There were many subtle moments (and obvious ones) to question Matt Nagy as Chicago Bears head coach, but this might be the first one
The 2018 season was an exciting one for Chicago Bears fans. A magical 12-4 season complete with a division title and a victory over Green Bay. We won’t discuss the “double doink” here, but overall it was quite a strong debut for then rookie head coach Matt Nagy. He earned Coach of the Year honors and his future seemed bright. Then that stellar season was followed by three years of mediocrity. It’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment it went downhill, but there were signs leading up to it.
This particular moment really stood out on a national stage for Matt Nagy
It was the opening Sunday Night Football Game on NBC for the 2018 season. The Chicago Bears at the Green Bay Packers. The oldest NFL rivalry and one that has been one-sided for most of the last three decades. Chicago had a new head coach and a new superstar in Khalil Mack via the blockbuster trade with the Oakland Raiders. No one was sure what to expect, but many expected a Green Bay win.
Then the game started. After forcing a Packer punt on the opening series, the Bears marched down and scored a touchdown. They would add a field goal to take a 10-0 lead. Then they knocked Aaron Rodgers out of the game and added a touchdown on defense after forcing a DeShone Kizer interception that Mack returned for a touchdown. They went into the half up 17-0.
When the second half began, the offense took the opening possession into Green Bay territory, but the drive stalled and they settled for a field goal. Up 20-0, Rodgers re-entered the game and eventually pulled out one of his characteristic victimizations of the Bears and Green Bay ended up winning 24-23.
Matt Nagy got “cute” with a play call
However, there is one play that really changed the outcome of this game and it was the first instance of Nagy trying to be “cute” instead of imposing his will on the other team. The Bears had driven deep into Green Bay territory with the 2:00 warning approaching and the Packers out of time outs. A touchdown likely ends the game. A first down definitely does the trick.
Facing 3rd and short inside the 10, Nagy called a pass that fell incomplete. With hard runner Jordan Howard in the backfield, why not run the ball? Worst case scenario, you run the clock down to 2:00 and then kick the field goal. However, if Howard gets the first down, the Packers never touch the ball again and Nagy wins his debut at Lambeau Field.
While the Bears were able to extend their lead to 23-17, they were not able to run out the clock, gave the ball back to Green Bay, and Rodgers (of course) threw a blown coverage touchdown for the win. If there was a microcosm of how one play call changed the outcome of a game, this was it. It also gave us the first glimpse of Matt Nagy as a play caller for the next four seasons and the frustration that came along with it.
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