ATM: Nagy Must Cure the “Bye Week Blues”

| September 10th, 2019

The more time the Chicago Bears have had to prepare for game day under Matt Nagy, the worse they’ve been.

Last Thursday’s loss dropped the Bears to 0-4 under Matt Nagy when they have had more than eight days to prepare for a game. That stretch dates back to last season’s opener when they fell to Packers 24-23. It also includes includes a post-bye week loss to a bad Miami team led by Brock Osweiler and a post-Thanksgiving loss to a bad New York Giants team.

The only real similarity in all of the losses was inconsistent and sloppy offensive play. While the defense let them down in all three losses last year — allowing more than 30 points twice — the offense wasn’t necessarily sharp either. “Not sharp” would be a generous assessment of last week’s performance.

Why the Bears tend to struggle in these situations is a bit of a mystery. It’s possible that Nagy over-thinks the games. That appeared to be the case Thursday when many of his scripted plays appeared to be designed to trick the defense. That worked a year ago when the Bears marched down the field on their first two possessions against the Packers. But this is a different Packers defense, with six new starters, and they didn’t fall for any of Nagy’s misdirection.

Could the Bears have benefited from preseason action? There is some evidence.. Of the five quarterbacks who didn’t throw a single pass in preseason, four struggled for at least a half. Trubisky and Rodgers were terrible. Jared Goff’s Rams got going offensively, but he struggled individually, finishing with a passer rating of just 69 in a 30-27 win over Carolina.

Carson Wentz’s final stat line from Sunday looks good with 313 yards, three touchdowns and a passer rating of 121. But the Eagles had less than 120 yards and only seven points at halftime as they trailed an expected-to-be bad Washington team 20-7.

The exception to the rule appears to be Phil Rivers, who threw two first-quarter touchdown passes and surpassed 330 yards passing for the game. Even his performance wasn’t as good as the numbers might indicate, though, as one of his touchdowns was a jump ball that could’ve easily been intercepted and another was a long catch-and-run.

The only other quarterback who had played as of this writing with fewer than 10 passing attempts in the preseason was Cam Newton, who had a passer rating of 72.1, throwing for 239 yards and an interception. The Panthers had just three points in the first half.

If you go back and listen to what Nagy said about not playing his starters in the preseason, he didn’t say it didn’t matter. He said the risks — presumably injury — outweighed the reward. Can we presume the reward is a stronger start? Either way, the Bears should’ve been able to right the ship by halftime just like the Eagles and Rams.

What makes Nagy’s struggles in this department really odd is that he studied under Andy Reid, whose teams are 18-3 after a bye week and have scored 27 or more points in every season opener since 2014.

Nagy has to get this figured out. The Bears have a long stretch between games this week, playing in Denver 10 days after they hosted Green Bay. The Bears will host New Orleans after a bye week and will have a 10-day break between their games against Dallas and Green Bay later in the season. Those are all key games.

If the Bears come away without a win in any, they won’t be playing in January.

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