After watching tape of Sunday night's 34-14 season-opening loss to the Rams, Bears coach Matt Nagy discussed three things that stood out to him.
(1) Nagy lamented the big plays the Bears defense allowed.
Making his Rams debut, longtime Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford threw touchdown passes of 67 yards to Van Jefferson and 56 yards to Cooper Kupp. Stafford also completed a 37-yarder to Tyler Higbee that set up Darrell Henderson Jr.'s 1-yard TD run.
"They had several explosives early on and then throughout the game," Nagy said Monday at Halas Hall. "Sometimes explosives happen, but I think yesterday [there were] probably too many."
On Jefferson's TD, the Rams receiver caught Stafford's long pass and tumbled to the ground at about the Bears' 10. Veteran safeties Eddie Jackson and Tashaun Gipson both had a chance to touch Jefferson down, but neither did. He scrambled to his feet and raced into the end zone.
On Kupp's TD, a blown coverage in the Bears secondary left the Rams receiver uncovered deep down the field.
"That's probably what's probably most frustrating, and our guys know that," Nagy said. "Those are the type of throws that Matthew Stafford is hard enough to play against, and when you have somebody that wide open, that's what you don't want. We've got to make sure we communicate as to the whys, why that happened. But for sure those are the ones we have to eliminate."
Nagy watched tape of the game Monday with first-year defensive coordinator Sean Desai. As is the case when he critiques himself and the offense, Nagy feels that some of the issues on defense involved play calls and others a lack of execution.
"There's some calls when you look through that you want back and you put on yourself and then there's others where you go, 'You know what, this guy could have made a play here or there,' Nagy said.
"Overall, I'd say the biggest theme for us would be 'no panic' and just understand that, 'Hey, that was Sean's first game calling [plays] and this was our first game of 2021, and we understand that that's not good enough. We know we want to be better. We want to focus on any of the positives that there were. Then, that's why I think we all believe in one another, and now we get another chance this weekend."
(2) Nagy praised the performance of running back David Montgomery.
The third-year pro from Iowa State rushed for 108 yards and one touchdown on 16 carries. It was the fourth time that Montgomery has topped 100 yards in his last seven regular-season games dating back to last year.
"He came out and he's had a great training camp," Nagy said. "I thought this past week he looked really fast in practice. He looked sharp, he looked quick."
Montgomery raced 41 yards on the Bears' second play from scrimmage and later broke an Aaron Donald tackle on an impressive 3-yard touchdown run.
"It didn't surprise me at all on that 41-yard run to start the game," Nagy said. "That was a strong run. That touchdown run that he had was special. To have to break a tackle from Aaron Donald and another D-tackle and be able to get in there and fight for that extra yard, that shows who he is, so I'm proud of him for that."
Last year the Rams run defense ranked third in the NFL and did not allow an opposing back to top 100 yards all season.
Montgomery rushed for 80 yards on 10 carries in the first half before gaining 28 yards on six attempts in the second half. "I don't think we abandoned the run game at all with him yesterday," Nagy said. "I thought we did a good job of giving him opportunities. He ran hard. There were some hard runs in there."
Nagy spoke during training camp of wanting to give Montgomery 20 carries per game, with a handful of those coming late in games with the Bears protecting a lead.
"When you're winning, you get into that fourth quarter and you get those extra four or five carries," Nagy said. "When you're losing, you're in two-minute, you lose those carries. He was at, what, 16 carries? We were behind in the fourth and we turned into more of a two-minute team than a four-minute team, so that's probably where some of those carries were lost."
(3) Throwing mostly short passes was not a reflection on Andy Dalton but part of the game-plan against the NFL's No. 1 defense from last season.
It was clear that the Bears wanted to get the ball out of Dalton's hands as quickly as possible against a fierce Rams pass rush led by lineman Aaron Donald, a three-time NFL defensive player of the year.
"Probably the biggest thing with that was some of the things that they do defensively and then that guy that they got over on the other side of the ball, just a little bit," Nagy said. "He can do that. And he did it there toward the end of the game. But it doesn't mean that you can't still get explosives. We understand that. I think that's where we want to make sure that we are stretching the field vertically, and we weren't able to get that as much.
"We kind of knew going into it, it was going to be one of those types of games. That's just one of those deals where we want to, moving forward, try to do everything we can to keep defenses honest going downfield. But nothing to do with Andy as much as it was more of the scheme."
With Dalton playing the majority of snaps, the Bears advanced into Rams territory on each of their first seven possessions into the fourth quarter. Rookie quarterback Justin Fields subbed into the game, playing a total of five snaps. The first-round pick from Ohio State completed 2 of 2 passes for 10 yards and rushed for a 3-yard touchdown on his only carry.
"I thought Andy did a pretty good job yesterday of being able to get the ball out to guys where he needed to in certain situations," Nagy said. "And then using Justin when we did. Justin did well, too."