The Bears have struggled to get into the red zone this season, managing only 14 trips inside their opponents’ 20-yard line in their first six games.
That changed Sunday when they reached the red zone five times while compiling a season-high 388 yards of offense. The issue in a 17-16 loss to the Chargers, however, was what happened once they got there.
The Bears generated just one touchdown on the five trips inside-the-20, settling for four field goal attempts. Eddy Piñeiro connected on three of the kicks from 22, 25 and 19 yards after hitting the upright on a miss from 33 yards.
After reaching the Chargers’ 4 late in the first quarter, Cordarrelle Patterson was stopped for no gain and Mitchell Trubisky had back-to-back passes intended for Trey Burton and Adam Shaheen broken up in the end zone.
At the Los Angeles 9 two possessions later, Tarik Cohen was stopped for no gain, Trubisky threw an incomplete pass and Cohen was held to two yards.
And then from the Chargers’ 4, Montgomery was stopped for no gain and Patterson picked up one yard on a screen pass before a defensive holding penalty gave the Bears a first down at the 1 with :29 left in the half. With the Bears out of timeouts, Trubisky threw an incomplete pass and Montgomery was stopped for no gain before Trubisky was forced to spike the ball to stop the clock with :01 remaining.
“It seemed like they made the plays in the red zone and we didn’t,” Trubisky said. “I thought we had a good plan for this week to get it in there, and they just made plays in the red zone and we weren’t connecting. So credit to them.”
Kicking it: Coach Matt Nagy defended his decision to settle for a potential game-winning 41-yard field goal attempt as time expired.
After Trubisky’s 11-yard scramble had resulted in a first down at the 21, the Chargers called timeout with :43 to play. Trubisky’s kneel-down lost a yard, the Bears ran the clock down to :04 and Piñeiro followed by missing the 41-yarder wide left.
“I have zero thought of running the ball and taking the chance of fumbling the football,” Nagy said. [The Chargers] know you’re running the football, so you [could] lose three, four yards. So that wasn’t even in our process as coaches to think about that.”
A reporter asked Nagy if he considered throwing a pass in that situation.
“What happens if you take a sack or there’s a fumble?” Nagy responded. “There was zero thought of that. I’ll just be brutally clear: Zero thought of throwing the football, zero thought of running the football.”
Ultimate faith: Piñeiro missed two field-goal attempts in a game for the first time this season, but Nagy still believes in the young kicker.
“I really like where we’re at,” Nagy said. “I have ultimate faith in him. I do. It just happens to be in our situation, it just gets completely magnified because of where we’ve been before. But I have ultimate trust in him. He’s going to be the one that wants another opportunity at that shot, at that kick. So that’s all we can do is next time he gets that chance, he puts it right down the middle.”
Piñeiro entered Sunday’s game having made 9-of-10 field-goal attempts in the first six games this season, including a game-winning 53-yarder as time expired in a Week 2 victory over the Broncos in Denver. He is now 12-of-15 on field goals and has made all 12 of his extra-point attempts.
News and notes: Khalil Mack registered the Bears’ only sack on the Chargers’ final possession of the game, increasing his team-leading total to 5.5 this season … Kyle Fuller recorded his team-leading third interception of the season when he picked off Philip Rivers late in the third quarter … The Bears lost to the Chargers for the first time in five all-time meetings at Soldier Field and for the first time in Chicago since a 1970 matchup at Wrigley Field … Outside linebacker Isaiah Irving exited Sunday’s game with a quad injury … Right guard Rashaad Coward drew three penalties, two for false starts and one for holding.