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3 things we heard from Chicago Bears coach Matt Nagy, including what happened with the safeties on the Rams’ 1st touchdown and the lack of big plays on offense


Chicago Bears coach Matt Nagy spoke with the media Monday at Halas Hall after watching film to dissect the 34-14 season-opening loss to the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday night.

As the Bears look to correct the mistakes that led to the defeat, here are three things we heard from Nagy.

1. Matt Nagy cited a need for more aggressiveness from two veteran Bears safeties after the Rams scored on their opening drive.

When Rams wide receiver Van Jefferson bolted past safeties Eddie Jackson and Tashaun Gipson and caught a deep ball from Matthew Stafford on the Rams’ third offensive play, it shouldn’t have resulted in a touchdown.

Jefferson tripped and tumbled to the ground in front of Jackson and Gipson, who could have touched him to end the play. Instead, Jefferson bounced back up and sprinted the final 12 yards to the end zone for a 67-yard score.

Nagy called it a “learning experience” Monday but said the misplay wasn’t for a lack of caring.

“They both tried to nonchalantly tag him, so it was just like, ‘You’ve got to do it more aggressively and you’ve got to make sure that, if anything, you’ve got to hit him. Don’t put any gray in it,’ ” Nagy said. “I guarantee you that entire defense will learn from that, and our offensive players will learn from that too. If you’re not touched, stand up and run and turn it into a touchdown. I know that Sean (Desai) is teaching those guys the right thing to do, and I know that those guys will definitely learn from it.”

The Bears defense and new coordinator Desai have a lot to learn from after allowing Stafford to throw for 321 yards and three touchdowns, including multiple big plays. Desai is scheduled to speak with the media Wednesday to further explain what went wrong, including when Cooper Kupp was wide open down the field on Stafford’s 56-yard touchdown pass.

Nagy said in reviewing the film with Desai that it was a mixture of play calls they would like back, players’ mistakes and impressive plays from Stafford.

“I have a lot of faith in Sean — and our players — in understanding that you go up against a potent offense and a pretty good team like the Rams, you better know what you’re doing on every single play,” Nagy said. “But overall I’d say the biggest theme for us would be ‘no panic’ and just understand that, hey, that was Sean’s first game calling and this was our first game of 2021 and we understand that that’s not good enough. We know we want to be better.”

2. Nagy knew explosive plays would be limited against the Rams defense, but the Bears want more than they had Sunday.

The Bears didn’t come close to matching the Rams’ big-play output.

After David Montgomery’s 41-yard run on the opening drive, the Bears didn’t have another play of more than 20 yards. Andy Dalton’s longest throw was a 19-yarder to Marquise Goodwin that came with 15 extra yards because of a face-mask penalty on David Long Jr. It was Dalton’s only pass of more than 11 yards.

Dalton said Sunday night the Bears knew going in the Rams defense would be set on taking away the big play. And the Bears were trying to keep the Rams defensive front, including Aaron Donald, from wrecking the game while also dealing with injuries to left tackles Jason Peters and Larry Borom. According to NextGen Stats, Dalton’s average time to throw was 2.44 seconds, third-shortest in the league in Week 1.

“Probably the biggest thing with that was some of the things that they do defensively and then that guy that they got over on the other side of the ball (Donald), just a little bit,” Nagy said. “But it doesn’t mean that you can’t still get explosives. We understand that. We want to make sure that we are stretching the field vertically, and we weren’t able to get that as much.

“We kind of knew going into it it was going to be one of those types of games. That’s just one of those deals where we want to, moving forward, try to do everything we can to keep defenses honest going downfield. But nothing to do with Andy as much as it was more of the scheme.”

3. Nagy said Justin Fields’ timeline has not changed, but the Bears will keep working to see what makes sense for game opportunities.

Following up on Nagy’s answer about the lack of big plays Sunday, he was asked if Fields could help supplement the Bears in that area.

Nagy grinned.

“I don’t know, we’ll see,” he said. “He did a good job when he was in there.”

Fields played five snaps Sunday, hitting Goodwin for a 9-yard pass on a run-pass option and scoring on a 3-yard run. Nagy wouldn’t say how much Fields might play in upcoming games — or if those plays might be stacked together — but he said the Bears will consider how shuffling quarterbacks affects both Dalton and Fields.

“You could say, ‘Would that (playing Fields for a series) get him into a little more of a rhythm?’ ” Nagy said. “Maybe, but some of that is strategic, too, which obviously I’m not going to get into here with what we’re going to do. I do say this: Working off what we went with yesterday, he did a good job.”

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