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Bears

Hub Arkush: It's up to Matt Nagy to solve Bears' running woes

Bears coach Matt Nagy walks the sideline late in his team's 36-25 loss to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday at Soldier Field.
Bears coach Matt Nagy walks the sideline late in his team's 36-25 loss to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday at Soldier Field.

LAKE FOREST – At noon Monday, I was at Halas Hall to visit with Bears coach Matt Nagy for his weekly postmortem after Sunday’s early Halloween horror show at Soldier Field.

At 1:40 p.m. I was in the dentist’s chair for an appointment made weeks ago.

I am happy to report my time with Nagy and company was the better part of my day.

Yes, the Bears were 3-3 one year ago today after a 3-1 start was followed by a disturbing loss at Miami and a frustrating loss to a clearly superior team in the Patriots.

No, this 3-3 doesn’t feel anything like that one, and there is no reason to be confident this group will take off from here the way last year’s did.

However, the mad rush to toss this team on the scrap heap, crucify the coach and become one of the top sellers between now and next week’s trade deadline makes no sense.

It was only three weeks ago Sunday that the Bears manhandled a very good Vikings team, experts everywhere lauded their “generational” defense, and it looked as if game management was all they needed from whomever was at quarterback.

How have these Bears fallen so far in only 21 days?

After Sunday’s second straight trip to the woodshed, the elder statesman of that special defense, Prince Amukamara, said, “The phrase that’s been said is that we just have to ‘look ourselves in the mirror,’ and I feel like we’re losing our identity, so we have to get back to that.”

If, in fact, these Bears have forgotten who they are, that is on each of them, but if the season is to be salvaged, it is first and foremost the responsibility of Nagy to set them straight.

But one takeaway from Monday’s presser is that Nagy may be going through an identity crisis of his own.

Let’s stop the silliness and all the vitriol from the disappointment of the Raiders and Saints games, and stop even hinting that Nagy could be Trestman II or Trestman lite.

Matt Nagy is the NFL Coach of the Year for at least 10 more weeks. Bad football coaches don’t win that award, ever, and it clearly takes a lot more than luck.

Nagy is too smart not to learn from this stretch, but first he has to figure out how to run the football.

You don’t need to be an expert to know how absurd it is to throw the ball 54 times and run it only seven as the Bears did against the Saints.

In that Vikings game, the Bears threw the ball 33 times and ran it 33 times, even though they averaged only 2.2 yards a carry, leading to an 11-minute advantage in time of possession.

That may not be how Nagy wants to play the game, but that is how this team is built right now.

“I know we need to run the ball more,” Nagy said. “I’m not an idiot.”

I am positive he’s right about that, and when I asked him if there is any way to get that done other than just committing to it and letting his offensive linemen slug some people in the mouth, he replied, “No, I’m with you. I’m totally with you. I don’t disagree. So I guess what you’re saying is more patience with the run game. Yeah.”

But a moment later he doubled back, saying, “With this run game, it’s about productive plays. I know you guys agree with that.

“Right now we’re not having productive plays in the run game any way you look at it. “There’s no doubt about it; there’s gotta be more patience.

“But every game is a little bit different based off the defense you’re seeing and then how your O-line is blocking and the schemes of the plays that are working or not working that game.”

Nagy daily displays the patience of a saint with his struggling young quarterback, and yet a couple of failed runs cause him to forget half of his playbook.

It’s easy to imagine the identity Nagy’s players would love to have on offense involves in some part the same kind of physical dominance and aggression their defensive mates are feted for.

And it’s unlikely anything is getting better until Nagy figures out how to make that happen.

• Hub Arkush is executive editor of Pro Football Weekly. Write to him at harkush@profootballweekly.com, and follow him on Twitter @Hub_Arkush.

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