The Chicago Bears’ season has gone from bad to worse, with another late meltdown on the road, in Pittsburgh.
Called by one coach “one of the worst losses I’ve ever been a part of” – and there have been many – the Bears’ struggles seem at odds with their newly acquired coach. Matt Nagy beat the odds to get the Bears’ head coach job in 2017.
He had never been a head coach at any level. It wasn’t even thought he’d get a head coaching job at all, after he left Kansas City at the end of the 2016 season to be an assistant with the Chargers.
When the Bears were 5-6 with four to play and ranked 28th in offence (11th in defence), GM Ryan Pace took a punt and hired the little-known Nagy.
He certainly injected life into the Bears. He won three of his first four games – but had a 36-16 loss in the final game of the regular season against Tampa Bay and then, after weeks of leading his new team to within one win of the playoffs, a 36-34 loss to the Rams in the NFC Wild Card Round.
Now the Bears have lost their opening two games of the 2018 season at home to Washington and at Pittsburgh, and despite their youth and inexperience on the roster, there’s no confidence.
In a game against the Steelers, with the score tied at 17 with five minutes to play, Akiem Hicks sacked Ben Roethlisberger at the line of scrimmage and forced him to fumble. Randall Telfer recovered, and Matt Nagy then threw into double coverage, handing the ball to rookie James Conner with a chance to win the game.
The rookie ran untouched on the final play of the game, giving the Steelers the win. The Bears went down to defeat at Heinz Field again two weeks later, and their early success is turning into a nightmare.
Josh Bellamy broke a 30-yard punt return to open the Bears’ first offensive drive at Heinz Field, but it looked like the Bears were gaining momentum and getting back into the game early on after the Steelers drove deep into Bears territory.
But Jermauria Rasco, the last remaining member of the Bears’ improved defensive line from 2016, missed his coverage assignment on a pass by Roethlisberger for Antonio Brown and it was a 40-yard TD pass, and now the Pittsburgh lead was 17-0.
Late in the first half, Jordan Howard was flagged for holding at the line of scrimmage, and the Steelers were back in field goal range after missing three field goals in their first two games.
Pittsburgh completed a five-play, 59-yard drive to give them a 20-0 lead, as the wind blew in and off the ball.
The Steelers finally ran the ball, and took a chance. DeAngelo Williams carried it straight into the wind, and it was called back for a false start. But Roethlisberger then hit JuJu Smith-Schuster for a five-yard touchdown pass, as the score was 20-3 and the Bears were down 14 points with eight minutes to play.
The Bears finally cracked and burned. The Bears had to punt on second and 21, and the Steelers went 80 yards and scored again. That drive was not sustainable and it was clear that it had been all too easy for Roethlisberger and the Steelers to move the ball in that first half.
The Bears tried to get back in the game, but a fumble at midfield and another two plays later, was a six-yard TD pass to Brown and Pittsburgh led 27-3 with five minutes to play.
It only got worse for the Bears’ defense, as Roethlisberger’s 51-yard pass to receiver James Washington with six minutes to play put the Steelers back up by 20 points.
It was another grinding, wacky game, ending in a victory for the Pittsburgh Steelers and a fifth straight loss for the Chicago Bears.
“Our defence deserves better than what they’re getting right now,” Matt Nagy said. “All of us. We’re not getting it.
“It’s sickening. We’ve worked too hard, as a team, as a group, as coaches, as players, as individuals, just for it to come to this right now.”