Midway through Chicago’s 24-17 loss to the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, injured Bears running back Tarik Cohen decided to say the quiet part out loud, for the whole world to hear.
“We can’t get s- - - going,” Cohen tweeted. “F - - -.”
It was in the second half, and the Bears were being shut out at the time, trailing by 17. Cohen’s tweet proceeded to rack up 214 comments, 318 retweets and 3,700 likes at the time of this column, with more than a few Bears fans, many of whom were hate-watching their team, openly pining for the days of Mitchell Trubisky.
That seems crazy given how much grief Trubisky caught for his struggles before his benching a month ago. But after watching Nick Foles, his replacement, and the Bears’ offense open the game with a turnover on downs followed by six straight punts, many began tweeting at Trubisky, apologizing to him or calling for his return to action once he heals from the shoulder injury that rendered him inactive Sunday.
So if you want to know where the Bears (5-4), losers of three straight, stand, this is as good of a place as any. Six games into the Foles era, the same issues that plagued the offense — the lack of consistent execution, silly penalties and poor offensive line play — still exist, and that, perhaps more than anything, is the most frustrating thing about this most recent loss.
Does Matt Nagy have the answers for Bears?
“To be 5-4 when you were sitting at 5-1, it hurts,” Bears coach Matt Nagy said. “But now … we’ve just got to make sure that we, at some point in time, get this thing back on track. That’s my job as a head coach to do that, and trust me, I’m going to look at everything.”
And one can’t help but wonder if that will eventually mean a return to Trubisky, who is more erratic as a pocket passer than Foles but has the athleticism to create with his feet and escape trouble. This is important given the major issues the offensive line is having.
With three starters and a top backup out due to injuries or the COVID/reserve list, a unit that has struggled to establish the run and protect the quarterback all season was again burned all game long.
Tennessee’s massive defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons was unblockable, regularly overpowering or knifing past the Bears’ overmatched reserve linemen. Linebackers Harold Landry III, Jayon Brown and Rashaan Evans were also disruptive, which is telling considering how the Titans overall have struggled to consistently generate a pass rush. On Sunday, Tennessee racked up three sacks and nine quarterback hits.
“We knew going into today’s game that it was going to be challenging in certain areas, when you’re in the position that we’re in,” Nagy said.
The Bears’ offensive struggles are certainly not all on Foles. Even though most of his production Sunday came long after the game was decided — he threw for 335 yards and two touchdowns, most of that in the fourth quarter against the Titans’ soft zone coverage — he’s a true pocket passer, one who shows better poise under pressure than Trubisky and is a better, more consistent, deep ball thrower. He also has a Super Bowl MVP pedigree that makes teammates believe in him.
With an average line, he’d be a better choice for this offense than Trubisky. He probably is anyway, hence the reason Nagy pulled the plug on Trubisky in the midst of a 2-0 start to the season.
I’d imagine most Bears fans, who are among the most passionate in the NFL, get that.
Lamenting blown draft, thirsty for Deshaun Watson or Patrick Mahomes
Seeing so many openly pining for Trubisky tells me more about the original sin committed by general manager Ryan Pace in 2017, when he moved up to take Trubisky instead of selecting Clemson’s Deshaun Watson.
(Leave Patrick Mahomes out of this. Yes, he’s amazing, but no one had him going No. 3 overall. Had the Bears taken Watson following his heroic CFP championship game performance, no one would have batted an eye.)
Some fans might be calling for Trubisky, but it’s clear they’re really pining for Watson, or someone of that ilk. And if Nagy had a player like that on his roster, we’d likely be talking about a completely different story this season.
But barring significant, rapid improvement from Trubisky over the next several weeks, a quarterback like that isn’t walking through the doors at Halas Hall until next offseason at the earliest.
And for Foles to be effective, he needs good pass protection and a strong running game, and the line isn’t good enough to do either.
So what are the Bears supposed to do?
“Right now, we’re in a situation where we’re figuring out who we are and who we want to be,” Foles said.
But answers are needed now, and Nagy says they’re currently on the roster. The Bears will next host Minnesota (3-5) in the first of three straight division games.
Chicago’s offensive line will likely continue to struggle in all phases and the more mobile Trubisky is out for reportedly only a couple of weeks, so one can’t help but wonder if Foles needs to “get it going” soon if he wants to hold onto the job.
“We do have to right the ship, and we’ve just got to do it by getting one win,” Nagy said. “We’ve got to be able to — whatever that is, by any measures — find a way to do it. And I think our guys will do that. I think they understand where we’re at.”
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