GREEN BAY – The moment seems like an eternity ago, just like everything in this pandemic year of 2020.
But it was only two years and three months into the past that a night in Green Bay changed the way a success-starved fan base was thinking about the start of a new era under a new head coach.
It came in a loss, too.
The Bears started off by running the T-Formation, scored on the opening drive on a touchdown run by Mitchell Trubisky. Khalil Mack, who joined the team just a week earlier, knocked out Aaron Rodgers, had a strip sack, then picked off a pass for the touchdown to help the Bears build a 20-0 lead.
Yes, they dropped it when Rodgers did Rodgers things in the second half, but the collective “Wow” that went through the fan base provided something missing for the first time in a while: Hope.
That night wasn’t a fluke, as a dominant defense and an effective offense led to a surprise 12-4 record and an NFC North title. A painful Wild Card loss to the Eagles figured to only be a roadblock in a new and exciting era of Bears’ football.
Welp, that hasn’t exactly happened, and that brings us to Sunday night.
After four-straight losses, some were still hanging on to hope that the Bears could turn around a terrible slide that’s taken them from the top of the NFC to the middle of the pack.
Perhaps putting in Mitchell Trubisky, who was motivated by his first career benching over the last two months, would finally get the offense going against Green Bay on Sunday night. If they could just be consistent, there was hope the defense could pull their weight and sneak out a season-saving win over the Packers.
Once again, hope was misguided. Now it appears that the place where such great promise for the Matt Nagy era of the Bears that started at Lambeau Field may officially have died there.
What’s odd is that the defense was mostly ineffective, which was unexpected even with Akiem Hicks on the sidelines with a hamstring issue. The unit held together in 2019 when the defensive end missed a lot of the year, but they fell apart quickly against Rodgers. The allowed three first half drives over 75 yards for touchdowns, which put the offense in a hole.
They haven’t been good at digging out of those and they weren’t again, as Trubisky struggled with the same issues he did before and the ones that hurt Nick Foles as well. They failed to get a touchdown inside the ten-yard line after a 57-yard scamper by David Montgomery, then turned the ball over twice in the next few drives.
They got a long touchdown drive to end the first half but then failed to capitalize in the third quarter, getting shutout as the Packers added a pair of touchdowns. Trubisky was still missing receivers that were open and threw into double coverage on both of his interceptions as rust from a long layoff showed.
Nagy told NBC Sports that the quarterback had his best week of practice before Sunday, but unfortunately, it didn’t translate again. Trubisky appears to be doing all the right things intangibly to get it right to be the Bears’ starter, but it just isn’t working.
It’s hope for the best that produced the worst yet again, and it now finally appears that’s its run out on this once promising era under Nagy. The great start, which had its beginning in Green Bay, produced one glorious season but no progress after that, as the league caught onto what the Bears were doing, and their response to it hasn’t been enough.
Five more games do remain for the Bears, and the next four come against teams which they have the same or better record. Once could find reasons to have faith because of that, especially with the team at 5-6 on the season.
But the benefit of the doubt is no longer with this regime of the Bears, as faith died at the same place it was born two years and three months ago.
See more on the Bears on Chicago Football Weekly with Jarrett Payton and Lauren Magiera on Saturday at 6 PM on WGN-TV.