Bears

Matt Nagy takes his foot off the gas, and Bears stop rolling in Green Bay

GREEN BAY, Wis. – Aaron Rodgers was taken off the field on a cart in the second quarter Sunday night. He has always done the improbable, so when he was listed as questionable for the second half, it was reasonable to expect him to toss aside crutches, take a joyride on a gurney back into Lambeau Field and declare himself healed.

No, it was more than that. It was a given.

How did the Bears respond to the sight of Rodgers’ return? By going red-state conservative with a big lead in the second half. So the way the game ended up playing out, while dramatic, was hardly shocking. Rodgers did what he usually does, this time finding a receiver for a 75-yard touchdown play in the closing minutes.

And the Bears’ offense, under new coach Matt Nagy, reverted to the 2017 vintage under stodgy John Fox. The result was a 24-23 Packers’ victory that will stick with the Bears for a long time.

Bears coach Matt Nagy walks off the field after his team's 24-23 loss to the Packers on Sunday (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

Bears coach Matt Nagy walks off the field after his team's 24-23 loss to the Packers on Sunday (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

They led 17-0 at halftime and 20-0 in the third quarter. Mitch Trubisky looked good. If you came into Sunday’s game with doubts about the young quarterback, they should have evaporated quickly as he moved his team confidently in the first half.

But that wasn’t the prevailing feeling as the Bears trudged off the field at the end of the game. It was that they let one get away by shying away on offense in the second half. Did Nagy take his foot off the gas? So much so that you suspected the gas pedal came with an electric shock.

“No, not at all,’’ he said. “We were running the ball pretty well. We were getting some good yards. We had a couple third-and-ones where we ended up getting a five-yard gain and a four-yard gain and had a third-and-one and didn’t get it. There would have been some times there where it would have been nice to get that first down.

“… If you stay aggressive, (you’re asked), ‘Why aren’t you running the ball?’ Right?’’

But some of the pass plays Nagy called were maddening. After the Packers had cut the lead to 20-10 early in the fourth quarter, the Bears badly needed to convert on a third-and-one at their own 34. Trubisky threw a pass to tight end Dion Sims that arrived short of the first-down marker. Tackle. Punt.

“If we get the right look, then it’s wide open, we look like geniuses,’’ Trubisky said

“We needed to chew up some yards to get some first downs, which we didn’t do,’’ Nagy said. “And then before you know it, they’re right back in it.’’

That part earlier where Nagy said he didn’t take his foot off the gas? Just to review: He took his foot off the gas.

It wasn’t the greatest debut for a new head coach, but the unfortunate part of it is that it should have been so much more. The Bears looked so good in the first half. Trubisky completed 11 of 14 passes for 109 yards, with a passer rating of 99.1 in the first 30 minutes. The Bears’ first drive was 10 plays and 86 yards, and it ended with a two-yard touchdown run by Trubisky.

But it never got better than that the rest of the night. Trubisky threw for 62 yards in the second half.

It was interesting to hear Nagy admit after the game that his players didn’t get a lot of snaps in the preseason. Remember, he was the one who chose to sit his starters in the second-to-last exhibition game. He was responding to a question about the Bears’ successful first drive.

“I knew we could do that,’’ he said. “I really did. They proved it. It was so good for our guys to have that. They didn’t get a whole lot of reps in the preseason. So for them to see what can happen ­— so some of those were scripted, those plays, so they were able to study them — so they see that it’s there.’’

RELATED
• Khalil Mack’s attack isn’t enough for Bears vs. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers
• Packers QB Aaron Rodgers returns from injury to bury Bears, 24-23

The ending was beyond unfortunate. For a half, Trubisky surely brought a tear to the eye of Chicagoans who have been on a quarterback quest the past 30 years. Is this the one they have been seeking? Perhaps, but we’ll need more than a half to tell.

But there were good signs. Trubisky’s ability as a runner was obvious last season, but he showed a real ability to escape a pass rush Sunday. It’d be silly to compare him to Rodgers, who gets out of more trouble than a principal’s son, but he was Rodgers-esque at times. He had a nice run on third-and-one to keep a drive alive in the fourth quarter.

But by that time, the Packers were doing what the Packers usually do to the Bears.

“When we got the ball back with 2:30 left, I was pretty confident we were going to win the game,’’ Rodgers said.

One 75-yard pass play to Randall Cobb, and that was that. Too bad. It shouldn’t have ended that way.