Bears in Brief: Bears’ early lead not enough, Saints win 26-23 in overtime

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Bears in Brief is a weekly column by Opinion Editor Anthony Marsicano in which he recaps Bears games and provides his own insight

Anthony Marsicano, Opinion Editor

The Chicago Bears took on the New Orleans Saints this past Sunday at 3:25 pm. The game was given the title America’s Game of the Week by FOX, and 23 million people tuned in. The national conversation surrounding this game wasn’t about either team, but about a viral altercation between a few players. The clip being plastered all over social media shows Bears receiver Javon Wims approach Saints cornerback CJ Gardner-Johnson after a play and throw a series of punches at the defender’s helmet. Players from both teams swooped in to break up the conflict, and Wims was immediately ejected from the game and escorted to the locker room. Upon first seeing this all play out, my reaction was like that of millions of others who were watching; my jaw dropped and I asked myself out loud, “What is he doing?”. After that the question in my head became “Why?”, and I wouldn’t understand until after the game when more details were revealed. We learned after that Gardner-Johnson is a bit of a nuisance, to put it lightly. he’s constantly chirping the other team during games, and even started beef with his own teammate, star receiver Michael Thomas, who was suspended one game for fighting him in practice. Video also emerged after the game that gave some explanation as to why Wims would start this fight. Early in the game’s second half, Gardner-Johnson yanks Wims’s mouthguard out of his helmet and lets it fall to the ground. A few plays later the cornerback extends his hand through Bears receiver Anthony Miller’s helmet and proceeds to poke him in the eye. This is not the first time the cornerback has disrespected the Bears, he mocked running back Tarik Cohen’s height in their matchup last year. It is clear that none of this would have happened if Gardner-Johnson keeps his hands to himself like they teach kindergarteners, but Wims’s actions were still inexcusable, unacceptable, and frankly stupid. Wims was handed a two-game suspension from the NFL, and that decision was upheld after he tried to appeal it. As for Gardner-Johnson, he was fined $5,128 for the encounter which is roughly 0.6% of his annual salary. Losing Wims is not a very big blow to the Bears, the receiver only has 5 catches and 35 yards on the season.

 

Likes

 

The Bears performance in this game was much much better than that of last week against the LA Rams. I would even say that the first half was the best the offense has looked all yearn and with only two out of their five starting offensive lineman being healthy. Chicago matched an early Saints field goal with one of their own as standout kicker Cairo Santos drilled a 44-yarder. The real fun began when on the Bears’ next possession, which saw quarterback Nick Foles air out a 50 yard bomb of a pass to rookie Darnell Mooney. On the very next play, Foles tested his arm again, and this time Allen Robinson would haul in the pass for an amazing touchdown catch. This is the impact of Nick Foles that some may not realize. While Mitchell Trubisky has the arm strength to attempt this type of throw, I can almost guarantee that his poor accuracy would result in neither of these plays being completed. Say what you will about Foles and his early tenure in Chicago, but it has been moments like these plays and the week two win over Atlanta that prove his value.

 

Dislikes

 

It seems that Foles was dropping back at least four to five steps back after almost every snap he took. Now, this is a decent Saints defensive line unit, but the group isn’t good enough to cause this sort of pandemonium. I understand that 60 percent of the Bears’ offensive line did not play the majority of the game, but the line has been a crucial issue all season. And you could trace most complaints with the offense back to the line. Many fans have taken issue with head coach Matt Nagy’s playcalling (myself being one of them). It’s extremely hard to call rushing plays and establish the run if those plays are ensured to get blown up by the defense every time. And how can you in good faith call longer passing plays when you know your quarterback will only have around two to three seconds to throw. Speaking of the QB position, it receives much of the blame for the offensive struggles. Since the initial awe of Nick Foles’ outstanding comeback performance against the Atlanta Falcons, many have been critical of him. Though it proved to be a good decision at the time, fans are looking back and comparing Foles and Trubisky, wondering if the latter ever should have been replaced during their week three game in Atlanta. In just two and a half games compared to Foles’s six, Trubisky’s QBR is three points higher and his TD/INT ratio is 2/1 compared to Foles’ 1.14/1. Mitch boasts a 3-0 record while putting up 368 yards per game, Foles has fallen to 2-3 and only gains 276.2 yards per game. Fans are also frustrated with Foles’s refusal to scramble when pressured, a situation that he has dealt with a lot with this struggling line. And while that just isn’t the type of quarterback he is, maybe he isn’t the type of quarterback Chicago needs.

 

It is always mentioned how Matt Nagy comes from the Andy Reid coaching tree, but the only thing I see that truly reminds me of Reid is his poor clock-management abilities. Towards the end of the first half, the Bears were in a great position. They lead the Saints 13-3 and were set to receive the second-half kickoff after halftime. The Saints has the ball on 3rd and 5, and time was running out in the half. For reasons I cannot comprehend, Nagy called a timeout, stopping the clock. This allowed Drew Brees to find a wide-open Jared Cook for a touchdown, lessening the Bears’ lead to a much less encouraging 3 points. This isn’t the first time where it has been Nagy vs the Clock, the Bears have had multiple delay of game penalties this season. If I could ask one thing of Nagy besides for him to relinquish playcalling duties, I’d want him to drastically improve his situational clock awareness.

 

Recap

 

After the first half, the Bears only extended their lead in the third quarter with a pair of field goals. The Saints scored zero points in the third quarter, something the Bears do quite often. A touchdown and field goal in the fourth gave advantage to New Orleans, but Chicago was once again able to rely on their kicker Cairo Santos to send the game to overtime. The Saints won the coin flip and opted to start with the ball, but were forced to punt. After taking a few bad sacks, the Bears answered with a punt of their own. NFL overtime rules dictated that whoever scored next would win the game, and the Saints did just that, driving down and kicking the game-winning field goal. Final score: New Orleans 26, Chicago 23.

Next week the Bears travel to Nashville where they will play the 5-2 Tennessee Titans. Ever since a demoralizing close loss to the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers, the once unbeaten Titans have not looked like a perfect team. They lost last week to the Cincinnati Bengals, a team that was 1-5 entering the game. Tennessee has been able to coast on its talented offense for a while now. With a budding star receiver AJ Brown, arguably the best running back in the NFL in Derrick Henry, and 2019 Comeback Player of the Year quarterback Ryan Tannehill at the helm, this offense may be the greatest challenge the Bears defense has faced all season. Standing at 6’3 238 lbs, you can only hope to contain Henry, not stop him. If the Bears can do just that as well as take advantage of an injured offensive and defensive line, I think they can pull out a victory.