Three main areas of concern for Bears after loss to Packers

John Mullin
NBC Sports Chicago

It is a question that routinely arises around a team like the Bears after a game like their 24-23 collapse Sunday night against the Green Bay Packers, in which the Bears built and then squandered a 20-point lead in less than two quarters: Are the 2018 Bears a good, young team that had a bad half, or a so-so, flawed team that had one good half?

Or both? Or neither? Or does it really matter, since the real answer will play out in weekly installments beginning next Monday night against the Seattle Seahawks?

Are the real 2018 Bears the ones who beat on Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, scoring on both sides of the football? Or the ones that drop gimme interceptions, can't pick up a yard or two for a couple third-down conversions, and let themselves become both complacent and rattled with a defining victory in their hands?

Coach Matt Nagy gave the requisite morning-after critique on Monday, pointing the thumb as much as any fingers:

"If you have the negative, pessimistic approach to it, then that's all wrong. We're not gonna have that. We're not gonna have it as coaches. We're not gonna have it as players.

"(The players) realize that it was really a tale of two halves, stating the obvious, and that's on both sides of the football, offensively and defensively. So we gotta really have that ‘finish' mentality. We can't talk about it. We gotta do it, everybody included."

But distilling any sort of meaningful indicators requires assessing more than simply a mentality.

The offense and the coach

The gushing over the arrival of Nagy's offense and the reshaping of the receiver group in particular was premature. Period. It has been all spring and summer and it remains so. Consider a precedent:

In 1999 the same gush occurred when then-coordinator Gary Crowton came in with coach Dick Jauron, bringing with him bubble screens and all the other elements of what Kansas City coach Guenther Cunningham derisively dubbed a "razzle-dazzle offense." That newly minted Bears offense ran out to a 20-3 first-half lead over the Chiefs, scoring the first four times it had the football and then ... crickets, failing to reach 20 points in six of its next eight games.

Staying power is problematic, even for a tested scheme like the West Coast offense. In 2013 the Marc Trestman offense streaked to a 3-0 start scoring 32 points per game, on the way to the second-highest season scoring total in franchise history. That was down to below 20 the next year, and deteriorated to 15, 14 and 9 points in Trestman's final three games.

All of which can be dismissed as ancient history, if for no other reason than Nagy is not Crowton and Trestman, and their offenses were saddled with Shane Matthews/Cade McNown and Jay Cutler as the quarterbacks.

But Sunday was the first meaningful referendum on both Nagy's offense and Nagy himself. The first two possessions rocked the Packers backwards for 10 quick points, but the early plays of a game are scripted, and in this case largely unscouted by Green Bay.

The Bears arguably had the big advantage of the surprise element. They won't have that as much in the weeks ahead.

"We had eight-, nine-, 10-, 12- and 14-play drives; that's the good part," Nagy said. "The bad part is we struggled in the red zone, so we've gotta get that fixed. The other part of it is of those other five (possessions), three of them were three-and-outs. Three-and-outs you just can't have."

The Bears offense netted 10 points from their first two possessions; it produced just six points from its next eight.

The quarterback

Nagy and coaches pushed Trubisky to be aggressive throughout the off- and preseason. He was that in the first quarter, even most of the first half.

But in the second, Trubisky appeared rattled at times, his accuracy dipped significantly (from 11-of-14 passing to 12-of-21), and he ran with the ball four times in 25 dropbacks, holding the football longer with a seeming reluctance to let the ball go as he'd been encouraged during camp.

Nagy disputed any suggestion that Trubisky had turned cautious, sort of answering the question but more just pointing to his own playcalling as cause of any apparent Trubisky shrinkage: "No, not at all. He's going to go ahead and play through what we give him. So if you are up 20-0 and you're running the ball pretty well, you want to be able to continue to keep doing that."

Trubisky's passer rating for the game (77.2) was virtually identical to his number for last season (77.5) - hardly a conclusive statement that he is not yet taking the big step toward franchise-quarterback status. But until he does, he hasn't.

The defense

Rodgers has put startling numbers on scoreboards before, and he's done it against the Bears: He has 13 fourth-quarter career comebacks, six of which have come at the Bears' expense.

The Vic Fangio defense was gored Sunday for 24 points and just short of 300 yards in the second half. But where the offense might be accorded an excuse for having a new system, first-time head coach and quarterback in just his 13th NFL game, the defense's issues are exponentially more concerning.

As in: The potential game-concluding fourth-quarter interception was dropped, not by a wide-eyed rookie cornerback; it was muffed by Kyle Fuller, for whom the Bears matched a Green Bay offer sheet paying him $14 million per season.

Fangio's defense has five No. 1 picks plus supposed other elites, based on the sizes of contracts given, including Eddie Goldman, Akiem Hicks and Danny Trevathan. The unit was top-10 in yards and points allowed last season, added Khalil Mack and eighth-overall draft pick Roquan Smith, yet may have gotten a little "complacent," according to Trevathan.

Complacent against Aaron Rodgers. Enough said.

What to Read Next