth-and-one rather than kicking a 48-yard field goal. They probably were trying to draw the Titans offside, but rookie guard Arlington Hambright jumped for a false start.

Nagy decided to go for it again, and tight end Jimmy Graham jumped this time. Like magicians, the Bears turned a reasonable field-goal try into a punt.

It’s a handy excuse to blame the decimated offensive line, but that group was struggling even before the injuries and positive coronavirus tests. Nagy can thank general manager Ryan Pace for that poor construction.

Meanwhile, Nagy’s offense deteriorated to the point that literally doing nothing would have been preferable at times. Just take a knee three times in a row and see whether you can score on special teams or defense.

‘‘Unfortunately, that’s kind of where we’re at,’’ receiver Allen Robinson said of the struggle.

After wasting that chance in field-goal range, the Bears pushed to the Titans’ 27 before a pass rush sent Foles into panic mode. He threw a ball straight into the ground for intentional grounding.

There are times when no one knows what Foles is thinking. And there are times when it’s clear he simply isn’t.

After his penalty, Foles served up a pass behind the line of scrimmage on third-and-13, connecting with running back David Montgomery for a loss of four yards. Montgomery fumbled, and Titans cornerback Desmond King ran it back 63 yards for a 17-0 lead. The game was essentially done.

The only reason Foles is keeping his job is because the Bears don’t have anyone else to try. He completed 36 of 52 passes for 335 yards and two touchdowns for a season-high 99.4 passer rating that isn’t as sparkly as it looks. He was at a much more Foles-like 82.7 with a little more than eight minutes to go and the Titans ahead 24-3.

And forget about trying to run. The Bears have. Their longest rush of the day was outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo gaining 11 yards on a fake punt.

Nagy has been using the Bears’ winning record as a shield from the onslaught of criticism over his 28th-ranked offense, but that has worn thin in the free-fall from 5-1 to 5-4. The season has been falling apart for weeks, and the Bears are cratering toward total collapse.