LAS VEGAS -- The Chicago Bears have searched for years for an offensive identity. But head coach Matt Nagy thinks his team might have finally found one.
The Bears outworked the Raiders in every way imaginable, including on the ground, where, even without running back David Montgomery (knee injury), Chicago outgained Las Vegas 143 to 71 behind the physical running of veteran back Damien Williams (64 rushing yards, one touchdown) and rookie Khalil Herbert (75 rushing yards).
“It feels good to have that [identity],” Nagy said. “And now what we’ve got to do is as we go through this identity and figure out where we’re at, is now be able to grow with that, right? Because teams start to see who you are and they’re going to have counter ways to come back and counter you and counterattack you and I think that for us we’ve got to counter that. We always talk about you’ve got to keep them chasing the cat’s tail. So I think that’s important.”
The Bears’ offensive epiphany coincided with offensive coordinator Bill Lazor taking over playcalling duties prior to their Week 4 win over the Detroit Lions. In the two games for which Lazor has called the plays, a clear identity has formed, with Chicago ranking in the top four in designed run call percentage, play-action usage, percentage of plays outside the pocket and plays under center over that span -- all significant increases from the previous three games when Nagy was calling the plays.
The game plan still runs through Nagy, but Lazor has been in a rhythm. Chicago recorded 19 first downs, went 6-of-13 on third down, tallied 252 net yards and surrendered only two sacks against a Raiders pass rush that ranked sixth in the NFL in pass rush win rate.
Nagy said the change in playcallers has helped him be more involved with all aspects of the team during games.
“I just think when you go through everything that we’re going through, when you’re able to step back and figure out, 'OK, what’s best for this team?' Last week was my first time going through it [not calling plays], and I told you how good that felt after the game,” Nagy said.
“And then the same thing with the Raiders game. I’m able to really interact with those guys on defense and special teams. Sometimes I’m running down to find out what the playcall is on that first play of the drive because I’m still celebrating with the defense or talking to them. It feels good. I like that. I think as a result you’re seeing what we’re doing offensively, defensively, everything, and if I can be the best head coach by doing that, I’m going to do it.”
The improvements have not been lost on quarterback Justin Fields, who, because of the balanced attack on offense, is being used more as a game-manager -- who also happens to have impressive big-play potential.
“When we get the run game going like that, it’s tough on opposing defenses,” Fields said after the Raiders game. “I was glad the offensive line was able to do that, plus the running backs and tight ends. They did a great job blocking up front, and our running backs were making plays.”
The question remains whether the Bears (3-2) can remain focused and disciplined on offense as the schedule turns tougher. With games against the Green Bay Packers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the horizon, the Bears' new offensive identity will be put to the test.
Any slippage, and all the good vibes from the Vegas trip will be wiped away.