It’s early in the third quarter of the Saints-Bears game, and I feel completely comfortable beginning my column now. Tradition, common sense and the possibility of late-game drama would dictate that I wait until after the last tick of the clock to begin tapping on my laptop.
Tradition, common sense and late-game drama haven’t seen an offense as lousy as the Bears’ offense is today.
The Saints have just taken a 19-10 lead, thanks to Latavius Murray’s three-yard touchdown run to start the second half. A nine-point deficit in the NFL is far from insurmountable, but to the Bears, it’s Mount Everest without oxygen tanks and with ankle weights. You don’t have to be a football expert to see this. You just have to know a throw rug when you see one.
Thanks to a bye week, coach Matt Nagy had two weeks to figure out what was wrong with his offense and two weeks to prepare for a good Saints team. Two weeks, for this? Two weeks for this. As I sit here at Soldier Field, I can’t shake the image of Nagy playing video games during the bye week instead of troubleshooting his sickly offense.
Bears running back David Montgomery just lost a fumble on the team’s first possession of the second half. A comeback is nowhere on the horizon.
Whatever this is appears to be the work of somebody who is as lost as his team is. To start the afternoon, Nagy tried to launch a running game wrapped in subtlety and subterfuge. That didn’t work because this is the NFL, not Cirque du Soleil. During the bye week, Nagy had talked about the importance of getting good yardage on first downs. The Bears’ rushing gains on their first three first downs of the game: one yard, zero yards and two yards. Is it my imagination or is Tarik Cohen getting smaller by the minute?
The white flag having thus been waved for the running game, the Bears settled in to do what they know best, Mitch Trubisky throwing short passes that don’t necessarily get to their intended targets.
Nagy was the one who double downed on Trubisky in the week leading up to the Saints game, saying he had seen progress from his quarterback this season. Trubisky had 78 passing yards in the first half and averaged a sickly 3.4 yards per attempt.
Progress, my ass.
This was the week that Nagy needed to show his coaching chops. Positively had to. An offseason of incredible hype had been followed by a 3-2 start. The Raiders had embarrassed the Bears in London without an injured Trubisky, and Nagy went into his genius lab to come up with solutions.
What this game tells me is that Trubisky should want to be Saints quarterback Teddy Bridgewater when he grows up — cool, composed and knowledgeable. One player used to be a backup this season, and the other should be. As each week passes, the decision to take Trubisky second overall in the 2017 draft looks to be more of an indictment of general manager Ryan Pace.
The Saints’ offense just had a 76-yard scoring drive to take a 26-10 lead. That against the big, bad Bears’ defense. Whatever the problems are with the offense, it’s appears to be contagious.
Stat alert: The Bears had no first downs in the third quarter.
It’s now the fourth quarter, the Saints are leading 29-10, and the Soldier Field crowd is letting Trubisky have it for a pass that had no apparent purpose in life. It was meant for somebody or other, I suppose, but don’t hold me to that. Some people surely will say that rust set in for Trubisky while he was out. If this is rust, it’s a hell of a thing. Godzilla, possibly.
Meanwhile, the Bears, who deal in nostalgia like Facebook deals in photos of grandchildren, are showing clips of Walter Payton, Dick Butkus and the rest of the team’s greats on their video board.
Trubisky starts to show some signs of life late in the fourth quarter, finally hitting Allen Robinson with a seven-yard touchdown pass. A successful two-point conversion cuts the Saints’ lead to 36-18. If Nagy praises Trubisky in his postgame news conference, I will lose my mind.
Until that score, the Bears’ only touchdown had come via a 102-yard kickoff return by Cordarrelle Patterson in the first quarter.
The final score is 36-25, which is about as deceiving as can be. It would suggest actual competition. The Bears finish with 17 rushing yards on seven carries. They are 3-3.
“We’ve got to figure out how do we turn this thing around,’’ Nagy said. “And it’s us. We understand that. But you run out of time, too.’’
I don’t see how the Bears fix this offense. They don’t have a running game, and they don’t have a quarterback.
Trubisky, thanks to some late-game empty calories, finishes 34 of 54 for 251 yards and two touchdowns. He is down but not out.
“I still think we’re close,’’ he says afterward.
Close? That’s it. I’m done.
My great hope in life is not the development of an offense. It’s that traffic has cleared