There was a little Mike Ditka in Matt Nagy and his players didn’t mind hearing it one bit.
When the Bears coach went on a Ditka-like tirade on Friday about his offense’s execution—or lack therof—the message hit home.
Better yet, they agreed.
Well, calling it a Ditka-style tirade is stretching it a bit but for Nagy it was not his usual positive, supportive self. So when players heard this they knew he meant business.
“I think everybody should be fired up about that,” Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson said. “That’s what also makes the players that we have in this locker room special, is we don’t have any complacency. None of our quarterbacks are complacent.
“Our receivers aren’t complacent. Nobody is walking around here satisfied. Yeah, we fortunately have started 4-1. It’s tough to win in this league. But at the end of the day, we’re not sitting back waiting on praise or thinking that we have arrived or anything like that. We know we have a long way to go, and we also know the capability if we reach that point and if we are the offense we say we want to be.”
The Bears have slipped to 27th overall on offense, 27th in rushing yards and 23rd in passing after starting in the middle of the pack.
The running attack vanished with 63 yards total the last two weeks against stronger run defenses with Indianapolis and Tampa Bay.
Nagy’s rant had to do with players paying too little attention to detail regardless of position.
“He’s completely right,” guard Germain Ifedi said. “I’ve seen what he’s said and it’s completely right. If we don’t embrace what he said, if we don’t take that as a great challenge and something we should wear every day, then we’re wrong.
“We have to be better. We have to be more detailed.”
The running game has lost the blocking of left guard James Daniels due to a pectoral muscle tear and will try advancing with second-year undrafted free agent Alex Bars in his place. Nagy thinks they can still re-energize the running game, in part, by taking better advantage of matchup edges.
“I have a lot of faith in our run game, I really do, and different ways how we are going to get back to it,” Nagy said on Monday. “I feel good about that. There is no panic at all.
“I know for me that part is exciting to figure out ways to get it back on track because that is ultimately going to help our offense.”
While blasting the running game against the Colts and Buccaneers, Nagy did acknowledge the strength of the defenses faced.
Players certainly didn’t let this slide past.
“You factor in the challenge that the defense presents,” Ifedi said. “Different defenses present different challenges and these last couple defenses have been really good defenses and you embrace those challenges because they force you to be right.
“I wouldn’t say that, OK I’ve made a mistake but since it’s a good defense, I accept it. No, you embrace those challenges versus the really good defenses and when you’re really good versus those good defenses—and I think we did some good things, I think we have some things to clean up—when you measure at the same measure are you getting better, are you getting better at this from last week, but those types of teams they force you to be right. They force you to be efficient.”
This week the Bears face a different type of defense. Carolina is fourth against the pass, but 25th stopping the run.
Robinson ultimately saw the defenses as no excuse regardless.
“There are good defenses across the league,” Robinson said. “If we want to do what we want to do, if we want to win and be the standing champion at the end of the season, we’re going to have to play better than any good defense, no matter how good they are.”
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