LAKE FOREST – A big reason why he found his way to Chicago was to finally put to rest the idea that the Bears were always going to be a team carried by their defense.
Not that having Vic Fangio’s side of the ball being dominant is a bad thing, but throughout the years erratic offenses have kept the team from becoming a Super Bowl title contender. Matt Nagy and his creative scheme with a promising rookie quarterback were supposed to solve that.
Yet through three weeks, it’s the Bears defense that has bailed out their offense, which continues to suffer through some growing pains.
It’s causing groans in the fan base despite a 2-1 record and their first appearance alone atop the NFC North since 2013. Much of that, naturally, has been directed at quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, who has been so-so in his first three games in Nagy’s scheme.
A few strong plays have been balance in with bad ones, with few deep completions to speak of, already have some wondering if the second overall pick from the 2017 NFL Draft is really the one to lead the franchise.
Naturally Nagy is pumping the brakes on some of these generalizations. The amount points (21 per game, 18th in NFL) and red zone efficiency (4-10) have left plenty to be desired, Nagy is still encouraged by details he catches within the scheme.
“We’re getting first downs, so to me, if you’re not going three-and-out, you’re not using your punter, you know what that does? That helps the defense out because they get a breather,” said Nagy on how high time of possession and yardage gains are aiding the overall team effort even if touchdowns are lacking. “Where do we have to get better? We have to get better in the red zone. That’s where we need to improve right now. We’re moving the ball, we’re getting first downs, we’re chewing up the clock and we’re getting stopped in the red zone and we’re kicking field goals, and we need to get touchdowns.”
But that’s the thing, when will those arrive?
Many are wondering when Trubisky will be able to make those critical plays inside the opponent’s 20, which haven’t been happening much the past few weeks. Those are compounded with the offense’s struggles to break through with major plays, something the addition of a number of offensive weapons was supposed to fix.
While Nagy acknowledges the need for improvement for all of that, he does applaud Trubisky for what he says is the willingness to take calculated risks early to make that happen.
“We took some shots yesterday, and I like his mentality to be able to go down the field and there was a couple in there that he had the aggressive mindset, even regardless of how far off they were, he still took an opportunity to go deep, and we like that,” said Nagy. “We didn’t hit on any of them – just the one down the sideline to Adam – but there was a few others we didn’t hit on, but I think that, for us, that’s a good thing that we did that.
“There’s a few times in the red zone that they got us with some pressure. But again, for us, that will be good for him to see, that will be good for us as coaches to see where we’re at. But there’s a few throws that he made in there with conviction and I say to myself ‘That right there is about what we’re about to get to.'”
For the moment, it’s the defense that’s arrived at that stage of development. They’re leading the league in forced fumbles with seven and are third in interceptions with five, showing a flair for the dramatic that’s proven effective in all but one half this season. Meanwhile the wait continues for the Bears offense to be an equal contributor, a day Nagy believes will arrive sooner than later.
“As dominant as our defense has been, there is going to be a time this year, I can’t tell you when, but there is going to be a time this year where they are going to need the offense,” said Nagy. “I’ve been apart of both sides before, I’ve been apart of where the defense is dominant, the offense is struggling, and you’ve got to make sure that you understand that there’s 16 games in the season, it’s going to balance out.”
For now, the Bears continue on with the defense helping to keep things going as the offense finds their footing.