CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- Rock bottom was a little bit lower than we realized for these Bears, who blew a 10-point lead late in the fourth quarter of a 34-30 loss to the Lions at Soldier Field on Sunday.
Here are the observations from Chicago's sixth straight loss.
It starts with Nagy
When Bears defensive lineman Bilal Nichols swept through blockers to pick off an ill-advised screen pass from Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford in the fourth quarter, it seemed to set Chicago on its path to sure victory.
Instead, this is how the Bears began to blow this game after taking over on first-and-10 at the Lions' 46-yard line with 9:22 left. It started with a blatant holding penalty by veteran left tackle Charles Leno Jr., turning a first-down run by running back David Montgomery into a second-and-11 situation. The Bears then failed to move the chains, and coach Matt Nagy elected to punt on fourth-and-4 from the Lions' 40-yard line.
The Surrender Index, a Twitter-based metrics system that all punts in the NFL, placed that decision by Nagy in the 94th percentile of all "cowardly" punts this season. It swung the game for the Lions.
Had the Bears converted on fourth down, they would've had the opportunity to bleed more clock and produce a score to seal the game. In that moment, Nagy didn't show the "aggressive" mentality that he later had. While the Lions and Bears traded three-and-outs on their following drives, Stafford then marched Detroit on a seven-play, 96-yard touchdown drive to cut Chicago's lead to 30-27.
Perhaps the Bears' most perplexing decision of the game came with 2:24 remaining. As the Lions continued to kick away from dangerous returner Cordarrelle Patterson, the Bears moved rookie receiver Darnell Mooney deep for the first time in his career. Patterson was lined up as the short returner. Detroit kicked it deep, and Mooney gave himself up at the 11-yard line on his return.
The Bears recognized Patterson wasn't getting the football, so why line him up short and force a deep kickoff? Why not let Mooney be the short returner and field the kick farther up the field if you know the ball is going to him?
From there, the Bears were backed near their own end zone. A three-yard rush by Montgomery brought the clock down to two minutes with the Lions holding all three of their timeouts. Nagy decided to get aggressive, calling for a passing play with quarterback Mitchell Trubisky that resulted in a three-yard scramble.
Needing to convert on third-and-4 -- and with Montgomery averaging 4.2 yards per carry -- Nagy dropped Trubisky back to pass again, and he was stripped of the football. It was the play that couldn't happen and a call that proved costly.
The Lions recovered the loose football at the Bears' 7-yard line and scored two plays later against a stunned Chicago defense.
The Bears' ensuing drive reached the Lions' 20-yard line but concluded with just one shot to the end zone, in part because of an ill-advised decision by receiver Allen Robinson to step out of bounds a yard short of the first down. That created a fourth-and-1 situation, in which Montgomery was stuffed.
The Bears were left shocked, and blame begins with the embattled Nagy.
This was a game the Bears had to win -- and not just because they led 30-20 late in the fourth quarter.
Eight days prior, the Lions had fired coach Matt Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn following a 41-25 loss in their Thanksgiving national showcase game. One day after the Lions' humiliated ownership group made those major changes, the Bears lost to the rival Packers by the same 41-25 score in front of a national television audience as well.
The Bears spared Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace their jobs despite the embarrassment in Green Bay. It only got worse Sunday, as the Lions proved to be resilient late in the game and the Bears blew it.
Nagy sounded like a man defeated afterward. Days he called out the "personal pride" of his team, the Bears responded poorly. Nagy understood the loss reflects on him. He has to recognize the inevitability.
Nagy is heading toward the end of his time in Chicago.
Still no edge
Here's what the Bears' edge rushers are making this season and what they've produced:
Khalil Mack -- $26.6 million, 6.5 sacks, including none since Nov. 1.
Robert Quinn -- $18.5 million, one sack, including none since his first snap in a Bears uniform on Sept. 20.
Barkevious Mingo -- $1.18 million, 2.5 sacks
Back in March, the Bears had one big splash they could make with their available cap space in free agency. Instead of addressing needs at quarterback and offensive tackle, they gave the 30-year-old Quinn a five-year, $70-million deal with $30 million guaranteed.
After producing 11.5 sacks with the Cowboys in 2019, Quinn has been a non-factor. He hasn’t made Mack better in the way Pace envisioned. Mack has just 6.5 sacks after posting 8.5 last season. He hasn’t gotten to the quarterback in the last four games.
Mack didn’t even register his name in the box score of Sunday -- no sacks, no tackles, no quarterback hurries. Just nothing.
Mingo has been better than Quinn at a sliver of the cost. Meanwhile, the Bears' needs still linger and will need addressed this offseason.
In hindsight, the Bears could’ve instead made a big offer to quarterback Teddy Bridgewater instead of Quinn, which could've elevated the team in 2020 and addressed that position for several years to come. The Bears instead traded for veteran quarterback Nick Foles, believing his fit for their system was better.
Foles is now the backup quarterback behind Trubisky. Quinn has fewer sacks than Mingo. And the Bears’ edge rushers have greatly disappointed this season.
In no rush
The Bears were successful in establishing Montgomery, who rushed 11 times for 62 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. Montgomery carried only six times for 10 yards in the second half despite the Bears leading for almost all of it.
The Bears had just 12 running plays in the second half, and two of those were scrambles by Trubisky off passing plays. Needing four yards to ice the victory, Nagy elected for a pass instead of a run.
When Nagy was hired by the Bears in January 2018, he was fresh off a devastating playoff loss with the Chiefs in which they blew a 21-3 lead in the second half. They rushed the ball just 16 times in that game despite holding a lead for nearly the entire time. Nagy was Kansas City’s offensive play-caller and arrived to Halas Hall days later saying he would learn from those mistakes.
As Sunday and other instances before it showcased, it’s clear Nagy didn’t learn from it.
The Bears rejected the claim by Super Bowl-winning coach and NBC analyst Tony Dungy that they quit in their loss to the Packers. And they vowed to respond after Nagy called out their pride.
How did the Bears bounce back? They allowed a season-worst 460 yards of offense to the Lions, with Stafford throwing for 402. The Lions posted the most yards in regulation against the Bears since late in the 2016 season, when Washington racked up 478 yards against a Chicago team that finished 3-13.
-- Former Bears star running back Matt Forte on Twitter called for the firings of Nagy and Pace. Former Bears star linebacker Lance Briggs tweeted, "Nagy's gonna Nagy." The McCaskey family cherishes its Bears alumni. They will certainly hear and recognize the outcry of these former players as they push for change at Halas Hall.
-- I'm just going to leave this here.
-- The Bears had some gripes with the officiating crew, who missed push-off calls on two Lions touchdowns. Receiver Quintez Cephus appeared to lightly push off cornerback Kyle Fuller on his 49-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter. Then tight end Jesse James got away with a more clear push off cornerback Jaylon Johnson in the third quarter. Ultimately, good teams overcome that. The Bears aren't a good team.
-- The Bears' reshuffled interior offensive line of Cody Whitehair, Sam Mustipher and Alex Bars has played well in two games together. The two tackles -- Leno and Germain Ifedi -- continue to struggle. Chicago could be seeking two new tackles this offseason.
-- Had the score been 34-31 late in the fourth quarter instead of 34-30, the Bears could've attempted a game-tying field goal. But a blocked extra-point attempt in the first quarter proved costly. The Lions loaded up on each side of long snapper Patrick Scales and out-schemed the Bears for a block.
-- At long last, the Bears got rookie tight end Cole Kmet involved in their offense. He played in 78% of their offensive snaps, the second-highest mark of any skill player. Kmet caught five passes for 37 yards and his second career touchdown.
-- If not for the pandemic keeping fans away, imagine the boos that would've been coming from Soldier Field as the Lions went into victory formation.
-- This Bears team was 5-1.
Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.