Haugh: Bears' Loss More Frustrating Than Devastating

December 02, 2018 - 6:15 pm
Categories: 

(670 The Score) Innovation only can carry an NFL team so far.

Without execution, every Sunday journey threatens to come up a little short.

And so it was for the Bears on their trip to MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., after a 30-27 overtime loss to the Giants in a game as entertaining to watch as it was excruciating to endure for coach Matt Nagy’s team.

"I’m proud of the fight till the end," Nagy told reporters postgame. "We’ve got to figure out how to learn from this."

Chicago’s most obvious lesson: Losing to a bad Giants team taught everyone just how much the Bears should appreciate injured up-and-coming quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.

Playing without their injured starter, the Bears relied on Nagy’s resourcefulness to compensate with a variety of imaginative, unorthodox moves. They received a touchdown run from a defensive tackle – Akiem Hicks conjured memories of Refrigerator Perry on a play called "Freezer left" – and a touchdown pass from a running back, Tarik Cohen on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line with three seconds left. They recovered an onside kick – even if Giants diva receiver Odell Beckham Jr. making a business decision not to jump into the fray aided Daniel Brown’s recovery with 1:12 left in regulation. 

The Bears somehow overcame a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit on the road with a struggling backup quarterback to force overtime. They nearly won a game they deserved to lose, ending a five-game winning streak that began Oct. 28 but not significantly affecting the arc of a resurgent season. The Bears still find themselves comfortably atop the NFC North after an uncomfortably rainy day on the East Coast that was an ode to NFL parity.

Bernstein: Bears can't overcome themselves on a crazy day

Once emotions cool, this will go down as the game fill-in quarterback Chase Daniel reaffirmed his role as a career backup and Nagy reminded us he was a rookie head coach – and what a costly reminder it was. It gave the Giants momentum that they lacked late in the first half.

With 17 seconds left in the second quarter and the Giants willing to meekly run out the clock down 14-7, Nagy called timeout to plot a punt block. On the ensuing third-and-23 from their own 30, Giants running back Saquon Barkley dodged Bears tacklers on one of those dazzling runs that rejuvenate teams. Barkley gained 22 yards, and the Giants perked up on the sidelines. Two snaps later, kicker Aldrick Rosas drilled a 57-yard field goal as time expired to head into the locker room happily trailing 14-10.

For the game’s first 29 minutes, 43 seconds, the Giants were looking for something to believe in, and Nagy let them find it. The Giants scored 17 unanswered points after Nagy’s timeout that served as the game’s turning point.

"I take responsibility for that," Nagy said.

Offensively, Nagy called another outstanding game that gave the Bears a chance in spite of Daniel, whose statistics – 26-of-39 for 285 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions for a passer rating of 75.3 – belied his shaky performance. The problems started early when Daniel never saw Giants linebacker Alec Ogletree, who returned a gift interception on the Bears’ second snap eight yards for a touchdown. The offense’s rhythm never developed, and Daniel’s poise that was so obvious on Thanksgiving Day in Detroit seldom surfaced against a Giants defense that looked thrilled to see him. Daniel fumbled three times in one overtime possession, including two dropped shotgun snaps for which he took responsibility.

"(Center) Cody (Whitehair) is worried about blocking 350-pound lineman – I’ve got to catch the ball," Daniel said. "It was wet, but that’s not an excuse. As a quarterback, your No. 1 job is to take care of the football. I didn’t do that. I let my team down."

Credit Daniel for making some clutch throws during the fourth-quarter rally, but he isn’t wrong. The Bears likely would have beaten the Giants with Trubisky, who threw lightly pregame and remains "day to day" with a sore shoulder. The Giants exposed Daniel’s limited mobility and rattled him in the pocket. When the Bears took over at their own 2 with 2:26 left and trailing 24-17, it would have provided the perfect opportunity for Trubisky to grow. But then again, if Trubisky were playing at that point, it’s unlikely the Bears would have required a comeback.

Film review will show the Bears offense neither had efficiency nor explosiveness under Daniel, who benefited most from some terrific catches from receivers such as Allen Robinson – like the one that used Giants cornerback B.W. Webb’s helmet as a prop – and Cohen, an emerging star.

Cohen caught 12 passes for 156 yards and ran eight times for 30 yards, not to mention his game-tying touchdown pass that required him to read his key and find the secondary receiver, Anthony Miller, open in the end zone. But as memorable as that was, that drive’s most revealing play might have come on fourth-and-3 from the Giants' 32 when Cohen – a fourth-round pick from North Carolina A&T – beat safety Landon Collins – a Pro Bowler from Alabama – for a 23-yard completion with the game on the line.

Three plays later, the Bears tied the game on the flea-flicker – "Chicago Special" – when tight end Trey Burton received a handoff and flipped it to Cohen, who rolled right and found Miller. Before the snap, the Giants called timeout, but Nagy stuck with the call he had waited to use and the Bears had practiced for weeks. What a knack Nagy has for finding the right play.

Nagy felt the same conviction on fourth-and-goal from the 1 in the second quarter when Hicks alerted officials that No. 96 was an eligible receiver. Though, when a 6-foot-5-inch, 332-pound player lines up in the backfield, who isn’t going to notice?

"He’s hard to stop down there when he’s full steam ahead," Nagy said of Hicks.

The Giants couldn’t and Hicks carried the ball over the left guard into the end one and cradled it all the way to the sideline for safekeeping, like a little kid clutching a souvenir.

"Fridge revisited, Akiem Hicks punctures the goal line!" Bears play-by-play man Jeff Joniak bellowed on WBBM-AM.

"It was a fun play," Hicks added.

It was a frustrating day overall for the Bears, but more difficult than devastating in the big picture with every division foe also losing. Every realistic goal remains attainable.

"I absolutely love this team and where we’re at," Nagy insisted. "This is life, man. How are you going to react to it?"

For the Bears, the easy answer comes with another question: When does Trubisky return?

David Haugh is the co-host of the Mully & Haugh Show on 670 The Score weekdays from 5-9 a.m. Listen to the show here. You can follow him on Twitter @DavidHaugh and email him at [email protected].​​​​​​​