PHILADELPHIA — The Bears could have beat the Eagles. They probably should have beat the Eagles.
We know this because despite the worst first half offensive performance in at least 40 years, the Bears still had the ball in the fourth quarter with the chance to take the lead. Somehow, some way, they only trailed 19-14 with 10 minutes left in a game in which they managed just nine yards and one first down in the first half.
Those are real numbers. That really happened. According to ESPN Stats & Info, it was the fewest yards the Bears managed in a first half in 40 years. Think about all the bad Bears offenses you’ve watched in the last 40 years. Sunday’s performance against the Eagles was the worst.
And yet, the Bears were in the game. They trailed 12-0 at halftime, even though they were getting out-gained 202-9 in total yardage. And they nearly came back and won the game.
But enough of the “could haves” in 2019. Once again, the Bears didn’t. They lost 22-14 and are now 3-5 on the season while riding a four-game losing streak.
“Just really, really sloppy,” Bears head coach Matt Nagy said after the game. “Extremely sloppy.”
After a startling loss to the Raiders in London, Nagy vowed to spend the bye week self-scouting a fixing his offense.
After a blowout loss to the Saints in Chicago, he vowed to run the ball more.
And, after a crushing loss to the Chargers, he vowed to fix the red zone problems and insisted his offense was close to breaking out.
Sunday, after the worst half of offensive football most Bears fans have ever witnessed, Nagy was all out of promises. And answers.
“It’s frustrating for all of us. It’s not what we wanted or where we know we should be. So, that’s where it’s at,” he said.
The Bears started Sunday’s game with five straight three-and-outs, all caused by negative plays and self-inflicted wounds.
Drive 1: David Montgomery stopped for a loss of three yards on second down.
Drive 2: Mitchell Trubisky sacked on first down.
Drive 3: Cordarrelle Patterson called for a holding penalty on first down.
Drive 4: Adam Shaheen guilty of a false start on first down.
Drive 5: Trubisky sacked on third down.
The Bears simply don’t have enough talent to overcome negative plays. And they have no chance to win when they have that many negative plays in one half — or at least they shouldn’t.
And yet, other than the loss blowout loss to the Saints, other parts of this Bears team keep reminding fans of what should have been this season. Once again, the defense kept the Bears within reach Sunday, while the offense did just enough in the second half to tease and torture Bears fans with glimmers of hope.
Unfortunately, those flashes of hope — and offensive competence — are the exception, not the rule. Trubisky managed to spark the offense with a 53-yard completion to Taylor Gabriel in the third quarter, but later underthrew Allen Robinson on a deep ball down the right sideline that could have been a touchdown, but instead fell incomplete.
“It looked like he had it, and then he didn’t,” Trubisky said. “I’m going to have to watch that one on film.”
When he does watch it, he’ll see that a throw in stride would have put Robinson in position to score, instead of making it a 50-50 ball that the veteran wide receiver probably still should have caught.
After the game, Robinson sat in his locker for a long time seemingly staring off into space. He finished with just one catch for six yards.
“You’re trying to find solutions, basically, to how we’re going to spark this offense to get going,” Trubisky said.
Whatever spark there was Sunday in Philadelphia was extinguished by more mistakes. On what turned out to the be the Bears’ final offensive drive, rookie running back David Montgomery dropped an easy screen pass with a ton of green grass in front of him. Then, on 3rd-and-9, Trubisky didn’t see what he thought he saw and the drive stalled. The Bears punted from their own 48-yard-line with 8:48 to go and never ran another offensive play.
“I was actually thinking about running and leaving the pocket,” Trubisky said about his final snap of the game. “I should have put myself in (shot)gun, not under center. I was looking deep and it looked like the guy was jumping on (Gabriel’s) route and I thought Adam (Shaheen) was free so I just tried to get it to him in the flat, but it wasn’t a good play, so I gotta be better.”
Shaheen was not free. He was covered by Eagles cornerback Avonte Maddox near the line of scrimmage and Maddox broke up a pass that wouldn’t have been anywhere close to a first down anyway. Also confusing on the play was a play-action element that seemed useless on 3rd-and-9.
But then again, most of this season has been hard to explain. The Bears keep showing that they could’ve returned to the playoffs. The reality is that they won’t.