Matt Nagy: ‘Damn, that would have been the time to do that’
The Bears’ coach second-guessed himself on a fourth-and-inches punt in the fourth quarter against the Packers on Sunday night. Green Bay responded with a touchdown. “It obviously backfired,” he said.
It wasn’t a second guess. It was a first guess.
Matt Nagy’s decision to punt on fourth-and-inches from the Bears’ 36-yard line trailing the Packers 38-27 with 13:21 left in the fourth quarter Sunday at Lambeau Field was questioned the moment he made it.
You’re down two scores. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers’ offense were rolling with three touchdowns and a field goal on their previous five possessions. It was time to roll the dice.
Nagy’s conservative approach almost worked out anyway, when Packers punt returner Amari Rodgers muffed the punt and the Bears’ Damien Williams recovered at the Packers’ 20. But a Bears penalty nullified the play, and the Bears punted on fourth-and-five.
Rodgers and the Packers, somewhat predictably, responded with a 13-play, 71-yard touchdown drive that used up 8:31 of the fourth quarter for a 45-27 lead.
Nagy was given a chance to double down on that decision Monday. But he instead second-guessed himself.
“I can understand the [idea] of going for it in that situation. I get it,” Nagy said. “When you look back and see what happens — when they go on that long drive and [use] up the clock and score, you wish you would’ve went for it. That’s the part where you look back as a coach and you go, ‘Damn, that would’ve been the time to do that.’ ’’
“At the same time, we were just coming off a three-and-out. We stopped them three-and-out on the previous possession. So I just thought in that scenario [punting was the right move]. But it obviously backfired.”
Nagy did push back on the notion that the Bears were outfoxed by Matt LaFleur, who schemed his offense to get star wide receiver Davante Adams open after Jaylon Johnson had contained Adams in the early going.
Adams had two catches for 18 yards until the final minute of the first half. Working from the slot, Adams beat Xavier Crawford for a 38-yard touchdown pass with 44 seconds left in the first half, then had seven receptions for 65 yards in the second half.
According to Next Gen Stats, Adams had two receptions for 19 yards on five targets against Johnson, and eight receptions for 102 yards on eight targets against other Bears defenders.
“They did the same thing [in the second half] they did in the first half,” Nagy said. “So there’s no in-the-slot, out-of-the-slot, back side here, back side there. He had three catches in the first half, and they did a lot of the same stuff.
“They moved him around on third down, which is very normal in the NFL — you move one of your guys to get open. That’s football.”
Even Johnson admired the inventive way the Packers schemed to avoid him. But Nagy didn’t think that was the biggest factor in turning around the game. The Packers turned a 24-14 deficit into a 35-27 lead in an 8:08 span in the second and third quarters.
“Regardless of what Jaylon or anybody else says for us, you go through and look at, ‘Why did things happen?’ ” Nagy said. “I felt like it was more of the [Packers’] run game, the power runs they did that was different.”
Still, Nagy acknowledged the Packers just outplayed the Bears when it mattered most. It’s damning just the same.
“When they score a touchdown like they did on that first drive [of the second quarter], it’s our job to recover from that. We’ve got to be able to counter-punch. We didn’t do that. And then they got that quick touchdown [a 23-yard pass from Rodgers to Aaron Jones] right after the strip-fumble. Before you know it, they just scored 14 points. That’s a good football team. [The Packers] have a good record for a reason.”