LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP)Chicago Bears coach Matt Nagy recalled the big slide and the bigger recovery that followed.
The Kansas City Chiefs opened the 2015 season with a victory, then dropped five in a row. They didn’t lose again until Tom Brady and the New England Patriots beat them in a divisional playoff game. An assistant on Andy Reid’s staff at the time, Nagy is hoping for something similar in his second season in Chicago.
With three straight losses heading into a playoff rematch at Philadelphia, the Bears (3-4) look more like a team coming apart than one poised to make a run at a second straight NFC North championship. They’re last in the division, 3+ games behind first-place Green Bay, yet Nagy sees similarities to those Chiefs.
”The No. 1 natural feeling I remember as a coach was that it’s really easy to start feeling (bad), because we lost five in a row. You got a point where you felt, `Man, this is challenging,”’ he said. ”You put in all this time and effort, the players put in all this time and effort, and you just can’t get that win.”
Nagy remembers a team staying the course, rallying around quarterback Alex Smith and, in a flash, salvaging a season that seemed to be slipping away. The Chiefs won 10 in a row to finish the regular season, starting with a burden-lifting victory over Pittsburgh, and then took out Houston on the road in the playoffs before losing at New England.
He’s banking on the Bears making a big turnaround, just like the one in Kansas City four years ago. Chicago came in with huge expectations after winning the NFC North at 12-4 in Nagy’s first season. But the Bears are coming off a stinging 17-16 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers that intensified questions about the direction of the team.
It didn’t matter that the defense bounced back from two subpar outings or that Bears finally committed to the run, with David Montgomery going off for a career-high 135 yards.
The struggling Trubisky played better for most of the game, throwing for 253 yards and a touchdown. But he also committed two fourth-quarter turnovers.
The offense stalled in the red zone, with one touchdown to show for five trips inside the 20. Nagy opted to have Trubisky take a knee with about 40 seconds remaining rather than try to get closer to the end zone, and Eddy Pineiro missed a 41-yard field goal wide left as time expired.
It added up to a gut-wrenching loss.
”You always believe the next one is going to be a good game for you to get back on track and go in the direction where we want to go,” Trubisky said. ”It’s just honest conversations that we’re having with each other and ourselves and just trying to find ways that we could continue to improve and get better and get back on track, and the focus is on being 1-0 this week.”
The Bears never lost more than two in a row last season. Back-to-back losses dropped them to 3-3, and then they went on a 9-1 run that catapulted them to the playoffs for the first time since 2010.
Nagy insists this year’s team is capable of a breakthrough – just like last season and just like Kansas City in 2015.
”What I’m seeing is I have players coming up to me that are telling me, `We’ve got this, Coach.’ That’s all I really need, which is cool,” Nagy said.
Linebacker Danny Trevathan said his faith hasn’t wavered in Nagy or the team.
”I trust him because I know the type of person he is,” Trevathan said. ”I trust him because he put us in a good situation. He has our back. Some coaches throw you under the bus.”
Receiver Taylor Gabriel said, ”It’s just showing Nagy we have faith in him and what he’s trying to accomplish, he’s trying to do. Whatever he’s giving to us, we’re telling him that we’re ready for it.”
NOTES: Nagy wouldn’t really elaborate on comments this week by Pineiro, who said he would have preferred having the ball placed in the middle of the field rather than the left hash on his game-ending miss. ”We have a communication process that we used,” Nagy said. ”And we felt very comfortable in that situation with what we did.” … The Bears announced longtime public address announcer Jim Riebandt will retire after the season. He has been involved with Chicago’s home games since 1979 and has been the full-time PA announcer since 1982.
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