3 Takeaways from Bears' Week 15 Loss

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistDecember 21, 2021

3 Takeaways from Bears' Week 15 Loss

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    On Monday night, the Chicago Bears lost their third consecutive game. Though the Bears produced a strong defensive effort—the Minnesota Vikings had just 17 points—a lack of offensive rhythm and repeated mistakes killed the Bears and all but ended Chicago's season.

    The Bears, who have now lost eight of their last nine games, were officially eliminated from playoff contention with the loss.

    The rest of the season is now about developing rookie quarterback Justin Fields and planning for what promises to be an offseason of change. Chicago finishes at the Seattle Seahawks, against the New York Giants and at Minnesota.

    The Bears have a realistic shot at winning two or even all three of their remaining contests, and building a little momentum for next season in the process. Their 2021 campaign, however, is over. Here's what else we learned during Chicago's 17-9 loss in Week 15.

Nagy Is Not the Right Coach to Develop Fields

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    Kamil Krzaczynski/Associated Press

    The Bears fought hard in this game, something head coach Matt Nagy was quick to point out after the festivities had ended.

    "It would be one thing if our guys came out and said, 'You know, we've got four wins and we're ... at a point where we're going to check out,'" Nagy said, per ESPN's Kevin Seifert. "And our guys don't do that.

    But playing hard isn't enough when hampered by an inefficient game plan. With offensive coordinator Bill Lazor sidelined by COVID-19 protocol, Nagy regained play-calling duties. The results were not good.

    Fields had a respectable outing, finishing 26-of-39 for 285 yards and a touchdown with 35 rushing yards. The offense as a whole, however, was a mess. Chicago racked up 370 yards but was a miserable 2-of-12 on third downs and 2-of-5 on 4th-down attempts.

    Three times in the second half, Nagy eschewed easy field goals for 4th-down tries that failed. Through five red-zone trips—and one drive that ended at the Minnesota 21-yard line—Chicago scored a single touchdown.

    That touchdown came with no time on the clock and served no purpose other than to make the score look a little better.

    Poor game-planning and in-game decisions have been an issue for Nagy all season. If the Bears hope to develop Fields into a high-end starter, it has to stop.

Firing Nagy Won't Fix Everything

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    It's safe to say that Nagy is on the hot seat, but replacing him isn't going to fix every issue on this team. Monday's game was a mistake-filled affair that could have gone in Chicago's favor otherwise.

    Consider that, in an eight-point loss, Chicago missed a field goal, turned it over on downs three times and lost two fumbles. Execution and ball security matter, and the Bears were terrible on those fronts on Monday night.

    Regardless of who is coaching the team, the Bears can't win consistently with sloppy play.

    Then, there's an offensive line that desperately needs retooling. Fields was sacked three times and was constantly under pressure against Minnesota. This has been a theme all season; Fields has been under pressure on 24.1 percent of his dropbacks—according to Pro Football Reference.

    Chicago's first order of offseason business—after making a head-coaching decision, of course—should be evaluating its offensive-line options. Fields has a tremendous amount of potential but will never realize it if he's constantly running for his life.

The Bears Have Building Blocks in Place

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    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    Fields has the physical tools needed to become one of the NFL's better dual-threat quarterbacks. He isn't the only talented player on this roster, and several of them showed up against the Vikings.

    Second-year tight end Cole Kmet (six receptions, 71 yards) looks to be a future star. Second-year wideout Darnell Mooney (five catches, 63 yards) figures to forge a long-term connection with Fields as a top target. Return specialist Jakeem Grant—who left the game with a concussion—is a Pro Bowler, as is pass-rusher Robert Quinn.

    Edge-rusher Khalil Mack can still be special, and defensive end Akiem Hicks showed out on Monday night. Mack is on injured reserve with a foot injury, but Hicks logged four solo stops, two sacks, four quarterback hits and two tackles for loss on Monday.

    The reality is that while the Bears have struggled to string together wins, they have many core pieces in place. If Chicago does have a new head coach in 2022, they won't be inheriting a team with a proverbial bare cupboard.

    It's reasonable to think that with the right decision-makers in place, the Bears can have a quick turnaround and be back in the postseason mix next year.