Still within what he calls a 24-hour window to remain “pissed off” following a loss, Matt Nagy sifted through the details Monday morning with optimism for what lies ahead for the Bears while also acknowledging his “dark side” came out.
Nagy reviewed film of Sunday’s 24-21 loss to the Raiders at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, and found only a little time for sleep before facing questions about the defeat as the team packed up and prepared for the return flight to Chicago.
The usually stout Bears defense was trampled as the Raiders rushed for 169 yards and had two touchdown drives of 90 or more yards. The pass rush didn’t produce a sack and Raiders quarterback Derek Carr was 25 of 32 for 229 yards despite missing his two best receivers. Nagy said the belief is that was an aberration, the kind of all-at-once slump by defensive players that won’t be an issue moving forward.
“Big picture, in my opinion, obviously the defense after five games – four out of the five games have been lights out,” Nagy said. “I mean, on another level. So you guys had a question going into it: What’s going to happen with Coach (Chuck) Pagano vs. Vic Fangio? That one’s been answered. And then, special teams right now is playing phenomenal. They are doing a lot of great things.
“Offensively, the numbers show, and we all know, we all understand it, we’re not playing where we need to be at. We need to be more productive. It’s inevitable that a defense that we’ve had the first four weeks of the season, there’s going to be a time when there’s a little struggle. (Sunday) happened to be that. That’s credit to Oakland. But when is the offense going to step up and take over for that? You know?”
Finding answers to those questions becomes the goal for Nagy and his staff as the Bears launch into their bye week. Players will be off all week and coaches will get some time off, but first they’re going to go head-long into self-scouting as they search for keys to unlocking an offense that has been disjointed at best this season. The 3-2 start matches where the Bears were through five games a year ago following a frustrating overtime loss against the Dolphins, one that Nagy likened in some ways to the Raiders loss.
“My only experience as a head coach is pulling from last year and seeing that where we’re at now is the same spot,” Nagy said. “And so we’re 3-2, we have a winning record, we know that we’ve been in every game. I love the character of our guys so that when you hit a little bit of adversity, we know that we’ll pull together and be able to use these losses to make us better.”
The offense will be Nagy’s primary focus. Seven of the Bears’ 11 possessions were three plays or less. Entering Monday, they are keeping company with the lowly Dolphins and Jets in a couple offensive categories. That’s dark as in macabre, the kind of stuff that will keep a coach up for consecutive nights even in a week off.
• Points per game: 17.4 (28th in NFL)
• Yards per play: 4.5 (30th)
• Passer rating: 86.3 (24th)
• Yards per attempt: 5.2 (30th)
• Rushing yards per game: 80.6 (26th)
• Yards per rush: 3.4 (29th)
“We have a happy-go-lucky attitude around the building,” Nagy said. “We have fun. Every now and then, though, you need to be able to show a dark side. And they need to see that and feel that. It just so happened that (Sunday) was one of those days that they felt it. I know they felt it. They also know the importance that they mean to us as coaches, and to me as a head coach, where I’ll always have my arm around them and always be there to listen, too. Because that’s a part of this, too. Let’s listen to them and see how we can collaborate together to get answers.”
Nagy is searching for answers in the running game. He believes he’s identified a key to the ongoing struggles. Naturally, he doesn’t want to identify and tip off future opponents such as the Saints, Chargers, Eagles, Lions or Rams on a schedule that is about to turn more difficult.
The offensive line hasn’t performed well, at least not consistently, and that was a significant issue against the Raiders. The Bears are not going to switch center James Daniels and left guard Cody Whitehair and about the only personnel changes they could make would involve Ted Larsen, when his knee injury heals, and undrafted rookie Alex Bars, who just got a pay raise to remain on the team’s practice squad.
“You’ve got to win your 1-on-1 battles and that’s just not the offensive line, that’s everybody,” Nagy said. “Whenever you have some places within your game that are struggling, that’s immediately what you go to and so there is a challenge there for all of us to be better and that happens to be that right there. Win your 1-on-1 battle. You win your 1-on-1 battle then good things should happen.”
Self-scouting often refers to tendencies an offense or defense has, in terms of personnel groupings, formations, down and distance. Bears assistants provide detailed breakdowns of that information on a weekly basis. That’s not data that becomes relevant just because there’s a break in the schedule. Nagy is talking about a deeper dive when the process begins at Halas Hall.
“To me, it’s not so much about that as it is you’re really able to self-scout the players and how they’re performing,” he said. “That’s what this one is probably more about with where we’re at offensively right now.
“I had to (crack the whip) last year. I did. There were times where we had to do it. It’s just coming a little bit earlier. That’s where we’re at. I just really trust and appreciate who these guys are as people. I trust that they’re going to figure out a way, along with us, what the answers are. And we stick together. We’re 3-2. We’re at a point now where we’re going to be OK. And we’re going to get answers.”