THE MORNING AFTER: In losing identity, the Bears also lose the benefit of the doubt

Chicago Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky (10) and his offensive line walk off after he's sacked on third down by the New Orleans Saints, ending a drive in the third quarter Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019 at Soldier Field. (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

CHICAGO – There comes a point where thinking about “Club Dub” can’t make up for a “Club Dud” anymore.

Maybe those positive vibes from the 2018 Bears’ season helped to soften the blow of what’s been an inconsistent start to 2019. At the very least, it bought Matt Nagy some time to figure out a way to fix it.

That time has come and gone.

The honeymoon that great season afforded this Bears team disappeared for good over the course of 60 forgettable minutes at Soldier Field on Sunday afternoon. A 36-25 loss to the Saints, which looked much better on the scoreboard at the end than it did most of the afternoon, ensures that the major questions with this team won’t be overlooked like in the past.

Nagy’s playcalling, Mitchell Trubisky’s play, and even the vaunted defense won’t get the benefit of the doubt anymore.

“I’m not sure what happened,” said running back Tarik Cohen on Sunday’s effort, which came after a bye week and a defeat to the Raiders in London. “If we knew, we wouldn’t have let it happen. We feel like we put in the right amount of preparation, mentally and physically. It’s back to the drawing board now.”

There’s a lot to put on there.

One might start with Trubisky, who has completely run out of time to find his own in Nagy’s offense or in the NFL in general. The second-overall pick of the 2017 NFL Draft could once again get little going with the Bears’ offense until the game was well out of reach. Before two touchdown drives in the final minutes of the game, all the Bears managed was 39-yard field drive in the late first and early second quarter.

They would finish the half with drives that gained just eight, three, and five yards, respectively. Their first three drives of the second half had net gains of four, -2, and two yards, and during that time the Saints turned a one-point deficit into a 19-point lead.

Trubisky can’t find the rhythm as a signal-caller and Nagy can’t do the same as a play-caller trying to deal with his quarterback’s struggles. Just seven times the Bears ran the ball the entire game and fumbled the ball away on two of those attempts.

These issues have plagued the offense at times this season, but to have it happen again after a bye week makes it so much worse.

“I mean, right now we have no identity. We’re just searching. We don’t have any rhythm,” said Trubisky in a telling statement on the offense as a whole. “We’re not the offense we were last year, and every year is different, every game is different. We’ve just got to find ways, look within ourselves, and we’ve got to have guys step up.”

Even the defense has to say the same thing after a second-straight uncharacteristic effort against the shorthanded Saints. The second half is something that hasn’t been seen in the Nagy era, as an offense led by backup Teddy Bridgewater without Alvin Kamara carved up the Bears for two drives of 75 and 76 yards, respectively in the third quarter. Each of those led to touchdowns and essentially ended the game.

“We’re a team that makes plays and the offense and whole team feeds off of that. We have to get back to somebody making the play. We didn’t have enough of those today,” said Amukamara when asked about getting the team’s identity back.

It’s hardly what anyone thought we’d be talking about just six games into the season, but here we are. The Bears are 3-3, just like the 2018 season, but this feels so much different since the team had done so much to establish themselves in a new era. Now the team appears a bit lost as they approach the halfway point of the season, and their inconsistency has produced doubt like at no other time in the short Nagy era.

Now add in an identity crisis, and suddenly some are wondering if this team can even make a playoff run.

By no means is the season over – not by a long shot – but patience has already run out and a lot of the goodwill from 2018 has too. Many other Bears’ coaches have seen an early honeymoon come to an end, and now Matt Nagy is feeling that now.

He’ll need more “Club Dubs” than “Club Duds” to the vibes going in the right direction again.

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