In Week 7, the Chicago Bears were at a crossroads losing a tough game to the New England Patriots 38-31. The team’s record fell to .500 at three wins and three losses. They were knocked out of first place and had several of their key stars injured. Since that point, head coach Matt Nagy has guided his team to five consecutive wins as his hire as head coach is now proving to be a special one.
The Bears have won five straight games since then as Nagy’s decisions in each game have proven to be the right one for his team. When hired back in January, Ryan Pace wanted a head coach that was going to get the most of young quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. Nagy has done just that as his quarterback has thrown for 20 touchdowns with just eight interceptions.
Trubisky also is one of the league’s most mobile quarterbacks as he ranks at the top of most rushing categories for quarterbacks.
All of Nagy’s personnel decisions have been highly important as those decisions came at the beginning of the current winning streak. The two biggest off-season acquisitions in linebacker Khalil Mack and wide receiver Allen Robinson have highly important to the team’s turnaround this season. Both Mack and Robinson were injured following the Patriots game and Nagy made the choice to rest both players for the team’s next two games.
Under different circumstances, the two players could have played through their injuries, but their head coach felt that his team could win games against the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills without them. This inspired confidence in his team that they were good enough and it also allowed his star players to rest injuries to be ready for three divisional games in 12 days.
Three games in 12 days are tough for any team, but three straight against divisional opponents can make or break a team’s season. Nagy had his team fully ready as they won each of the games in a different fashion. In the first game, Trubisky guided the offense to a 34-22 win over the Lions in which he had a career day passing for over 355 yards. Against the Vikings on Sunday night this past week, it was a mix of timely offense, reliable defense, out of the box thinking on Nagy’s part. He elected to attempt two two-point conversions as offense succeeded on both attempts.
On Thanksgiving, just four days later, Nagy might have had his most influential moment this season. Trubisky was sidelined due to a shoulder injury suffered at the end of the Vikings game and was sidelined against the Lions on the road. His head coach started backup Chase Daniel who had just one touchdown pass in his nine-year career. Coming off a short week starting a backup with no practice time, many wouldn’t be upset had Bears lost to the Lions on the road.
Nagy had his quarterback ready as Daniel completed 27 passes for 230 yards and two touchdowns. The passing game was adjusted as there were less deep throws attempted, but more short passing relying on space rather one on one matchups. Although late in the game the Bears looked visibly fatigued, Nagy’s team rallied to hold off the Lions and win 23-16. The win ensures the Bears their first non-losing season since 2013.
The ability for the team to win with their backup has plagued prior Bears teams costing them playoff wins and playoff chances. From 2010 to 2012, injuries to quarterback Jay Cutler mixed with the unreliable play of the backup quarterback were the main reasons for failed playoff attempts in those three years. General manager Jerry Angelo and head coach Lovie Smith were fired for those exact reasons.
Under Nagy though, confidence has been earned following the performance of Daniel on Thanksgiving.
With the win against the Lions, the Bears now are a legitimate playoff and possible Super Bowl contender. Pace and Nagy have overseen a Bears team that has now won as many games this season than they won in 2016 and 2017 combined. All of their decisions to improve the team have been successful ones as the team has found ways to win regardless of the difficulties they have faced.
Heading into the last month of the season, Bears football is competitive once again as their first-year head coach is mostly responsible for that.