3 Takeaways from Bears' Week 9 Loss
The Chicago Bears' 2021 season isn't quite spiraling out of control, but it's not barrelling toward the playoffseither. Monday night's loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers was a microcosm of how things have been for Chicago—a little promising, especially where rookie quarterback Justin Field is concerned, but ultimately not good enough.
The Bears surged late in Monday's game to take a 27-26 fourth-quarter lead. Less than a month ago, they were 3-2 and battling the Green Bay Packers for a share of the division lead. Chicago allowed Pittsburgh to mount a comeback and has now lost four in a row.
Fields continues to show growth, but it's becoming increasingly clear that while he'll be a part of Chicago's future, head coach Matt Nagy may not be. What's almost certain as the Bears head into their Week 10 bye, is that the playoffs aren't in the cards this season.
Here are three key takeaways from Chicago's 29-27 loss in Week 9.
Nagy Is Not the Right Coach to Develop Fields
Nagy has done a respectable job as Chicago's head coach. He's taken the Bears to the playoffs in two of three years, and he's yet to have a losing season. However, Nagy hasn't taken Chicago past the wild-card round and this season has been out-coached early and often.
On Monday, it took until the second half for the Bears to start countering Steelers pass-rusher T.J. Watt with chips and bootlegs. Fields was still sacked three times in the game and has repeatedly been exposed to pressure by Nagy's game plan—and the results haven't been much better since Bill Lazor took over as play-caller.
Fields has been sacked a league-high 29 times in nine games (seven starts).
The Bears aren't a better team than they were a year ago, or two years ago, and a lot of that falls on Nagy.
"There has been too much uninspired football and too little progress by too many players," Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote. "Also, his offense stinks. And his team is disorganized and undisciplined."
Nagy is wearing out his welcome with the local media and undoubtedly with fans. It was impossible to watch Monday's game and feel like Fields' development would be any better than Mitchell Trubisky's under Nagy.
Chciago Isn't Good Enough to Overcome Sloppy Football
Good teams can overcome self-inflicted mistakes. The Cleveland Browns were penalized 10 times for 84 yards on Sunday and still won by 25 points. The Bears, however, are not one of those teams.
Now, it's fair to note that some of the calls against Chicago on Monday were questionable at best—most notably a taunting call against linebacker Cassius Marsh. However, the officials cannot be blamed for Bears defenders repeatedly lining up in the neutral zone and other dumb penalties that ultimately helped dooms Chicago.
In all, the Bears were flagged 12 times for 115 yards.
It wasn't all about the flags, though. Jakeem Grant fumbled away a fourth-quarter kickoff after Pittsburgh made it a 10-point game. The Bears were only 1-of-7 on third down in the opening half.
The Bears offense did come alive in the second half—it finished with 414 total yards after having just 127 in the first half—and Chicago did take a late lead. However, sloppy play, poor decisions and a lack of early adjustments left the Bears with too many obstacles to overcome.
Fields Has the Tools to Be Special
It wasn't all bad for Bears fans on Monday. While the team didn't get the win, Fields showed that he has the physical and mental skills to be a consistent winner in the NFL.
Fields finished 17-of-29 for 291 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He also ran eight times for 45 yards. More importantly, though, Fields rallied his team in the second half, showing the leadership needed to steady a franchise.
When the Bears needed a go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter, Fields rose to the challenge.
"You can either be the guy who always gets put in that position and doesn't show up or you can be that guy who shows up in the big moments," Fields said, per NFL.com's Grant Gordon. "So, I mean that's what my mindset was and I was just calm and just focused on showing up."
Fields took the Bears 75 yards in seven plays to get the go-ahead score on a strike to Darnell Mooney.
Unfortunately, the Bears couldn't stop Pittsburgh from responding with a go-ahead field goal, and their own 65-yard attempt fell short. Fields' future in Chicago, though, remains bright.