The inescapable feeling is one of seeing a repeating film loop, showing the same action clip - in this case, a train going over a cliff. Only this time there was a disturbing new element.
The Bears finished the first half of their 2019 season, Matt Nagy's second as head coach, with a fourth straight loss, this time 22-14 to the Philadelphia Eagles. In the process they undid themselves with some of the same deadly behaviors that have come to define what the 2019 Bears are and are not, beyond just their 3-5 record.
This time, however, the Bears added a sloppiness component to the talent gap between themselves and too many teams, particularly NFC teams, and exponentially increased the difficulty of the the team extricating itself from an accelerating death spiral.
Penalties on both sides of the football, undisciplined play and dropped balls all combined to put the Bears in a 19-0 hole early in the third quarter after a first half in which the Bears were outgained an embarrassing 202-9, with just one passing yard. And while 14 points in the second half brought the Bears back to within one score, rarely did it look or feel like the Bears were in the same game as the Eagles, right up to tight end Adam Shaheen bobbling away the final Philadelphia kickoff with 25 seconds remaining.
"The score felt a lot worse than what it was," Nagy said, adding, "Just really, really sloppy, extremely sloppy."
The loss leaves the Bears (3-5) effectively out of contention in the NFC North, with Green Bay and Minnesota realistically too far ahead with too few to play for any division race. After their loss to the Chargers, the Bears were behind 10 of the 15 other NFC teams in the wild card standings, and this Sunday did nothing to arrest the speed of the slide.
But those statistics and standings are quantitative; the Bears' issues are deeper and qualitative. They are simply not good enough, on top of the sloppiness and discipline problems that can take down even good teams.
The Chicago offense failed to net 300 yards for the seventh time in eight games. Predictably, the Bears failed to score 18 points for the eighth time in the last 13 games, extending back into late 2018, when it was becoming increasingly apparent that the Nagy/Trubisky offense was not somehow magically creative enough to fool anyone, and not talented enough to match abilities with either opposing offenses or defenses.
The defense allowed three drives of 12 or more plays, the most egregious coming in the fourth quarter when the Bears had closed to 19-14. Philadelphia pushed the Bears backwards for 16 plays and 69 yards, using 8 minutes 14 seconds of what had been 8 minutes 39 seconds left in the game. Nagy was forced to use all three of his timeouts to do what his defense couldn't: get a stop.
Lack of urgency
The sloppiness was there virtually from the outset, which triggers some alarm bells because at this point, the Bears have zero grounds for overconfidence and should have a burning focus to save their season.
But if there was any belly fire, it wasn't visible to the naked eye as the Bears went three-and-out on their first five possessions, failing to advance past their own 41-yard line over that stretch.
"They came ready to play on the first couple plays and we didn't," Trubisky said. More precisely: The Bears were seldom ready to play the first snaps of possessions over and over. On those first five possessions, poorly executed early-down plays left the Bears with third-down distances of nine, 14, eight, 12 and 10 yards, rendering any thought of play-action moot.
"Right now we're not giving ourselves a chance, starting like that and putting ourselves in that position," Trubisky said.
Trubisky was again unable to deliver enough. It marked the sixth time in his seven games this season, plus the last two of 2018, that quarterback Mitch Trubisky failed even to reach a passer rating of 90, let alone the aggregate 95.4 he posted last season. Indeed, the 66.6 mark Trubisky posted against Philadelphia, on 10-of-21 passing for 125 yards, zero TD's or INT's, was the fifth time this season that Trubisky passing failed to top 76.
"I should've done a better job in the first half of putting the ball in places where the guys could make plays," Trubisky said. "We've got to win our one-on-one matchups and I've got to be more accurate."
It was far from all on Trubisky, though. The offense that rushed for 162 yard a week ago netted exactly one yard in the first half, not including the seven-yard scramble by Trubisky in the final minute of the half.
The minor brouhaha last week surrounding ball placement for kicker Eddy Pineiro's failed field goal try against the Chargers occurred because the kicker simply missed. The concerning aspect of the situation was the apparent poor communication involved, arguably symptomatic of an underlying sloppiness that has seemed to spread in multiple directions.
The sloppiness has been an unfortunate element of Trubisky's game, in the form of inexplicably errant throws to myriad receivers. It showed up on a dropped pass by Tarik Cohen, who had one drop on 91 targets all last season but unofficially has six in 51 targets this year.
The Bears had five defensive penalties in the first 23 minutes of the first half alone, including a roughing-the-passer infraction on what was a failed Eagles fourth down. The unit that ranked among the NFL's elite last season has declined on an almost weekly basis, lowlighted Sunday by at least one defensive penalty on each of the first three Philadelphia possessions.
It's hard to place all the blame on a group that was receiving less than zero support from the other side of the football, to the point where the defense called a timeout nine snaps into Philadelphia's second possession. Presumably the group just needed a break, and timeout provided more of a break than five of the offense's six possessions of the half.
"It's frustrating for all of us," Nagy said. "It's not what we wanted or where we know we should be."