After watching tape of Sunday's 33-22 loss to the 49ers, Bears coach Matt Nagy discussed three things that stood out to him in the game:
(1) Nagy saw rookie quarterback Justin Fields produce the type of plays with his arm and legs that the Bears envisioned when they traded up nine spots in the first round of the draft to select him at No. 11.
Fields displayed his tantalizing dual threat ability by rushing for 103 yards on 10 carries—including a spectacular 22-yard touchdown on fourth-and-1—and passing for 175 yards and one touchdown.
"I thought Justin played a really, really good game," said Nagy, who did not coach Sunday's contest due to being in COVID-19 protocol. "He played on time and on rhythm. His decision-making was excellent, [except] for maybe one or two plays here or there, but that goes along for any quarterback, let alone a rookie. He also made special plays."
The most impressive play came early in the fourth quarter when Fields ad-libbed after primary receiver Khalil Herbert was well-covered on fourth-and-1 from the San Francisco 22. Fields broke a tackle to his right before sprinting back around left end and zigzagging through the 49ers defense into the end zone.
"Credit their defense for making a good call," Nagy said. "It wasn't there, and Justin made a play I think we'll all remember for a long, long time.
"There were a bunch of other ones he made throughout the day. Just talking to the coaching staff and seeing his energy and his vibe throughout the game, they said you could feel it. And that's great for our offense. It's great for our team. There was growth there for him."
Fields' most impressive throw came early in the second quarter when he rolled to his left and rifled an 8-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jesse James, who made a diving catch in the corner of the end zone.
"That's a big-time NFL throw," Nagy said. "Jesse made a great catch. Justin came out on the naked, and to flip your hips and have the accuracy to be able to put it literally an inch outside the defender's hands to the only place Jesse could catch the football, [it was] special. You love seeing it. I was definitely a fan when that play happened, and it got pretty loud. I was excited for our guys. That was fun."
(2) Nagy lamented a Bears defense that allowed too many big plays and didn't record a sack or force a 49ers punt or turnover the entire game.
The Bears permitted a play of at least 21 yards on seven of San Francisco's eight possessions before the 49ers ran out the final 1:12 with three kneel-downs. That included Jimmy Garoppolo pass completions of 83 and 50 yards to Deebo Samuel and Elijah Mitchell runs of 39, 27 and 27 yards.
"Defensively, I just felt like there were too many explosives," Nagy said. "They didn't have a punt. There were explosives on each drive."
Nagy believes that the longest play of the game was also the most significant. Three plays after the Bears had extended their lead to 16-9 on Cairo Santos' 25-yard field goal midway through the third quarter, the 49ers faced third-and-19 from their own 16.
Samuel caught a short screen pass and raced 83 yards before being forced out of bounds at the Bears' 1. Three plays later, Garoppolo scored the first of three straight San Francisco touchdowns on a 2-yard run.
"I really felt like the game changed on the third-and-19 screen that they hit down to the 1," Nagy said. "I thought that was a pivotal part of the game. We continued to stay in the game after that, but we just didn't do enough to finish it.
"We were up seven and we had field position, and that is one of those plays that we're going to look back at and wish we had back."
A diving Mario Edwards Jr. got a hand on Samuel, but no other Bears defender touched the 49ers receiver on the play until he was shoved out of bounds by a hustling DeAndre Houston-Carson.
"They did a good job of bringing their entire line out to have the kickout blocks," Nagy said. "They did a good job of blocking it and we didn't do a great job of being able to have pursuit angles, which is such a big part of this game, especially in a third down-and-long like that when you know a screen is probably coming, backed up like that."
(3) Nagy, who remained in COVID-19 protocol Monday, described watching Sunday's game on TV as "very unique" and "definitely strange."
"It's something that I could have never guessed in a million years that I'd be doing," Nagy said during a Zoom call with the media. "I wasn't sure exactly how it would go as I watched it. But it was certainly different.
"I was on the edge of my seat the entire game. I just don't know how to put it into words. I wanted to be there for the guys and be with them. But I knew that the guys had it. It was just different. It was something I don't want to go through again."
With the Bears having enacted stricter COVID-19 protocols last week, all meetings were held all on a virtual basis. Nagy led those sessions while special teams coordinator Chris Tabor ran practices and then served as acting head coach Sunday.
"I want to thank all the coaches, but coach Tabor in particular," Nagy said. "I thought he did a hell of a job; really, really good job. It started with the both of us being able to communicate all week long; nothing over the top, but just talking through some things he might have questions about or some things that I might have suggestions with. But then you get to gameday and you put that into action, but yet you also, too, have to have a sense of how the game's going and there's a feel to it.
"That's what I think that coach Tabor did a wonderful job with. There was no hesitation in his decision-making, and sometimes that's what can get you as a head coach or a decision-maker, is if there's hesitation. He went with full conviction on all his decisions and for me watching it, I was really, really impressed with him and very appreciative … we showed that in strange conditions, we were able to get through it and try to make it as normal as possible."