Another disappointing performance by the Bears offense in Monday night's 24-10 loss to the Los Angeles Rams left coach Matt Nagy searching for answers.
"The offense, we've got to get stuff figured out," Nagy said after the Bears fell to 5-2, a half-game behind the first-place Packers (5-1) in the NFC North. "It's not good enough. To be outscored by your defense is unacceptable, too. That part's frustrating."
The Bears' only touchdown Monday night was generated by the defense as Eddie Jackson returned a fumble that was forced by Robert Quinn for an 8-yard score. Jackson's sixth career defensive TD cut the deficit to 24-10 midway through the fourth quarter.
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The offense struggled throughout the game, however, failing to score a touchdown for the first time this season. It mustered only a Cairo Santos 42-yard field goal on 11 possessions. The unit has been limited to five TDs in its last four contests.
The Bears had produced points on 18 of 19 red-zone drives in their first six games this season, but were blanked on their only two trips inside the Rams' 20. Nick Foles threw an interception from the 9 and was sacked on fourth-and-goal from the 4.
"This is hard," Nagy said of the ongoing offensive woes. "I've never been a part of this before. It's a situation where, for all of us, it's very frustrating trying to figure out answers. The hard part is when you care so much, you're trying so hard to figure out the identity [of the offense] and where we're at and the 'why' part. That's the part that stings, just trying to get that thing right, and it hasn't happened, so we have to look across the board at everything."
The Bears' inability to run the ball has contributed to the lack of success. After rushing for 149, 135 and 130 yards in their first three games, they've been limited to 28, 35, 63 and 49 yards on the ground in their last four contests.
"You've got to run the ball in this league," Nagy said. "We're trying to figure out ways to do it, and right now, we've got to be better there. It starts with me."
The Bears had two opportunities to complete long pass plays but failed to do so. On both occasions, a receiver was open deep after beating three-time Pro Bowl cornerback Jalen Ramsey with a nifty double move.
The first of those plays occurred early in the third quarter with the Bears trailing 10-3 and facing third-and-6 from their own 5. After two short runs, speedy rookie Darnell Mooney streaked by Johnson, but Foles was unable to deliver the ball because he was under heavy pressure.
"You get the ball on the 1-yard line to start the third quarter," Nagy said. "And it's run to get some breathing room. It's another run to get some breathing room and then all of a sudden, you have them beat on a double move, and we don't get it.
"That's no criticism to any player. Nick had a guy coming off to his left free. You saw it was close, but it wasn't close, so that was just kind of one of those nights where it just wasn't our night. We've got to figure out how each and every one of us is going to step our game up to be better."
Nagy also lamented a pair of costly penalties, both on the offensive line. The Bears reached the 50 on the game's opening possession, but their drive stalled after a holding penalty on right guard Germain Ifedi. In the second quarter, it appeared that Foles picked up a first down on a fourth-and-1 sneak from his own 19. But the Bears had to punt after left guard Rashaad Coward was penalized for a false start on the play.
"We've got to start fast," Nagy said. "When you come out and all of a sudden you get a penalty, it just kills a drive. Penalties hurt. You cannot have penalties early on in the game. And then when you have situational football, you can't have penalties on fourth-and-1 to get a first down and move the sticks. As hard as we're making it on ourselves right now, you can't have penalties. That's the part there for all of us to figure out, 'OK, when is this going to stop?'"
There were some positives on offense Monday night. The Bears produced their two longest pass plays of the season, a 42-yarder from Foles to Allen Robinson II late in the game and a 38-yarder to Cole Kmet that came on a 50/50 ball the rookie tight end snatched away from a defender.
But those plays won't prevent Nagy from conducting a thorough examination of the offense as the Bears prepare to host the Saints Sunday at Soldier Field.
"In the situation that we're in right now as an offense, you get to a point to thinking, 'OK, where is it? And why is it at this point?'" Nagy said. "We just have to look at everything. I don't want to point fingers. I just don't want to do that to just our offensive line or just our wide receivers or tight end or the quarterback, because we're all in this thing together.
"I know it's not an answer that y'all want to hear, but we have to keep plugging away. We have to try to fight through this really difficult position that we're in right now. And when you have good coaches and you have good players, you usually do that. That's going to be our challenge. We're going to be facing a really good Saints team here coming up, and we're going to have to do it right away and do it fast. I'm going to start with myself and I'm going to continue to hold everybody accountable for the execution part, too."