After three weeks of success, adversity hit the Chicago Bears in waves.
An injury to pass rusher Khalil Mack, a key missed field goal, turnovers at critical times, penalties, and a faltering defense all combined to help take down the Bears 31-28 in overtime Sunday against the Miami Dolphins.
The mistakes ended a three-game winning streak by Chicago (3-2) and even led to the first real criticism for coach Matt Nagy. On Monday at Halas Hall, Nagy stood up for his share of blame.
“I’m a big boy,” Nagy said. “I can handle the criticism.”
Of more concern than all of this with the New England Patriots coming to Soldier Field on Sunday is Mack’s health. He completed the game after suffering an ankle injury, but failed to record a sack for the first time this season.
Team medical personnel will evaluate his injury in the next few days, and Nagy said it won’t include X-rays.
Chicago’s defense looked entirely different without Mack 100 percent healthy. The pass rush never got to Miami quarterback Brock Osweiler, and the Bears’ league-best run defense was trampled by 35-year-old running back Frank Gore for 101 of Miami’s 161 rushing yards.
Missed tackles on Albert Wilson contributed to two shorter passes going for long touchdowns to cap off a nightmare afternoon in the heat for the Bears.
“I hope it’s an aberration, but we’ll discuss it and we make everybody accountable,” Nagy said about poor tackling. “I think for our team and our players we like to pump them up and show them the good stuff, but we’ll also show them the bad stuff. You know, why did this happen? And use it as motivation.
“So I hope it was just a one-time thing.”
Some turnovers took on a different form than in other games this season.
Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky threw one interception in the end zone, but for the first time the Bears offense had someone other than Trubisky lose a fumble.
Both Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen lost the ball, Howard at the goal line and Cohen with the offense near midfield in pursuit of the winning points.
“We need to protect the football better,” Nagy said. “We need to have better ball security and try to win those turnover margins.”
Howard went for more than a quarter without a carry following his goal-line fumble, but Nagy said no punishment was involved and this was determined more by the game situation.
“Anytime somebody does that, a lot of times you’re in that mode where somebody fumbles the football and you want to give them the football right away,” Nagy said. “But for us, we were having success throwing the football in the second half and we just stuck with that.”
Despite the interception, Trubisky put up a strong second half and finished 22 of 31 for 316 yards with three touchdowns. His passer rating for the season is 105.6.
“Mitch is playing really well right now, he’s playing really well,” Nagy said. “You’re seeing the growth of the players’ trust within each other, and his growth with these players.”
Nagy had to fend off questions about his overtime decision to run the ball on third down, rather than pass to try to get Cody Parkey a field goal try closer than 53 yards in overtime. Parkey missed it wide right.
“Hindsight is 20-20,” Nagy said. “You pass the ball and get the first (down), and then who knows what goes on from there? In the end, I felt very comfortable with giving Cody Parkey a chance to make that field goal.
“And I’ll say this: Depending on the situations, I have ultimate trust in him to make that.”
The Bears remained in first place in the NFC North with a 3-2 record after the loss, and Nagy looked ahead with a positive attitude.
“This is not a ‘Debbie Downer’ organization,” Nagy said referring to the “Saturday Night Live character. “We’re a winning team, we lost that game, life goes on. How’re we going to get better?”
Source: The Associated Press