Cleanup time: Bears need to sharpen their edge for run of divisional games

With 14 penalties and several other mistakes, the Bears' 41-9 win over Buffalo was far from perfect.

Former Bears coach Mike Ditka once said those who live in the past are cowards and losers.

Matt Nagy is starting to sound more like Ditka every day.

Nagy on Monday said he’s not interested in the team’s past NFC North failures, as the Bears prepare for a stretch of three straight divisional games in 12 days beginning Sunday at home with the Detroit Lions.

“I’m aware, I understand, but that’s the thing with us and where we’re going – we try not to get to the past,” Nagy said. “We really don’t.”

The Bears (5-3) have lost 10 straight NFC North games, although Nagy has been responsible for only one of those. They’ve lost nine of the last 10 to the Lions, the doormats of the division until they were replaced by the Bears.

“We’re in such a good place right now as an organization, the vibe that we have,” Nagy said. “We’re learning how to win in different ways. We’ve learned what losing’s about and how you respond from that.

“But we’re really trying to create our own culture and creat our own history. It’s week by week, it’s practice by practice.”

The upcoming divisional stretch is all the more difficult after the NFL schedule makers got ahold of the Bears on Monday, and changed the time of their Nov. 18 home game with the Minnesota Vikings. It has been flexed to a Sunday night, meaning the Bears’ 12-game stretch with three games includes a Sunday night game, and then a Thursday 11:30 a.m. game (central time) on the road. It’s not much recovery time.

Nagy called the national telecast a challenge they welcome, but the Bears won’t be able to handle many challenges if they fail to play with more intelligence than they did on Sunday against the awful Buffalo Bills.

The Bears committed 14 penalties and had a few other problems.

Mitchell Trubisky experienced one of his more erratic games, with a wild throw for an interception, and also a refusal to throw the ball away on a third-down in field goal range. It resulted in a sack and fumble that took them out of kicker Cody Parkey’s range.

“We know that going into these division games, it’s going to take a whole other level,” linebacker Leonard Floyd said. “They know us, we know them. We play them twice. We know now that our level of play is going to have to rise even more.”

The penalties obviously shouldn’t be a problem. Silly mistakes might be more complicated.

The Bears had 14 penalties on Sunday, or two more penalties than pass completions.

“Some of them were selfish penalties, which we’ve got to eliminate,” Nagy said. “We’ve had a few of those recently. Other ones were just guys playing hard and unfortunate. So we do need to eliminate those.”

Linebacker Aaron Lynch fit into the selfish and stupid category when he picked up an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for doing several pelvic thrusts in an X-rated post-sack celebration.

"That's the last one he's gonna have," Nagy said.

The Bears were fortunate the game was so out of hand then.

“He came off the sideline, the first thing he said to me is, 'My bad,’ ” Nagy said. “He knows he shouldn't have done that. Again, we're a team right now. We're having a little bit of success. Yesterday, defensively, we were playing real well.”

Left tackle Charles Leno drew three flags for false starts.

“That was a tough stretch for him,” Nagy said. “He knows that. He felt bad during the game, he felt bad after the game.

“But I'm not concerned at all. Charles has done wonders for us at that left tackle position. Run and pass game, he's a leader. I have no concerns with him. It's just one of those games where he had a couple false starts and he knows it hurts us. We can't have those penalties and he'll fix that.”

Trubisky committed a few of the bigger gaffes. He said his interception “sailed” on his throw to Trey Burton. Quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone blamed it on a combination of poor footwork, and handwork.

“In particular that one, there’s a chance where when your footwork’s not exactly right or your base isn’t exactly where it needs to be and you over stride or under stride there’s a chance for that – or when you’re not completely convicted in the throw," Ragone said. "There was a combination on the one he sailed where the ball just flew off his hand weird and his footwork wasn’t exactly where it need to be.”

Trubisky’s other big mistake was not throwing away the ball near the sideline with the Bears in field goal range on their first possession. It resulted in a sack and fumble that took the Bears out of Cody Parkey’s field goal range.

Ragone said he and Nagy both have made it a point to tell Trubisky he has to do a better job of knowing when to give up on a play and throw it out of bounds.

“It’s a discussion you have always with the quarterback, especially one as athletic as Mitchell,” Ragone said. “It definitely happened on the (Bears) sideline as well as always preaching two hands on the ball regardless of where you are in the pocket.”

Nagy called some of the sloppiness by the entire offense the result of not getting into a rhythm. The Bears had only 46 plays, largely due to their defense scoring two touchdowns.

“So you have games where you don’t always get in a rhythm,” Nagy said. “It was a weird game offensively for us, for just different reasons.

“In the end, ultimately we’ll pull out some plays where we feel like we could have been better, we’ll pull out the good plays and we’re moving on to Detroit.”


--TE Adam Shaheen could return to practice this week after missing the season’s first half with a preseason foot injury.

A possible concussion suffered Sunday by tight end Dion Sims will not be a factor for Nagy in determining whether Shaheen is activated.

“So it’d be keep an eye on him this week and see where he’s at,” Nagy said. “But I feel good with where he’s at and I think he’s getting close.”

--WR Taylor Gabriel (knee) and defensive end Bilal Nichols (knee) are expected to be available for Sunday’s game. More will be known later in the week on Khalil Mack (ankle) and Allen Robinson (groin).

--Nagy didn’t want to divulge much about his decision to use safety Eddie Jackson on offense for one play. He went in motion but didn’t get the ball as it went to Tarik Cohen.

“Just little fun,” Nagy said. “You know, we’ll see where it goes. But I know one thing: He was excited as hell when he found out he was going in there.


Gene Chamberlain
EditorGene Chamberlain
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