January 23, 2021

3 and Out: Bears sputter in Wild Card loss to Saints, face crucial offseason decisions ahead

Takeaways following the Chicago Bears’ 21-9 to the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Wild Card game on Sunday

Three moments that mattered

1. Talk about an early game changer. With 3:42 remaining in the first quarter, David Montgomery took the Wild Cat snap, lateraled to Cordarrelle Patterson, who then flipped the ball back to Mitch Trubisky. Trubisky heaved a deep pass to Javon Wims, who dropped an easy would-be touchdown that would’ve tied the game. The Bears eventually had a fourth-down conversion opportunity, but Trubisky’s scramble was stopped short.

2. Following the Saints’ touchdown to go up 21-3, the Bears offense went 3-and-out and Matt Nagy opted to punt with 7:45 left in the game. Albeit deep in their own territory, it made little sense considering the season was on the line anyway and the Bears trailed by 18. With nothing really to lose at that point, that conservative approach killed any chances for an unlikely comeback.

3. With 5:09 left in the third quarter, the Saints faced a fourth-and-3 in the red zone. Bears safety Eddie Jackson was coaxed into a neutral zone infraction, extending the drive and giving the Saints an opportunity for a touchdown. Drew Brees later found running back Latavius Murray for a touchdown to give the Saints the 14-3 lead.

Three things that worked

1. Keeping Alvin Kamara in check: Kamara entered Sunday tied for second in the NFL WITH 16 rushing touchdowns. With five minutes left in the third quarter, Kamara had just 46 rushing yards and had his longest run of 9 yards at that point. Kamara finished with 99 rushing yards and a touchdown.

2. Tashaun Gipson: Perhaps highly overlooked due to playing alongside Eddie Jackson all season, Gipson turned in an excellent performance, which included eight tackles, one sack and one pass defensed. Gipson, who is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, might’ve played well enough during the entirety of the season to be brought back.

3. Manti Te’o: The Bears no doubt missed Roquan Smith, but Te’o was literally activated from the practice squad on Saturday and started the game. Considering he saw his first NFL action of the season in the playoffs, finishing with six tackles isn’t half bad. Te’o wasn’t perfect, but he filled in admirably.

Three things that didn’t

1. Staying alive: The Bears chances entering weren’t exactly high considering their injuries, the Saints getting back to full-strength and more, but the defense largely held up their end of the bargain to have a realistic shot for an upset. The offense, which was playing excellent the last number of weeks, produced three points, went 1-for-10 on third down and was limited to 148 total yards until padding the stats on a meaningless final drive. That won’t win a playoff game.

2. Third-down defense: The Bears defense overall played well considering the injuries in the secondary and missing Smith, but the third-down defense was inexcusable. The Saints finished 11-for-17 on third down, shredded the Bears on time of and crushed the Bears in first downs 27-11.

3. Javon Wims and Anthony Miller: Simply put, that dropped touchdown can’t happen. Trubisky threw a perfect ball and Wims needed to make a play. Miller was ejected in the third quarter after a confrontation with Saints defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson. Already short-handed with Darnell Mooney out, the Bears’ wideout depth failed them with little production and costly mistakes.

What’s next?

The Bears are eliminated from the postseason and now enter a crucial offseason with questions surrounding the status of general manager Ryan Pace, coach Matt Nagy, and whether Trubisky returns for a fifth season.

Jacob Bartelson

Jake is a full-time sports reporter writing primarily for the Kane County Chronicle covering preps. His collective work is featured across several Shaw markets and platforms, including Friday Night Drive and Bears Insider. Jake began full-time in 2017.