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Analysis Bears

Bears: Not Running The Ball Has Cost Matt Nagy Before

Putting up just 3 points in your home opener on the 100th anniversary of the NFL against the Green Bay Packers is not how the Chicago Bears were supposed to start the 2019 season. Before Thursday’s ugly and uneventful loss, the Bears had Super Bowl aspirations. Those have been put on hold, for now.

Instead, the Bears have a bigger issue to deal with: their offense, which looks to have taken a major step back in year two under head coach Matt Nagy.

Yes, the offensive line was mediocre at best, but the talk has been about two things:

  1. Mitchell Trubisky 
  2. Matt Nagy’s gameplan, lack of adjustments and play-calling 

Let’s start with Trubisky, who seemed to be in prime position to take the next step in Nagy’s system. Thursday night’s performance made Bears’ fans’ biggest fear a reality. Trubisky may not be the player the Bears traded up for with the No. 2 overall pick.

The excuses are well past their due when it comes to Trubisky. In year three, Trubisky should be able to read a defense and make the correct throw. Unfortunately, we don’t know for sure if Nagy is limited with what he can call on offense because of Trubisky.

He did have a telling quote on Friday after he had a chance to review Thursday’s film.

That’s clearly referring to what his quarterback is or isn’t doing.

Still, like Trubisky, Nagy deserves blame for the embarrassing loss against the Packers. Great coaches in the NFL make adjustments on the fly that eventually propel their teams to victory. Nagy has had issues doing just that.

His last two games as head coach of the Chicago Bears has proved it.

Over the last three seasons, inconsistent play-calling, questionable personnel usage and abandoning the run game have cost Matt Nagy two playoff wins and one of the most highly anticipated home openers in recent memory.

Let’s examine these three games and find out why Nagy’s offenses seem to go cold at the most important times in the biggest games.

Game 1: Kansas City Chiefs vs. Tennesse Titans AFC Wild Card Jan. 6, 2018

Let’s go back to when Nagy was the offensive coordinator for the Chiefs. He helped Alex freaking Smith put up MVP type numbers and the Chiefs led 21-3 at halftime of their Wild Card playoff game against the Titans.

The Titans would erase an 18-point deficit and beat the Chiefs in their own building. The Chiefs did not score a single point on offense in the second half. Nagy was the one calling plays for the Chiefs on that day.

TE Travis Kelce was actually hurt in the first quarter of the game. While Smith had his best season as a Pro, Nagy and the Chiefs forgot about the running game with Kareem Hunt. Hunt, as a rookie, led the NFL in rushing with 1,327 yards (4.9 yards per carry) and 8 touchdowns. He caught 53 passes for 455 yards and 3 TDs.

Again, Nagy made the decision to throw the ball with Smith, who was missing one of the best tight ends in professional football.

Hunt finished with just 11 carries and just three catches. Don’t worry, Smith threw the ball 33 times and finished with a QBR of 49.0. If KC would have run the ball more and properly utilized their best player, they would have beaten the Titans.

Game 2: Chicago Bears vs. Philadelphia Eagles NFC Wild Card Jan. 6, 2019

Like the Chiefs-Titans game a year earlier, Nagy’s offense lost their No. 1 TE. This time, before the game even started, giving him even more time to adjust his gameplan. He failed to do so once again.

Trubisky and the Bears threw the ball 43 times. Nagy gave Jordan Howard just 10 carries, which was a bit surprising considering how well the Bears’ offensive line was run blocking. NBC football analyst and PFF CEO, Chris Collinsworth eluded to this many times during the broadcast.

Running the football would have also taken some pressure off a young QB in his first-ever ever playoff game. Instead, Nagy continued to throw the football, ignoring his playmakers like RB Tarik Cohen, who had just ONE carry.

Somehow Taquon Mizzell and Benny Cuningham each got a carry too. The Bears would go on to lose on a Cody Parkey missed field goal, but putting up just 15 points in a playoff game at home isn’t a successful strategy.

Nagy again underutilized his best playmakers and failed to help his struggling offense by not running the football.

Game 3: Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers Home Opener September 5th, 2019 

For the second game in a row, Nagy neglected the run game and his best playmakers. The offense had a hard time finding any kind of momentum on Thursday against the Packers. The O-line looked downright bad, but if there was one bright spot, it was rookie RB David Montgomery.

In the first quarter, Montgomery made a few plays that made you sit up a bit.

He’s clearly the best back the Bears have on their roster, yet they chose to use Mike Davis more. Even more than Tarik Cohen, who was again only given ONE carry in a big game. Nagy made sure to get WR Cordarrelle Patterson a carry on 3rd & 1 though.

Why not just use Montgomery, who was making defenders look silly?

The book is out on Nagy. He gets too cute on short-yardage situations. Run the ball up the middle, twice if you have to and the Bears would have gotten the first down and kept driving on the Green Bay defense.

When your defense is as good as the Bears is, you run the ball to not only build a rhythm on offense but to give your top unit a rest. You also run the ball to build for play-action passes. Say what you want about Matt LaFleur’s debut calling plays, but he did make a couple of brilliant calls, including this play-action pass deep downfield. In the stands, I thought this was 100% a run.

In the last 25 minutes, Nagy didn’t call a single run in a four-point football game. He also gave Montgomery just 6 total carries. The Packers were literally daring the Bears to run the football. Matt Nagy just didn’t make the proper adjustment.

Bears skill player playing time percentages on offense vs. Packers:

Allen Robinson: 96% Taylor Gabriel: 92% Tarik Cohen: 70% Mike Davis: 56% Adam Shaheen: 47% David Montgomery: 36% Javon Wims: 29% Cordarrelle Patterson: 27% Anthony Miller: 22% Ben Braunecker: 14% Bradley Sowell: 10%.

For the rest of the season, there is no reason Montgomery shouldn’t out snap Davis.

The Bears threw the ball 45 times on a night where the offensive line had issues with pass-protection and Trubisky looked as raw as ever. Running the ball would have helped create some kind of positive in a game full of negatives on offense.

I’d also like to mention that Anthony Miller, who was also praised by the Bears’ coaching staff, was nonexistent on the night and had just one target. The result? The Bears failed to score a touchdown and finished with just three points on the night.

Conclusion 

There are no excuses for Mitchell Trubisky anymore…it’s year three. However, his head coach also has a tendency to get too cute, fail to properly utilize his best players and forget about running the football. If I were playing the Bears, I would play 5-6 DBs just like the Packers and make the Bears commit to running the football because their head coach hasn’t shown the willingness to stay with it for a full 60 minutes during his time in Chicago, and it may cost him more wins, and a shot at the playoffs with a talented roster.

Nick is the editor-in-chief at TheLoopSports.com. He is also a Chicago Sports fanatic, avid sports bettor, fantasy sports nut, and totally didn’t try to sell his soul on eBay (which he’s still waiting to get back by the way). For more fun, follow him on Twitter @PetroTLS

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