First-year head coach Matt Nagy started the 2018 NFL season with the Bears the same way his 2017 tenure as the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator ended: with a one-point loss.
In last year’s AFC Wild Card Game, the Chiefs built a 21-3 lead over the Titans heading into halftime. However, Nagy’s Chiefs failed to score a single point for the rest of the game and lost 22-21.
Similarly, the Bears lead the Packers 17-3 going in halftime to only see Aaron Rodgers pry the life away from Bears fans with three touchdowns in the fourth quarter to win the game 24-23.
Once Nagy’s scripted plays were over, so was the offense.
Plain and simple, Nagy needs to prove he can be an efficient play caller for an entire game if the Bears want to make positive strides on offense this season.
Going back to the Chiefs’ second-half debacle, Nagy decided to continue passing the ball despite being up by 18 points. Granted, a big reason why was because Alex Smith completed 19 passes for 231 yards and two touchdowns in the first half.
But that didn’t transition after halftime. Smith completed five passes for 33 yards the rest of the game. The NFL’s leading rusher, Kareem Hunt, had 11 total carries for 42 yards and only five carries in the second half.
On the first two drives of the third quarter combined, the Chiefs gained a total of six yards (excluding penalties). The first drive went three-and-out and fortunately for the Chiefs, Titans punt returner Adoree’ Jackson muffed the punt and the Chiefs recovered. Despite being in Titans’ territory, Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker missed a 48-yard field goal.
Two days after the Chiefs’ season ended, Nagy was named the 16th head coach in Bears history and had his introductory press conference the following day on Jan 9, where he admitted his faults in that playoff loss to the Titans.
“But I called every play in that second half,” Nagy told Chicago reporters. “I stand by it. And I promise you I’m going to learn from it.”
Eight months later to the day Nagy said those words, he would get his opportunity to prove if he did learn from those mistakes.
After the Bears’ opening drive of the third quarter went 12 plays for 60 yards and ended in a field goal, the next two offensive drives went three-and-out. The first three-and-out consisted of three straight passes with Mitch Trubisky running for nine yards on third down.
The second three-and-out looked promising with Jordan Howard rushing for nine total yards on first and second down. But instead of handing the ball off for a third straight time, Nagy called a one option route to Dion Sims, and he failed to gain any yards on the play.
While the Bears were punting the ball, the Packers were scoring touchdowns.
The Bears finally answered back on their second to last drive of the game. However, with the offense facing third-and-2, again, Nagy decided to pass the ball instead of giving it to Howard, who ran for 11 yards on the previous play. The Bears settled for another field goal.
In both the losses, halftime adjustments were made by the opponents, and Nagy failed to make any of his own. He also leaned toward the pass in critical situations instead of giving arguably his most reliable players, Hunt and Howard, the opportunities to finish each respective game.
All offseason Nagy has preached that he doesn’t want to see the same mistake made twice, yet he is the one contradicting his own message.
Only time will tell if Nagy can close out a game, and he will get his next opportunity on Monday night in Soldier Field against the Seahawks.