After watching tape of Sunday's 24-14 loss to the Packers at Soldier Field, coach Matt Nagy on Monday discussed three things that stood out to him in the game.
(1) While pleased with the continued growth that Justin Fields showed (more on that later), Nagy explained why he felt the offense mustered only 14 points.
The Bears had two impressive 80-yard touchdown drives, one on their first possession of the game and the other to start the fourth quarter to cut the deficit to 17-14. On their other six drives, they failed to advance inside the Packers' 30 while producing just one play of more than 16 yards on 39 snaps, a 25-yard run by rookie Khalil Herbert.
Nagy cited the lack of explosive plays as a critical factor in being limited to 14 points, saying: "You're not driving the ball in 10-play drives all the time … We're not scoring enough. You need to score more. We understand that."
A lack of big plays wasn't the only factor, however. Nagy feels that more points will come if the Bears play complementary football like they did in an impressive 20-9 win over the Raiders Oct. 10 in Las Vegas. Against the Packers, the Bears defense didn't generate any takeaways and forced only one three-and-out possession.
"I really believe for our team, in general, big picture we need to work together in all three phases," Nagy said. "That's going to be important, if we do that and defensively we get three-and-outs, we get turnovers, [and] offensively, when you get a turnover or three-and-outs, you're getting touchdowns. Not every game is going to be 40-40. But we can score more and it's going to be complementary."
The Bears are averaging 16.3 points per game this season. They've scored more than 20 points just once in six contests and are 3-0 when generating more than 14 points.
(2) Nagy lauded Fields for continuing to make the incremental progress the Bears are hoping to see from their first-round draft pick.
Nagy was especially impressed with a three-play sequence on the offense's first drive. The Bears moved from their own 42 to the Packers' 1 on the three snaps, as Fields completed passes of 11 yards to Darnell Mooney and 20 yards to Allen Robinson II and then threw deep to Marquise Goodwin, who drew a 26-yard pass interference penalty. Two plays later, Herbert's 1-yard touchdown run gave the Bears a 7-0 lead.
"Those three plays right there for Justin were special," Nagy said. "The very first play, he took a three-step drop, nice little hitch and a corner route to Mooney right on time. That was a professional throw, professional play. Great play by the line, everybody.
"The very next play, he comes back and they run a cover-two and he hits A-Rob in the side pocket there down the sideline. Great throw, great catch, great execution. Follows it up with a good chip protection shot play, where the safety's playing kind of tight, cutting a deep cross. And he goes with the post alert, which is what we teach him.
"All of that happened on time and in rhythm. When you can play quarterback and play on time and in rhythm, you see good things happen. That was awesome, those three plays right there. I thought for him that was great."
Nagy also praised Fields for his decision-making on the Bears' fourth-quarter TD drive. In a four-play span, the rookie quarterback connected on passes of 20 yards to Robinson and 21 yards to Cole Kmet and scrambled for 14 yards. Fields capped the possession with a 5-yard TD strike to Mooney.
"That was one of the better drives of the season, and for sure Justin's best," Nagy said. "When you go back and look at those plays, that's what gets you excited is being able to see that … the decision-making, the scrambling from Justin, the big catches by the wide receivers and tight ends, the protection by the O-line, the runs when we needed them, and then the very last play.
"They zoned us out. He had protection. He made a great throw. To me, that signifies growth for him and for our offense. We just need to do more of that. We need to get more of that in the middle [of the game] and not wait from the first drive of the game to that drive there."
(3) Nagy shared his thoughts on a controversial play that resulted in a momentum-changing interception.
Looking to increase their 7-0 lead late in the first quarter, the Bears faced third-and-7 from the Packers' 47. When it appeared that a Packers defensive lineman had jumped offside, center Sam Mustipher snapped the ball as he's instructed to do. Fields rolled to his right, and thinking it was a free play, heaved a pass into the end zone, where it was intercepted by safety Darnell Savage. Unfortunately for the Bears, no flag was thrown.
"For us, it's a really good teaching point to learn off of," Nagy said, "because you don't see that very often, where you think they're offsides and you snap the ball and they're in the neutral zone and then you run the play. There's a method to that procedure, to that play, within the play, without getting too specific."
The reason there were no Bears receivers near where the ball was thrown was because Robinson, seeing Fields scramble to his right, broke off his route.
"When we snapped the ball thinking it was a free play, you see Justin then scramble out to the right," Nagy said. "A-Rob is running on his route and thinks it turns into a scramble to the right. So just as he's going to throw the ball, A-Rob runs to the right. He thought that A-Rob was going to be there and at that spot and they were just off because of the scramble mode that we got into."