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Bears film study: Disastrous 3rd quarter ends any hope of upsetting Packers

The offense imploded with a turnover and two three-and-outs as the Packers flipped the game and ended coach Matt Nagy’s “fun” night.

The Bears’ third quarter: eight plays, nine yards, no first downs, no points, one turnover and a 17-0 run by the Packers.
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There hasn’t been a more joyous moment for the Bears than running to the locker room Sunday at Lambeau Field with a 27-21 halftime lead.

They were up 10 twice, their biggest lead on the Packers since coach Matt Nagy’s lone win in the rivalry three years ago. The offense was rolling, special teams were surging and it was just enough to stay ahead of quarterback Aaron Rodgers. No wonder Nagy was having “so much fun.”

Then the party balloons popped.

By the end of the third quarter, the Bears were down 11 and bracing for Rodgers to hammer them. He ultimately delivered a 45-30 pounding.

Rodgers’ barrage was inevitable. The Bears knew it would take 40-plus points to contend with him and for a spell looked capable of it. But, as has been the case often under Nagy, their success was unsustainable, and they bottomed out offensively in the third quarter.

They ran just eight plays for a total of nine yards in 3:59. They had no first downs, no points and one turnover as the Packers flipped the game with a 17-0 run.

Here’s where the fun ended, along with any sliver of possibility that Nagy could keep his job:

Offensive crumble begins

After the Packers opened the second half with a 75-yard touchdown drive to go up 28-27, the Bears imploded in two snaps. They began with a five-yard run by Jakeem Grant, then turned over the ball when rookie left tackle Teven Jenkins allowed Packers pass rusher Preston Smith to hit quarterback Justin Fields for a sack and jar the ball loose for a turnover.

The Bears had tight end Jimmy Graham chip Smith at the line, but it wasn’t enough. He plowed through Jenkins, who committed holding in his desperation, and smacked Fields’ arm as he went to throw.

Jenkins never had any kind of handle on Smith, which illustrated why Nagy has insisted on sticking with 39-year-old Jason Peters as the starting left tackle.

While the Bears think Jenkins is their left tackle of the future, he missed most of the season recovering from back surgery and shouldn’t be expected to play as well as Peters has. Plus, Nagy is far more incentivized to make the most he possibly can out of the rest of this season rather than help lay the groundwork for a future that won’t include him.

Jenkins only played because Peters exited with an injured right ankle after 13 plays, leaving Jenkins the other 49.

Nagy said Monday the team had yet to ascertain the severity of Peters’ injury, but if he is healthy, he will start against the Vikings on Monday night. If Peters is out, Nagy is considering moving right tackle Larry Borom to left tackle and playing Jenkins on the right side.

Abandoning Montgomery

Even with that brutal turnover to open the second half, the Bears still were very much in the game and trailed just 35-27. But they ran into what has been a recurring problem for Nagy.

The Bears opened the possession at their own 8-yard line after Deon Bush’s holding penalty on the kick return and handed the ball to running back David Montgomery for a two-yard gain. With more than 22 minutes left in the game, that was Montgomery’s final carry.

“It wasn’t on purpose,” Nagy said. “We didn’t have many plays in that second half, and then when you get behind, you obviously are throwing the ball. He probably had a little more catches in that situation.”

The possession ended with Fields scrambling for two yards and throwing incomplete to Graham for a net gain of four yards on three plays over 1:47 before punting.

The Bears have said all season that Montgomery is the spearhead and identity of the offense, yet when the pressure rose, they stopped giving him the ball and he finished with 10 carries for 42 yards. He also had six catches for 39 yards.

Montgomery has fewer than 15 carries in 21 of 40 games with the Bears.

Final failure

Fields opened at his own 13 with a nice play by scrambling to his left and throwing what would have been a 13-yard pass to Jakeem Grant, but he was unable to bring the ball down in bounds.

The Bears went for a wacky play on the next snap by lining up their tackles on the outside. If there’s one thing Jenkins probably didn’t need in what was essentially his NFL debut (he played two snaps on special teams the week before), it was a trick play that took him completely out of his normal responsibility.

He committed holding while trying to block cornerback Chandon Sullivan by taking him to the ground, and the would-be eight-yard pass to Grant was nullified.

From second-and-16, the Bears were cooked. Fields managed a five-yard pass to tight end Cole Kmet and threw incomplete to Montgomery for three yards on third-and-11.

Every drive crashed because of problems that have persisted throughout the last three seasons under Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace, and that’s why their jobs are in jeopardy.