Payton Presser: Bears come up 1 yard short vs. Patriots
What better way to bounce back after a tough loss then to welcome Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the Patriots to Soldier Field. No big deal, right? Not so fast, Bears fans. Sunday, Matt Nagy’s team literary came up a yard short on Mitchell Trubisky’s Hail Mary to force overtime or win the ballgame. If you told me before the game that the Bears would score 31 points and hold Brady to 24 points, but the special teams would give up 14 points, I would have rolled my eyes. That really happened on Sunday afternoon. What’s so frustrating is the Bears should have and could have won the game. The same could be said as well about the other two games they lost this season. The Bears needed all three phases of the game to win this one. They came up short as the Patriots held on to beat the Bears 38-31. Lots to break down from this contest, so let’s jump right into it.
Evaluating the progress of Trubiksy seems to always kickoff my Pressers. It makes sense with all that is riding on his shoulders as the Bears franchise QB. Let’s be real. When you look at the stat sheet, Trubiksy had another big day. Trubisky completed 26 of 50 passes for 333 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions while adding 81 yards and a touchdown on the ground. He did throw 2 picks and it could have been a couple more, but he got lucky. With the Pats being able to create pressure, Trubisky was able to use his feet to make a play. One thing we didn’t see Sunday was his deep accuracy. Most of the damage that Trubisky made was in the middle of the field to Tarik Cohen and Trey Burton. The Trubisky/Burton connection was on full display. Burton had a monster game catching nine passes for 126 yards and a touchdown. While the Pats corners were trying to shut down outside the hash marks, Burton was able to find holes in the Pats defense for some big plays. Still, the Bears offense is relying on the pass and Trubisky’s running ability. I keep saying this week after week, guys. The Bears offense needs to have more of a balanced attack if we are going to see it flourish. That means the Bears are going to have to find a way to get Jordan Howard going so Trubisky can get the one-on-one match-ups he needs on the outside. Trubiksy had some throws that he wishes he could have back in this contest and he would be the first to tell you that he and the offense have to play better. That’s a fact.
My hope was the Bears defense would come out and shut down all the naysayers talking bad about them after their previous outing in Miami. That didn’t happen. What came out of Sunday’s contest was more questions about Vic Fangios’s unit that has shown flashes of dominance this season. Last week, it was the heat in South Florida. Sunday, the Bears couldn’t bring the heat to affect Tom Brady in the pocket. There have been some glaring issues last week that seemed to carry over into Sunday’s game. The Bears’ defense’s inability to make key tackles reared its ugly head again.
The lack of pressure on the QB has been the big storyline over the last two weeks. Khalil Mack was not the man we are accustomed to seeing on Sunday as he seems to be hobbled with the ankle injury he suffered last week. He was more of a decoy in the game plan, dropping back in coverage most of the day. Since putting on a Bears uniform, Mack has been the driving force behind the defense. He sets the table and brings the energy.
With his ankle injury, he hasn’t been able to spark the defense. What’s so troubling is Mack covered up most of the deficiencies of the defense. What we’ve seen over the first 6 games is the Bears defense is relying so much on Mack to create, make plays and set others up to be successful. With a healthy Mack, the Bears are a top-5 defense. With an injured Mack, like the Bears have had on the field the last two contests, I’m not sure where you should rank them. Someone is going to have to step up. What is even scarier is thinking about if the Bears never acquired Mack before the season started.
After the Bears special teams unit forced and recovered Cordarrelle Patterson’s fumble on the kickoff in the 1st quarter, I thought the momentum was on the Bears’ side in the 3rd phase of the game. I was sadly mistaken. The Pats would score 14 points on special teams plays and they were heartbreaking. First, was Cordarrelle Patterson’s 95 yard return for a TD. Then, in the 3rd quarter, the Pats special teams struck again with a blocked punt and 29-yard return for a touchdown. It’s funny because most people only talk about the offense and defense after a game. But when your team gives up points on special teams, that fuels a whole other level of post-game banter from the fans. The fact that the special teams was a big reason why the Bears lost on Sunday makes this one even tougher to swallow.
Last week in Miami, I gave the Bears a pass in my book because of the heat. That’s only because I played there for 5 years and know what it’s like. Sunday against the Pats, at home, there weren’t any excuses. They got beat by the better team. The Bears have a way to go to be at the top tier of teams in the NFL. You don’t just get there overnight. It takes time and it takes going through rough times. The true test of a team is how they battle back after back-to-back losses, have a star player hurt and offensive weapons banged up. For me, I want to see how Nagy’s team responds moving forward. So many Bears fans come up to me and say they are nervous about the last two games. Don’t be. Nagy’s squad has a lot more growing pains to go through. The one thing I want to see is this team learn how to close games. Seeing this Bears team in every game that they’ve played this year is a good sign. But their ability to close games needs some work. As Bears fans, we are starving for big things with this organization. I’m here to tell you it will come, but we can’t jump over the necessary steps that it takes to build a championship caliber team. Things are getting better Bears fans, trust me. Embrace the process. Same time, same place, next week everyone. #Beardown