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Bears coach Matt Nagy says, ‘We need to score more’; but how?

The Bears’ offense has plunged below where it was the last two seasons and ranks near the bottom of the NFL in most categories. Nagy knows it needs to be fixed, but it’s not clear he has the answers in his fourth season.

Matt Nagy went 8-8 in 2019 and ‘20 and is 3-3 to start ‘21.
Matt Nagy went 8-8 in 2019 and ‘20 and is 3-3 to start ‘21.
David Becker/AP

We’re doing this again.

All the promise and expectation of the offseason has evaporated for the Bears’ offense, and the team sits 30th in scoring at 16.3 points per game. Six weeks into the season, they’re one of four teams that still haven’t reached 100 points.

It’s their worst start, scoring-wise, under coach Matt Nagy. And considering how dismal the offense has been, that’s saying something.

Nagy is still searching for “the whys” after he imagined something so much better during the summer. He believed he had a wealth of skill players, a trustworthy quarterback in veteran Andy Dalton and enough of an offensive line to make it all work.

Instead, he’s once again wasting a top-10 defense after losing 24-14 to the Packers and now hoping to keep up with the defending champion Buccaneers. Here’s a sampling of Nagy’s thoughts on the offense from Monday:

† “Scoring, for sure, is an emphasis.”

† “We’re not scoring enough.”

† “You need to score more — we understand that.”

The answers were mostly along those lines — vague and unsatisfying. There’s always a lot of talking about the problem during the week, but this is the third consecutive season of everyone seeing on Sundays that he doesn’t have the solution.

Nagy has mentioned a few times lately that it’s still early in the season, but it’s not that early anymore. From 1990 through 2020, teams that started 3-4 missed the playoffs 82% of the time, so this is usually deep enough into the schedule to tell whether the Bears are good.

It’s also not that early for Nagy, who has coached 56 games (counting playoffs) and failed to score more than 20 points in nearly half of them.

If it seemed during the last two seasons that it couldn’t possibly get any worse, that was naïve. The Bears are last in yards per game, second-worst in passer rating and fifth-worst on third-down conversions. They and the Jaguars are the only teams that have yet to score 25 points in a game.

The one positive is that they’ve gotten traction in a power-running offense since coordinator Bill Lazor took over as play-caller, though even that feels tenuous.

There have been concerns all along about the offensive line, and Nagy has never been inclined to lean on the ground game. He set the franchise record for fewest rushes in a game in 2019, but it’s funny how the threat of being fired makes people more open-minded. The Bears also might struggle to keep that up as opponents decode their rushing attack or if they’re forced to try throwing their way back into a game.

“We all feel good about the identity, but now what else do we need to do to complement that, and how are we going to get to that point?” Nagy said. “We’re working through all that. And now we’ve got a big challenge ahead of us in Tampa Bay.”

The Bucs, by the way, allow the fewest rushing yards per game (54.8) and second-fewest per carry (3.4) in the NFL. They have controlled possession for an average of nearly 37 minutes over their last three games. In their recent victories over the Dolphins and Eagles, they were up 14 at halftime.

Nagy thinks the Bears’ answer to those issues is more explosive pass plays, which should be possible off play-action. They’re last in the NFL with nine passes of 20 yards or more, and five of those came in the game against the lowly Lions. In half their games, the Bears haven’t gotten one.

“We are not getting as many as we probably want,” Nagy said.

Correct, again. But it’s long past time to do something about that, and as he said when he revealed that Lazor would be calling plays, everything still runs through him.