In the midst of a Meek Mill-fueled adrenaline rush, Nick Foles might’ve made the most compelling argument for why the 2020 Bears, actually, are a good football team.
“Would you rather lose pretty or win ugly? I think that we’d rather win ugly,” Foles said. “… If we were winning these games and playing perfect and they were this tight and we’re playing perfect, what do you do? Where do you improve? I mean, then we’re sitting here and, I guess when we play those (good) teams, it’s just not going to happen.”
The Bears are 5-1. You might think they’re the worst 5-1 team in NFL history. You might not be wrong if you do. As Foles said, they’ve been far from perfect.
But the Bears know that, and aren’t fooling themselves despite their impressive record. They don't believe they're close to their ceiling and are focusing more on fixing their sloppy, mistake-laden football than the shine of their record.
Foles, in his fiery postgame Zoom session – a virtual setting usually not conducive to emotion or energy – did an admirable job toeing the line between being happy with being 5-1 while also acknowledging the Bears have to play better to keep on winning in 2020.
“We’re a team that is young offensively, we’re growing, we’re getting to know each other, we’re figuring out who we are and we’re doing it at the right time, and as a team we’re winning these games,” Foles said. “And I think that is what is important. Now, we’re not going to get complacent and say, ‘Hey man, we’re 5-1. This is it.’ No. We’re sitting there in the locker room after the game talking through it, ‘We gotta be better here. This is what we gotta do. Communication here. Route running here. Hey, we gotta be able to run the ball here.’
“We know that. I know you all are going to ask those questions. We know that. And that’s what’s exciting because we don’t have to have y’all (the media) say, ‘Hey, are you doing this?’ We know. But we also know we’re going to improve because we believe in one another and that’s what great teams do.
“Great teams find a way to win a game. Bad teams win with prettiness.”
(I think the Kansas City Chiefs might disagree with that last line.)
Coach Matt Nagy, too, didn’t want to harp on the mistakes the Bears made over the course of Sunday afternoon – mistakes which, if they happen in the next three weeks, might actually doom the Bears to a loss (or three).
If the Bears call a timeout on third and goal to avoid a delay of game penalty, then after the stoppage still get penalized for delay of game? The Los Angeles Rams are going to take advantage.
If the Bears know the offense is trying to draw them offside, yet still have a player jump into the neutral zone in a goal-to-go situation against the New Orleans Saints? That’s the kind of stuff that doesn’t win you games against good teams.
If Nagy calls for a pass on third-and-two inside the two-minute warning instead of running the ball and forcing the Tennessee Titans to call their last timeout? That’s the kind of thing that might actually lead to a comeback when you're facing arguably the best team in the NFL.
There were far too many moments against the Panthers that didn’t lead to a loss in Charlotte, but very well could in Los Angeles or Chicago or Nashville in the next few weeks against better teams than the Panthers. And if those miscues continue to pop up, 5-1 will become 5-4 real fast.
“We’re doing enough right now to get the wins,” Nagy said, “and I refuse to take away the excitement that we have as a team right now in that locker room.”
Nagy has never been one to diminish the importance of a win in the NFL – it’s why he re-opened “Club Dub” last year after an ugly Bears win over the Lions snapped a four-game losing streak that all but ruined his team’s playoff hopes. But when he watches the film of Sunday’s game, he’s surely going to see far too many mistakes.
The worrying thing for the Bears is that Nagy identified those mistakes last week – “details,” as he railed against after Week 5’s win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers – but his team was not able to correct them for large chunks of Sunday’s game. While Foles is deeply confident in this offense’s upside, you also have to start wondering if what we saw against Carolina is what we’ll see the rest of the year.
As in: An offense that can’t take deep shots because defenses are taking them away; a sputtering run game behind an offensive line that can’t deal with stunts; and a ruinous frequency of penalties that can easily torpedo the long, methodical drives Foles needs to put together.
Coupled with a defense that does seem to be finding its groove, and the Bears' best-case might be to score just enough points to support standout play from Kyle Fuller, Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks, Roquan Smith, etc. Although...
All it took was one hot streak from Foles for the Philadelphia Eagles to win a Lombardi Trophy a few years ago. All the Bears need to do is get into the playoffs to give themselves a chance of catching Foles on another playoff hot streak, where everything comes together and all of a sudden he's hoisting a Lombardi Trophy.
There's a lot to fix. But it's way better to have a lot to fix when you're 5-1, isn't it?
“We’re not getting complacent,” Foles said. “We want to get better, and we’re talking. It’s easy to say hey, 5-1, this is awesome in the NFL. No, that’s not what I see here. And I’ve been on teams where maybe at the beginning of the season maybe you’re trying to figure out who you are offensively, you’re sputtering at times and then all of a sudden you just keep believing, you keep working, you keep watching film – who do we want to be, what do we do well, how can we do this.
“And then all of a sudden there’s that one game that it just clicks. And it’s happened many times in my career. I’ve been a part of it. But it all starts after games like this.”