Backup quarterback Chase Daniel took some well-deserved blame for Sunday’s 30-27 overtime loss to the Giants, but it was a game the Bears’ defense was built to win, and it failed miserably.
Daniel and running back Tarik Cohen, with a big assist from Cody Parkey and tight end Daniel Brown, who recovered Parkey’s onside kick, somehow managed to send the game into overtime. And when the Giants won the coin flip and elected to receive, you couldn’t blame Bears fans if they were convinced the defense would stonewall the Giants and set the offense up with good field position.
It took one play to dissuade folks of that notion. Giants rookie running back Saquon Barkley burst around right end for 29 yards into Bears territory. Still, the defense could have held and kept the Giants off the board. But it allowed 30 more yards on six plays to set up Aldrick Rosas’ 44-yard, go-ahead field goal. With a chance to tie or win when they got the ball, the Bears managed one first down. Game over.
Asked if he was worried that coordinator Vic Fangio’s high-priced defense that has been years in the making was unable to finish, coach Matt Nagy said he wasn’t concerned.
“We have a lot of confidence,” Nagy said. “Our guys have tons of belief in our system. They understand what Vic’s doing. Vic puts them in great situations, along with the rest of our coaches. We’ve had games where we have finished. [Sunday], they had a couple big plays. I thought for the most part overall we did a good job shutting down the run, except for a couple big plays. And those ‘except for a couple big plays’ can get you.”
Yes, the Bears’ defense has finished off previous games – the victories over the Cardinals and Lions (on Thanksgiving) spring to mind. But this was about failing to finish off a Giants offense that is 24th in the league in total yards. It was a game that was there for the taking, but the Bears’ defense got taken for a ride by Barkley (125 yards on 24 carries) and his 4-8 teammates.
“That first [play] to start overtime, No. 1, if anything, it flips the field,” Nagy admitted. “And so they executed it. That’s a credit to them for doing a good job there. I’m not worried about our guys.”
Maybe he should be, because that was only one of several defensive flops.
A Nagy timeout with 17 seconds left in the first half backfired when Barkley busted a 22-yard run on third-and-23 with six seconds left. A quick nine-yard completion set up a 57-yard Rosas field goal that narrowed the Bears’ lead to 14-10.
“I’m OK with that,” Nagy said of his timeout. “What I’m not OK with is the play that happened after that and the play that happened after that, OK? So we need to get that fixed.”
But that’s not all the defense needs to fix, especially with the Rams coming to Soldier Field with the NFL’s No. 2 offense for a prime-time contest Sunday night. There were several other breakdowns that were concerning.
Barkley rambled 14 and nine yards to set up Odell Beckham’s 49-yard TD pass. Then Barkley ran for 11 yards and caught a 17-yard pass to set up Beckham’s one-yard TD catch a few minutes later in a third quarter in which the Giants rolled up 135 yards of offense. Nagy said one loss doesn’t change who the Bears are, but a similar effort against the Rams might.
“I have ultimate trust in every single person in our building,” Nagy said. “I told them [Sunday] night that we’re going to use this as a positive and regroup.”
What made Sunday’s defensive letdown so shocking was the way the Bears’ defense started the game, allowing only 72 yards on 24 plays (3-yard average) in the first 29:43. Before the Giants’ late field goal, their first six possessions ended with
five punts and an interception. But in the final 30:17, the Bears permitted
266 yards on 44 plays, a 6-yard average.
“Defensively, it was kind of a tale of two halves,” Nagy said. “We had the field goal at the end of the half (the first points for the Giants’ offense), and then to start the second half, [they went] touchdown, touchdown and then a couple punts and field goal, field goal [in overtime]. It was a little bit different there. I felt that we could have been better defensively in the second half.”
They’ll have to be Sunday night to have any chance against the Rams.