Bears’ offense needs to show some life at Lambeau
Even if you contain Aaron Rodgers, you still need to outscore him, and Matt Nagy’s offense has not been very good at that — against the Packers, or anybody, for that matter.
Every Bears coach from George Halas to John Fox beat the Packers at Lambeau Field, except for Dave Wannstedt.
It’s true. Jim Dooley, Abe Gibron, Jack Pardee, Neill Armstrong, Mike Ditka, Dick Jauron, Lovie Smith, Marc Trestman and Fox all won at Lambeau. In fact, Jauron, Lovie, Trestman and Fox all won their first game at Lambeau — and during the Brett Favre/Aaron Rodgers era of Packers domination at that.
Matt Nagy had his chance to join them when he made his debut as Bears coach against the Packers at Lambeau Field in 2018. But the Bears blew a 20-0 lead in the second half and lost 24-23 when cornerback Kyle Fuller dropped a sure interception and Aaron Rodgers threw a 75-yard touchdown pass to Randall Cobb with 2:13 left in the fourth quarter.
In retrospect, that game was a dubious red flag for the Nagy offense. The Bears opened the Nagy era with a 10-play, 86-yard touchdown drive, and it looked like happy days were here again. But the Packers adjusted, the Bears didn’t and couldn’t score another offensive touchdown that night.
Since then, the development of Nagy’s offense has been a never-ending, bewildering slog of disappointment, marked by one red flag after another. In 2019, the Bears rushed seven times in one game and 38 times the next and lost both. And on and on.
It has been more of the same this season. The Bears have improved from 25th to ninth in rushing, yet have dropped from 26th to 29th in total offense and from 22nd to 30th in scoring.
Here’s another one: Wide receiver Allen Robinson, the only consistently productive player in Nagy’s offense from 2018, has strangely disappeared in the offense this season. He averaged about 9.5 targets per game in 2019 (98 receptions, 1,147 yards, seven touchdowns) and 2020 (102 receptions, 1,250 yards, six touchdowns). This year, he’s averaging 5.6 targets and has just 30 receptions for 339 yards and one touchdown in nine games.
What’s the deal with that? It can’t be the quarterback change. Robinson has spent his entire NFL career excelling with subpar quarterback play — Blake Bortles, Chad Henne, Mitch Trubisky, Chase Daniel and Nick Foles. It can’t be the lack of another capable receiver. Darnell Mooney is a budding star whose presence on the field should have made Robinson better, not worse.
It’s just odd that the offense with Andy Dalton and Justin Fields should have started with Robinson, and suddenly he became a spare part.
“I don’t really want to get into that too much right now,” Robinson said diplomatically. “We’ve been trying to find our identity through the season, trying to figure out what works, how we can create explosives and different things like that.
“There’s been a number of variables. In the situation we’re in right now, it’s about focusing and moving forward, continuing to put the best product on the field and maximizing all our opportunities.”
Robinson expects to return Sunday night after missing the last three games with a hamstring injury. Nagy’s offense needs all the help it can get. Nagy is 1-6 against the Packers, 0-5 against Matt LaFleur. And it’s up to the offense to find a way to outscore Rodgers.
The offense has averaged 15.9 points in the seven games under Nagy, including 15 points scored in garbage time in a 41-25 loss at Lambeau last season. It’s unlikely an offensive explosion would change Nagy’s fate. But it would give Bears fans a little hope that there’s something there for the next guy.