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The Bears’ biggest problem is they’re scared to play offense

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Matt Nagy doesn’t trust his offense to make a positive play and, honestly, it’s hard to blame him.

Los Angeles Chargers v Chicago Bears Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

Fear is why the Bears chose to kneel in the last minute against the Chargers. It’s also the main reason Chicago left Week 8 with a 17-16 loss.

Set up with a fresh set of downs on the Chargers’ 21-yard line and trailing 17-16, Chicago had 43 seconds to score a game-winning touchdown or make a field goal easier for kicker Eddy Piñeiro. Bears head coach Matt Nagy called for a kneeldown instead, because he was afraid of his offense screwing things up.

He was more confident that Piñeiro — who missed a 33-yard field goal in the first quarter — would make a 41-yard field goal to win the game. Piñeiro missed wide left.

It was a bad decision by Nagy, especially with the benefit of hindsight. But he wasn’t ready to hear it after the game. He told reporters he didn’t consider trying to get closer because he afraid of a negative play.

“I have zero thought of running the ball and taking the chance of fumbling the football or they know you’re running the football so you lose three or four yards,” Nagy told reporters. “Throw the football? What happens if you take a sack or lose a fumble?

“I’ll just be brutally clear: Zero thought of throwing the football; zero thought of running the football.”

The underlying message there is that Nagy doesn’t trust his offense at all. Can you blame him?

The Bears offense couldn’t get a single yard when it needed to

Chicago finished the loss to the Chargers with 388 yards of total offense. That’s a solid number that’s above the league average and easily the highest total of the year for the Bears. They hadn’t even reached 300 yards once in their first six games of the season.

But all that yardage didn’t yield many points; five trips to the red zone produced just one touchdown.

None of those red zone failures was more excruciating than the Bears failing to get a touchdown in the final minute of the first half. With 46 seconds left, Chicago had a first-and-goal at the 4-yard line with two timeouts. The next seven (yep, seven!) plays for the Bears went like this:

  • First down: David Montgomery rushes for no gain (Bears call timeout)
  • Second down: Mitchell Trubisky passes to Cordarrelle Patterson for 1 yard (Bears call timeout)
  • Third down: Mitchell Trubisky’s pass to Allen Robinson is incomplete, but draws a pass interference penalty
  • First down: Mitchell Trubisky’s pass to Adam Shaheen is incomplete
  • Second down: David Montgomery rushes for no gain
  • Third down: Mitchell Trubisky spikes
  • Fourth down: Eddy Piñeiro’s 19-yard field goal is good

The chip-shot field goal for Piñeiro gave the Bears a 9-7 lead at halftime, but Chicago rained down deserved boos on the team anyway.

The most frustrating of those unsuccessful plays was from a shotgun formation on the 1-yard line that put four receivers on one side of the field. An isolated one-on-one matchup for Shaheen was an odd call, but it had a chance. Instead, it was tipped at the line of scrimmage, putting the Bears dangerously close to a costly turnover.

It’s a play that shows exactly why Nagy is scared of putting the game in the offense’s hands. Trubisky’s inaccuracy and poor decision-making turns every choice to throw into a roll of the dice for the Bears.

The third-year quarterback threw an interception and lost a fumble in the loss to the Chargers. Both Trubisky turnovers gave Los Angeles the ball in Bears territory. The fumble set up the fourth quarter touchdown that gave the Chargers the 17-16 lead that eventually became the final score.

Trubisky has struggled all season for the Bears. His poor play is also the most significant reason Nagy is afraid of the offense making a crucial mistake.

The decision to kneel wasn’t the only time Nagy showed he has no faith in his offense. The Bears had the ball in Chargers territory with just over two minutes left in the game, because Nagy would much rather trust his defense.

That decision actually worked out. The Bears defense forced a three-and-out and gave the offense a chance. When the Chicago offense did just enough to get into field goal range, Nagy didn’t have confidence in it to get any further. That’s both understandable and deeply concerning for the Bears.