In the Bears’ 30-27 loss to the Giants, there were plenty of reasons why Sunday’s outcome turned out the way it did.
There were multiple missed tackles, fumbles and not enough targets for Trey Burton and Anthony Miller to name a few; however, some reasons stood out above the rest. If the Bears want to be in the best position to defeat the Rams this week, these three corrections have to be made.
1. Matt Nagy’s Decision Making
After Akiem Hicks sacked Eli Manning with 48 seconds left in the second quarter, Bears head coach Matt Nagy decided to call a timeout – but it happened 31 seconds after the sack.
On third-and-23, after Hick’s sack, Manning handed the ball off to running back Saquon Barkley, and he maneuvered through the Bears’ defense for 22 yards. Manning then completed a pass to tight end Rhett Ellison for nine yards, and kicker Aldrick Rosas made a 57-yard field goal as the first half expired.
The Giants went into halftime with momentum and were only down four to start the third quarter. And in that quarter, New York started off with back-to-back touchdown drives.
Nagy was asked by reporters on Monday about the decision to call the timeout with 17 seconds left in the second quarter.
“The call on the timeout when I called it, that time like waiting to the time of calling it, I’m okay with that,” Nagy said. “What I’m not okay with is the play that happened after that and the play that happened after that.”
Nagy’s mindset on the play was to “shut ‘em [the Giants] down and call another timeout to go after the punt.”
According to ESPN Stats, there have only been 12 blocked punts all season, and the Bears are one of 21 teams to not block a punt.
With a seven-second difference between the game and play clock, the Giants were in no hurry to run a play and also had no timeouts. A 14-7 lead on the road with a backup quarterback in Chase Daniel, who threw a pick-6 on the second offensive play of the game, should have been enough for Nagy.
But that wasn’t the case.
Instead, Nagy tried to be aggressive in order to give his team another opportunity, but that timeout backfired, gave the Giants life and, most notably, was not a calculated risk, which Nagy has talked about all season.
Nagy may still believe the timeout was the right call, but he needs to make smarter decisions for the rest of the season. The Bears can’t afford to give opposing teams any additional opportunities, especially the Rams, whose offense is currently tied for No. 2 in the league in points per game.
2. Commitment to the Running Game
Jordan Howard ended the first half against the Giants with 13 carries for 68 yards, but he finished the game with 16 carries for 76 yards. The third-year back, who had more yards in the first half than he has had total in eight games this season, only ran the ball twice in the second half for one yard.
Nagy was asked why Howard wasn’t more of a focal point in the second half of the game.
“The second half they [the Giants] had a little plan for him [Howard],” Nagy said. “I would have loved to be able to call more runs, but they did a pretty good job getting into our backfield and stopping the run.”
Including overtime, the Bears ran the ball three total times after the first half. Nagy said that the Giants did a good job getting into the backfield after halftime, but on Howard’s three rushing attempts, only one went for negative yards (-3). The other two rushing attempts went for four and seven yards.
Even if the Giants were playing Howard differently in the second half, his bigger runs on the day were a result of him showing great vision, cutting to the open side of the field and getting to the second level.
Howard didn’t get his opportunities to continue utilizing his vision because Nagy abandoned the run game, an element of his offense that has underperformed all season.
Last season’s offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains infamously said that defenses can dictate what the offense runs. Well, that was a similar outcome to what happened to Nagy against the Giants. As a result, the offense became one dimensional with Daniel throwing the ball. And you would think Nagy would want to help his QB, who struggled in the first half, by providing a rushing attack.
With the Rams’ high-scoring offense coming to Chicago this Sunday, the Bears’ offense must incorporate the run game in order to keep Jared Goff and company off the field. Committing to the run for an entire game will be the next step for Nagy’s offense.
3. Fixing Busted Coverages
All season long the Bears’ secondary has been disciplined and stout with their respective assignments, but two busted coverages involving Odell Beckham put the team in a hole to start the third quarter.
Not many times will wide receivers throw a pass in a game, but if Vic Fangio did his homework, he would have had his defense more prepared for the trickery that Giants head coach Pat Shurmur utilized on Sunday.
When the Giants played the Panthers in Week 5, Beckham connected with Barkley for a 57-yard touchdown pass. Against the Bears, Beckham threw his second TD pass of the season when he hit a wide open Russell Shepard in the middle of the field.
“We just had a breakdown in communication there,” Nagy told reporters on Beckham’s touchdown pass.
Bears safety Eddie Jackson immediately came up when Beckham got the pitch and forgot about his Cover-3 responsibilities, which resulted in Shepard’s first TD of the season.
On the Giants’ next offensive drive, the offense orchestrated a 13-play, 60-yard drive that ended with a Beckham receiving touchdown. This time it seemed that fellow safety Adrian Amos was the culprit with the busted coverage.
With the Giants facing fourth-and-goal from the 1-yardline, the offense lined up in trips to the right side of the formation, and Beckham ran a drag route across the middle to the left side, and Amos failed to pick him up.
That put the Bears down 24-14 with 3:58 remaining in the third quarter. Yes, the Bears would fight their way back to force overtime, but if these kind of defensive plays happen against the Rams, there won’t be any sort of comeback.
The Rams have shredded defenses all season. Imagine what their offense can do if players are wide open. Fangio must get these mistakes corrected in his secondary if the Bears want to make the game competitive.
Luckily for the Bears, though, these mistakes are correctable.
Losing to the Giants didn’t end the Bears’ season, but mistakes like these in a playoff game definitely could, so that’s why it is vital the right adjustments are made to prevent mental lapses like this from happening in the future.
Nagy has said all season he doesn’t want his team to make the same mistakes twice, and this Sunday’s matchup with the Rams will prove if he follows his own saying.