After watching tape of Sunday's 35-16 loss to the Packers at Soldier Field, Bears coach Matt Nagy on Monday discussed three things that stood out to him in the game:
(1) Mustering only one touchdown on five trips inside Green Bay's 20-yard line cost the Bears any chance of beating the Packers.
The Bears took a 7-0 lead on the game's opening possession, marching 60 yards on 14 plays capped by David Montgomery's 2-yard touchdown run. Unfortunately, they failed to get in the end zone again the rest of the game. On their next three red-zone possessions, they were forced to settle for field goals after stalling at the Packers' 12, 9 and 2.
The Bears held decisive advantages over the Packers in number of plays (74-44) and time of possession (35:29-24:31), but still lost by 19 points. "I think the biggest thing is not coming away with those touchdowns in the red zone, which is stating the obvious," Nagy said. "I thought the time of possession was good. We just struggled in the red zone."
The first of Cairo Santos' three field goals gave the Bears a 10-7 lead early in the second quarter. But it came after Demetrius Harris had forced a fumble by punt returner Tavon Austin that DeAndre Houston-Carson recovered at the Packers' 20. The offense failed to pick up a first down, settling for the 30-yard field goal after Montgomery was held to a 1-yard rush on third-and-3 from the 13.
Late in the first half, the Bears reached the Green Bay 9. On first-and-goal, Mitchell Trubisky rifled a pass into the end zone that was intended for Allen Robinson II. But it instead whistled right through the hands of Packers cornerback Kevin King, leaving just :06 left in the half. With no timeouts remaining, the Bears sent out Santos, whose 27-yard field goal cut the deficit to 21-13.
The Bears' next red-zone opportunity came in the third quarter when Trubisky connected with a leaping Darnell Mooney for a 53-yard pass play to the Green Bay 9. After a Montgomery run lost one yard, Trubisky completed passes of three yards to Mooney and five yards to Montgomery, resulting in fourth-and-goal from the 2. Santos then came on and kicked a 20-yard field goal, narrowing the gap to 21-16. But that's as close as the Bears would get.
(2) The Bears converted 5-of-6 fourth-down plays, but the one they failed to pick up prevented them from having a chance to take a late lead.
Trailing 21-16 early in the fourth quarter, the Bears marched from their own 24 to the Packers' 25, where they faced fourth-and-1. Trubisky rolled to his right and threw to Robinson in the right flat. In tight coverage, cornerback Chandon Sullivan broke up the pass, turning the ball over on downs back to Green Bay. The Bears had previously sustained the drive with two successful fourth-and-1 conversions on Trubisky's 2-yard pass to Mooney and Trubisky's 1-yard sneak. But they were unable to convert a third time.
"We had six fourth downs yesterday, and that's the one that we didn't get and those are the ones that bother you," Nagy said. "We've got to learn from that, all of us, and just understand the significance of that. At that point in time, we felt like we were in a really good position. We get that first down and we're in a great chance to get down there and get a touchdown and take the lead in the fourth quarter. We just didn't get it."
The Bears did a good job of mixing up their play calls on fourth down; they converted their first four attempts on two quarterback sneaks and two short passes. On the throw to Robinson, however, Sullivan gained inside position and knocked the ball away. "I thought that the kid played A-Rob pretty well," Nagy said. "You're going to one of your best players on the team in that moment. I think more than anything yesterday was just the frustration of hey, you realize that that was a huge part of the game, and we had them exactly where we wanted them and we didn't get it. That was probably bigger than anything."
(3) The Bears defense didn't take advantage of opportunities to make impact plays against the Packers.
Green Bay star quarterback Aaron Rodgers finished the 2020 season with a career-high 48 touchdown passes and only five interceptions. He's also thrown for 34 TDs and just two picks in his last 13 starts against the Bears. Clearly, Rodgers rarely gives defenses a chance to get their hands on the ball. But that wasn't the case Sunday. Unfortunately, Eddie Jackson, Barkevious Mingo and rookie Kindle Vildor all dropped potential interceptions.
"We had three opportunities yesterday," Nagy said. "You'd like to get at least one of those three. You have to be a little bit opportunistic. Those guys know that."
For the second time in as many games against the Packers this season, the Bears allowed Rodgers to throw TD passes on Green Bay's first three possessions and four in the game.
The defense hasn't performed as well in recent weeks as it did earlier in the season; the unit has permitted 21 touchdowns in its last six games after yielding only eight TDs in its first six contests. With a playoff contest looming against the Saints Sunday in New Orleans, now would be a great time for the defense to revert to its early-season form.
"When they get an opportunity to make a play, they've got to make plays," Nagy said. "That's really what it comes down to. They understand that. I believe in our guys, I really do. And now it's our time to step up in all areas."