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Bears’ 31-17 loss to Vikings should be final blow for coach Matt Nagy, GM Ryan Pace

The same problems that always plagued the Bears with Nagy and Pace were in full view Sunday. Nothing’s going to change for the franchise if it refuses to make changes at the top.

The Bears finished 22nd or worse in scoring each of the last three seasons.
The Bears finished 22nd or worse in scoring each of the last three seasons.
Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

MINNEAPOLIS — Matt Nagy wanted the Bears to ‘‘have a little fun out there’’ against the Vikings in what surely would be his final game as their head coach.

As long as you define ‘‘fun’’ by dink-and-dunk passes, a familiarly unsatisfying amount of scoring and a touch of dysfunction, it was a blast. All the monotony that was the hallmark of the Nagy era led to a tedious, trivial 31-17 loss Sunday to the Vikings to close the season and probably his tenure with the team.

Last time Nagy had ‘‘so much fun,’’ it was moments before the Packers went on a 24-0 run to blow out the Bears last month. Fun left after 2018.

Now the party is over entirely for Nagy and possibly for general manager Ryan Pace. Nagy is nearly certain to be fired when chairman George McCaskey assesses the season Monday, and there’s an overwhelming case for Pace to go, too.

Nagy said Sunday that McCaskey had not told him what he’ll do, and Pace was at the game but steered clear of reporters.

‘‘We understand our record,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘We know that’s real, and that’s a part of it.’’

It’s the biggest part of it, and it’s a direct result of Nagy failing in his two key responsibilities of developing a quarterback and engineering a viable offense. The Bears rank among the bottom 10 in the NFL in points scored in his four seasons.

With his exit looming, Nagy walked out of U.S. Bank Stadium with a 34-31 record, including 22-27 in the last three seasons. There’s absolutely no way the Bears can proceed with him unless they’re content to wallow in mediocrity.

Nagy seemed to know that Sunday, and he certainly went out his way. Andy Dalton — his preferred quarterback — dropped back to pass 55 times. He was sacked on seven of those, threw one touchdown pass and was picked off twice. It was reminiscent of the ‘‘I’m not an idiot’’ game in 2019 against the Saints, in which Nagy set the franchise record for fewest runs in a game as Mitch Trubisky threw 54 times.

The Bears passed three times on fourth-and-one and converted none of them, including one at the Vikings’ 13-yard line in the second quarter that was a particularly symbolic debacle.

Nagy wasn’t quite prepared and needed a timeout as the play clock dwindled to seven seconds. And even after that time to think, he kept running back David Montgomery on the bench and called a pass that ended with Dalton being sacked.

Some things never change. That’s why the Bears have needed to move on from Nagy for a long time. It has been so obvious in the last month and a half that he seemed to have accepted that likely outcome.

‘‘The day that I signed up to be the head coach here in Chicago . . . you’re always understanding what comes with your position,’’ he said. ‘‘That’s real. That’s life. We know our record’s not good enough. You can’t run from it.’’

If Nagy can’t run from his record, it would be inexplicable if the Bears abided Pace’s. The Bears are 48-65 under him, which is tied for the seventh-worst record in the NFL in his seven seasons.

Don’t forget about Pace just because he stays mostly out of sight while Nagy takes the heat publicly. His mistakes have been on display all season and bubbled up like a rash Sunday.

Defensive back Marqui Christian, a glaring example of Pace’s poor planning, tripped and fell while trying to hold on to Vikings receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette in the third quarter and let him run free for a 44-yard touchdown pass.

Smith-Marsette is a fifth-round rookie who had two career catches going into the game. Christian was out of the NFL for most of last season, but the Bears were so depleted at cornerback that he started the season opener for them.

The Bears also gave up a 21-yard touchdown pass to K.J. Osborn in the fourth quarter. He raced wide-open to the left corner of the end zone, with fellow receiver Justin Jefferson completely uncovered in the right corner.

Meanwhile, Bears cornerbacks Artie Burns and Jaylon Johnson, safety Tashaun Gipson and linebacker Alec Ogletree stood in a cluster, staring and gesturing toward each other about who should have been where.

It was a moot point minutes later when Dalton sunk the Bears with a pick-six. He finished the season with eight touchdown passes, nine interceptions and a 76.9 passer rating. That’s the guy Nagy and Pace thought could save their jobs.

The Bears’ season-opening loss to the Rams unraveled all the delusional assertions Pace and Nagy made during the offseason, and the problems persisted with minimal interruption the rest of the way.

There was no vertical passing attack. There still isn’t.

The secondary had major holes. It still does.

Nagy didn’t seem to know how to maximize rookie quarterback Justin Fields’ ability. He still doesn’t.

This can’t continue. And the only way for the Bears to change the course of their franchise is to change the people running it.

Nagy’s dismissal is imminent, and Pace must go with him.