After watching tape of Sunday's 34-30 loss to the Lions at Soldier Field, Bears coach Matt Nagy on Monday discussed three things that stood out to him in the game:
(1) The embattled offense finally delivered a breakout performance, playing its best game of the season.
The Bears scored on their first three possessions for the first time this year, generated three touchdowns and a field goal on five first-half drives and rushed for three TDs in the first half for the first time since 1990. "Yesterday was by far our best game offensively," Nagy said. "Offensively, I thought our guys really stepped up to the challenge that we gave them all week long."
The Bears tied season highs with 30 points and 26 first downs and compiled their second most total yards (389) and rushing yards (140). In addition, Mitchell Trubisky's 108.3 passer rating was the best by a Bears quarterback this year. "We felt like we were able to really get that run game going," Nagy said. "After watching it, seeing that pass protection, I thought Mitch really did a great job with his decision-making, wide receivers getting open, the O-linemen creating lanes, David [Montgomery] and C.P. (Cordarrelle Patterson) ran really hard, tight ends blocked really well. So that part was a definite positive that we came out of this game with."
While that was a huge positive, it still wasn't enough to prevent the Bears from suffering their sixth straight loss. And unfortunately, the offense was just as much to blame as the defense late in the game, when a seemingly comfortable 10-point lead shockingly turned into a bitter defeat. (But more on that in the third and final item below.)
(2) Despite being put in an ideal situation to secure the win, the Bears defense failed to preserve the lead.
The Bears held a double-digit lead in the final seven minutes of a game for the first time Sunday, finally giving their pass rushers a chance to pin their ears back and pressure the quarterback without worrying too much about the Lions running the ball. Instead, the defense allowed Matthew Stafford to comfortably complete passes on six straight plays for 96 yards, capped by a 25-yard touchdown to a wide open Marvin Jones that drew Detroit to within 30-27 with 2:18 remaining. The Lions didn't even need a third-down snap on the 7-play, 96-yard drive that took just 2:15 off the clock.
"We've been fighting so hard to get to that point to have the lead here because that's our defense's strength," Nagy said. "Our strength has been to get after the quarterback when they're one-dimensional and we know we can go get them. And then our guys on the back end can go make plays; get interceptions, get big hits, and then keep them from going down the field. If you asked me where we're at in that situation, I'd tell you 10 out of 10 times we're going to end up with it at the end, we're going to get a big stop, we're going to end the game with the ball in our hands and win."
The Bears defense struggled throughout the game, allowing five TDs for the second straight week. The unit permitted 34 points and a season-high 460 yards to an offense that was missing its top running back (D'Andre Swift) and receiver (Kenny Golladay) due to injuries.
(3) After performing well most of the game, the Bears offense struggled mightily on its final four possessions.
The Bears led 30-20 with 9:22 left in the fourth quarter when they took over at the Lions' 46 following a Bilal Nichols interception. But it was all downhill from there for their offense, which was unable to pick up a first down on its next three possessions. After converting 4-of-7 third-down opportunities in the game, the Bears failed on their final four chances—on three third-and-4s and one third-and-5.
First, a holding penalty on left tackle Charles Leno Jr. and a third-down sack led to a pair of three-and-outs. After the Lions closed the gap to 30-27 on Stafford's third TD pass of the game, the Bears took over at their own 11 with 2:13 to play. With a chance to run out the clock, Trubisky dropped back to pass on third-and-4 and had the ball swatted out of his hands, resulting in a turnover at the Chicago 7 that the Lions quickly converted into the go-ahead TD with 1:37 left.
Still with a chance to rally for the win, the Bears advanced to the Lions' 24. But on third-and-5, Allen Robinson II caught a pass near the right sideline. The veteran receiver seemingly could have easily picked up a first down, but instead stepped out of bounds one yard short. On the next snap, David Montgomery was stopped for no gain on fourth-and-1 from the 20, turning the ball over on downs with :11 remaining.
"At the end of the game there in the fourth quarter … that's where we've got to be able to finish as an offense," Nagy said. "In that type of game, get first downs, make them use their timeouts there at the end and not even give them the ball back or have the ability for the sack/fumble which occurred."