The steamy game-time conditions against the Dolphins weren’t an excuse the Bears wanted to use for their wild loss at Hard Rock Stadium, but several players were honest enough to admit afterward that they were a factor.
“I let fatigue get the best of me,” running back Tarik Cohen said of his fourth-quarter fumble. “I forgot about the fundamentals.”
On Monday, coach Matt Nagy seemed to agree about the heat and humidity.
After watching the film, here are five takeaways from the Bears’ 31-28 loss in overtime in Week 6:
Feeling the heat
The Dolphins have a unique home-field advantage in southern Florida, especially against northern teams. It’s partially why Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is 7-9 in his career down there with a wide range of passer ratings.
On Sunday, the game-time temperature was officially 89 degrees, but the heat index was over 100 because of the humidity. The Bears also spent the entire game in the sun, while the Dolphins were in the shade.
“They’ve got shade the whole game,” Nagy said. “We created some man-made shade for the guys, and they were asking for it. It was hot.”
The signs of fatigue were obvious on film on both sides of the ball. But the Dolphins are accustomed to the balmy weather, which their opponents have to prepare for early in the fall. The Bears couldn’t overcome it.
Former Jets and Bills coach Rex Ryan called it “the most under- appreciated home-field advantage.”
“Trust me, I’ve been on that sideline,” Ryan, now an analyst, said during an ESPN appearance. “It is so hot. Your team is in the sun the entire game; their team is in the shade. They wear their white-colored jerseys; your team is in dark.
“I’ve been ahead by 14 points in the fourth quarter, and my guys are gassed, and they ended up coming back and winning. It’s no excuse. But I’m telling you, nobody talks about this home-field advantage that Miami has — I think it’s No. 1 in the league.”
Going deep (and left)
The online argument that quarterback Mitch Trubisky can’t throw to his left was irrational to begin with, but he debunked it for a second consecutive game.
Trubisky displayed accuracy and strength on his 54- and 47-yard bombs to wide receiver Taylor Gabriel to his left.
“Taylor is really fast, and when the guy approaches him and the safety stays in the middle of the field, that’s a one-on-one matchup that I like,” Trubisky said. “He’s getting by him, and I’m just trying to put the ball in the right spot for him to make a play.”
The same can be said about Trubisky’s 21-yard completion to wide receiver Allen Robinson, another throw to his left. It was an outstanding catch, but it also was one of Trubisky’s best throws. He essentially threw Robinson open by targeting his back shoulder, away from the inside coverage.
All three of the passes are recent examples of Trubisky’s ability to stretch the field in Nagy’s offense, which was a contentious topic earlier this season.
In Week 4 against the Buccaneers, Trubisky completed 33- and 30-yard passes to Gabriel and a 35-yarder to Cohen; all were to his left.
The Jordan Rules
There is an overreaction to running back Jordan Howard’s lack of production.
Last season, if Howard was stopped, so were the Bears.
But Nagy’s offense is vastly different.
“We don’t go through one guy,” Nagy said.
The Bears don’t need Howard to be a prototypical workhorse. Trubisky has flourished despite his lack of production. In the last two games, Trubisky has completed 72 percent of his passes for 670 yards and nine touchdowns with one interception for a 143.3 passer rating.
It’s not a coincidence that the Bears’ two fastest players — Gabriel and Cohen — have been their most productive players in Trubisky’s best two games. Nagy’s multifaceted attack is built on speed.
Cohen had 32 touches for 295 yards and two touchdowns in the last two games. Gabriel had 12 catches for 214 yards and two touchdowns.
In five games, Howard has 78 carries for 272 yards and a touchdown.
“I know that his numbers and his carries aren’t probably where everybody expects them to be, but none of that is intentional,” Nagy said. “Jordan — I’ve said it — he’s an integral part of this offense.”
Safety Adrian Amos was in position to tackle Dolphins wide receiver Albert Wilson on his 43- and 75-yard touchdowns, which started as short completions.
“There was some tackling that our guys, I’m sure, would wish was better,” said Nagy, who previously coached Wilson with the Chiefs. “Albert made two really good runs, too. He’s a strong runner. He’s a guy that plays physical, and I’ve seen him do that before with those screen routes.”
Wilson’s 43-yard score was a quick screen, and Amos missed him at the Bears’ 36. Amos also had the first opportunity to prevent Wilson’s 75-yard touchdown, but he failed to tackle him at the Dolphins’ 33.
That missed tackle led to a minor collision involving inside linebackers Danny Trevathan and Roquan Smith and nickel back Bryce Callahan.
Safety Eddie Jackson also struggled on Wilson’s scores. He got shoved by offensive tackle Ja’Wuan James before getting spun around, then stopped and watched Wilson score on the screen play.
He later took a bad angle and missed Wilson at the Dolphins’ 45 on his 75-yard catch-and-score.
Overall, the struggles of Amos and Jackson symbolized the defense’s bad day against the Dolphins. According to ESPN’s Stats & Info, the Dolphins’ receivers had 274 yards after the catch.
“You’ve got to really make sure you wrap up,” Nagy said. “You can’t just shoulder-tackle. You’ve got to wrap up. Unfortunately, we got hit with a couple of those [Sunday].”