THE MORNING AFTER: There’s still much more for the Bears to show
LONDON – Five games in, and things feel a lot like 2018.
That’s not a bad thing since the Bears are still over .500 at 3-2 through five games, just as they were a season ago. After the fifth game fo the 2018 season, Matt Nagy’s group wasn’t feeling great as the Bears’ dropped a late lead in an overtime loss to the Dolphins.
Yet that could be excused as the group had a limited Khalil Mack, who was hobbled by an ankle injury suffered in the first half. Plus, it was still early in the Nagy era, and a 3-2 start surpassed what people thought the team would do before the season.
Nagy nor his players will get the benefit of that in 2019, when a 3-2 record through five games is viewed as a disappointment. The Bears came into this season with the vibe of a Super Bowl contender, but so far they’ve yet to really show it.
The defense has had some incredible moments, the offense has had only a few, but the lack of consistency give the Bears plenty to think about in the off week.
“We’ve had a chance in most of the games to win, so we’ll use this time as coaches to reflect and figure out how do we get better, and then we all just need to do it together and so this goes back to week one,” said Nagy of the first five weeks. “It stinks losing. It’s not fun. But what’s the why part.”
The searching starts on offense, which has been inconsistent at best through the first five weeks, well below team and outside expectations. Taking out Ha Ha Clinton-Dix’s “Pick Six” against the Redskins, the Bears are averaging 16.2 points per game through five weeks, putting them near the bottom of the league.
So far the running game has yet to get going, averaging just 80.6 yards on the ground a contest, including just 42 on Sunday. David Montgomery has shown flashes but has yet to enjoy a breakout game, getting 3.3 yards per carry so far.
“You know, we’ve just got to stay at it. We’ve got to stay at it,” said quarterback Chase Daniel of the run game. “We’ve got to trust it. At the end of the day, when Coach puts the ball in my hand, I expect to win the game, and we didn’t do that today.”
Daniel was solid in the win over the Vikings filling in for the injured Mitchell Trubisyk, but not as much in the Raiders’ effort. He tossed a pair of interceptions, including the one in the final two minutes that essentially sealed the game.
Trubisky has one great half against the Redskins in Week 3, but outside of that was suspect before the shoulder injury that knocked him out the last two games.
Getting just 185.5 yards per game through the air won’t cut it, and if the Bears want to reach their lofty goals, it’s got to improve.
“Numbers don’t lie, you know. Not good enough, not — you put in a lot of work to be better, and we know where we’re at, and so it’s my job to make sure that it gets better, and what’s the how, what’s the why, and I believe wholeheartedly in all of our guys,” said Nagy of the offense in general. “Again, but we need to — each person, every coach, every player, time to start looking at themselves in the mirror and figuring out why you’re out there and why we’re out there.”
Even the defense created a little bit of worry before with a pass rush that failed to produce a single sack on the afternoon. In one of the rare times in his tenure with the Bears, and in his career in general, Khalil Mack was held in check by his former team in what looked to be a minor “revenge” game against the team that traded him.
Akiem Hicks left with what appeared to be a serious elbow injury, and his loss would be quite difficult should it be lengthy. There’s not much long-term worry for the unit but in the game before the break, a normally strong group allowed 169 yards on the ground with a 4.3 per carry average.
“Unfortunately, you want to have a picture and a mindset where you hold a team to 40 yards every week, but you have to understand the NFL; it’s not going to happen,” said safety Eddie Jackson of the Bears’ struggles against the run. “They get paid like we get paid. They make plays like we do. Unfortunately, they made more plays than we did today.”
All part of a performance that leaves everyone wanting a little more from this Super Bowl contender after the bye week.