The Bears’ Matt Nagy coaching ’em up Sunday at Soldier Field. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times
With coordinator Bill Lazor calling the plays, Justin Fields & Co. get a bounce-back victory.
The best sight Sunday was not David Montgomery running, Justin Fields throwing, Darnell Mooney making great catches or even the Lions showing up on the schedule.
It was Matt Nagy, hands on knees, exhorting. That’s a nice way of saying, “The best sight Sunday was Matt Nagy not calling plays.”
The Bears head coach cheered on his team, letting offensive coordinator Bill Lazor do the play calling, and the result, possibly a complete coincidence (no), was a 24-14 victory.
What does it all mean? That’s a very broad question, but forced to give an answer, I would offer three: We’re all alone in this universe, we need to be kind to each other and the microphone on Nagy’s headset should never be turned on again. That’s not based on last week’s atrocity against the Browns but on the sickly body of his work as a play caller for the Bears.
“Bill did a great job” calling plays, Nagy said after Sunday’s game. “At the same point in time, it’s important that we understand that I felt good out there as a head coach. That’s real. But we all get together (during the week). We talk through how we’re going to call the game. … We do it together. I get a great opportunity to say, yes, I like this or, no, I don’t — as the head coach, right, in charge of all that.”
To sum up: Nagy is the head coach. He’s in charge of everything. But if you’re going to be a quibbler, no, he wasn’t in charge of calling the plays during Sunday’s game. So not really in charge of everything.
Good things happen when Montgomery is able to run the ball. It stops opponents from teeing off on the quarterback, the way Cleveland did the previous week in Fields’ first NFL start. Lazor gets this. He got it last season at times when he took over the play calling from Nagy.
So the Lions got a heaping helping of Montgomery right from the start. He rushed seven times in a 12-play drive, including a 4-yard touchdown run to help give the Bears a 7-0 lead. There are few running backs who run harder than this guy. Lazor gets that, too. The Bears finished with 188 rushing yards, Montgomery with 106.
It can’t be overstated: When it came to generous, true-blue Friends of the Program, the Bears had no bigger supporter at Soldier Field on Sunday than the 0-4 Lions. But this also can’t be overstated: Fields was sacked nine times the week before, so who cares how giving the Lions were? All that matters is that Nagy’s lack of creativity was not allowed to ruin the possibility of a gimme.
Fields needed a confidence builder. He got it because Montgomery softened up the Lions’ defense and because the offensive line … what’s the word? … blocked. He was sacked just once. The rookie made some very nice throws that were doable because he had time to throw.
The previous week, the Browns were on him before a neuron could fire. On Sunday, he had connections of 64, 32 and 21 yards with Mooney and 28 and 27 yards with Allen Robinson. He looked like he belonged. His numbers — 11-of-17, 209 yards, no touchdowns and one interception off a tipped pass — said the same thing.
“I feel like before the game I know when I’m in a rhythm and I know when I’m feeling good,” he said. “I felt good just coming into the game throwing the ball. So I knew it was going to be a good day.”
The Lions drove inside the Bears’ 10-yard line three times in the first half and came away with no points. That’s a testament to the Bears’ defense and to the Lions’ inherent Lions-ness. On one first-quarter play, quarterback Jared Goff wasn’t prepared for the snap, and the ball bounced off his right knee into the hands of Bears defensive lineman Bilal Nichols. It’s like that, being the Lions.
Of course, the 2-2 Bears are in no position to mock anyone. Last week’s embarrassing loss led to days of public outrage over the direction of the franchise.
And if you’re looking for your weekly dose of darkness, it came when Montgomery went down with a knee injury in the fourth quarter. He walked off the field with help and seemed to be in considerable pain. The Bears will be, too, if he’s out for an extended period.
“Got down and prayed,” Mooney said when asked what he did when he saw Montgomery down.
That was the right approach. A lot rides on the running back’s health.
Nagy said he won’t answer any more questions this season about who is calling the plays. Maybe he thinks it will be a distraction. Maybe he knows it would reflect poorly on his past performances if Lazor does well. Maybe he’s embarrassed because he was hired based on his know-how on offense.
Or maybe, just maybe, we simply need to appreciate that Nagy feels good as a head coach and that he’s in charge. That’s real. Reportedly.