The Chicago Bears are off to their best start in eight years. They're just not racking up style points to go with those victories.
There is plenty of room to improve, particularly on offense, despite a 4-1 record heading into the game at Carolina on Sunday. But they're winning. And coach Matt Nagy will take that over the alternative.
“Where you stay excited is that you are 4-1 as a team because ultimately in the end that’s what matters,” he said. "Now you get there, you want it to look better but that’s what we’re working towards right now, and that’s what we got to get to as soon as we can.”
The Bears have their best record through five games since the 2012 team jumped to a 7-1 start. Their top 10 defense held Tom Brady in check last week, with Khalil Mack sacking the six-time Super Bowl champion twice in a 20-19 victory.
But they're not making it easy on themselves.
They had to rally from 17 down in the fourth quarte r to take the opener at Detroit and trailed by 16 in the fourth two weeks later at Atlanta before squeezing past the Falcons. Against Tampa Bay, they trailed 13-0 in the first half.
Nagy laid into the offense afterward, venting about lapses in execution. He was particularly peeved about imprecise route running, missed chances for quarterback Nick Foles, and breakdowns in blocking technique.
“None of that is personal,” Nagy said. “Some of it is just me being able to explain to them and to us that just in all areas that we can be better. None of it is blame. There's zero blame of saying, ‘Hey, this is your fault or this is our fault.’ This is where we are at and we have to lock in a little bit more.”
The Bears rank 27th both in total offense and rushing. And they're coming up short too often when they have chances to reach the end zone. They are 25th in the red zone, scoring touchdowns on 53% of their drives inside the 20.
Chicago hasn't scored a point in the third quarter this season. And the run game has really struggled the past two weeks against dominant fronts.
The Bears had just 35 yards rushing against Tampa Bay after being held to 28 in a loss to Indianapolis. They had 414 yards through the first three games.
David Montgomery had 10 carries each of the past two weeks, running for 27 yards against the Colts and 29 against the Buccaneers. On the plus side, he also had a career-high seven catches last week.
“Every game is not going to be the way we want it to be and I just really pointed out to him, ‘Look, the run game wasn’t where we wanted it to be Thursday night,” running backs coach Charles London said. “But I think he was targeted nine times, seven receptions, I believe if that is correct, and sometimes you gotta win games in different ways. I said, ‘It’s not going to be a 100-yard game every week and sometimes you’re going to have to go out there and catch 10 passes for us to win. You’re going to have to go out there and throw great blocks for us to win.’ David is a team player and he understands that.”
Foles, meanwhile, still is settling in since replacing Mitchell Trubisky during the Atlanta game. The Super Bowl 52 MVP has completed just under 64% of his passes for 680 yards, with five touchdowns and three interceptions.
“We want to be a lot more efficient, a lot better,” Foles said. “But I also know there’s a progression. It doesn’t just happen overnight. It’s never happened overnight ever in my career.”
The Bears also have a hole to fill on the offensive line after left guard James Daniels suffered a likely season-ending pectoral injury last week. Nagy wouldn't say Friday if second-year pro Alex Bars or veteran Rashaad Coward will start in his place.
The Bears won't have line coach Juan Castillo with them, either, on Sunday. He's quarantining after coming in contact with someone away from the team who tested positive for COVID-19.