Outcoached, outplayed: Bears crash back to earth in loss to Rams

The Chicago Bears traveled to Los Angeles in search of national respect.

Chicago instead subjected the nation to kind of hideous offensive football that prevented people from buying in. At 5-2, the Bears are very much NFC playoff contenders, but Monday night’s 24-10 loss in Los Angeles once again exposed the team’s fatal flaw: The offense stinks.

In what has become a broken record, the Bears' offense established zero rhythm, zero continuity, inspired zero confidence and scored close to zero points -– safety Eddie Jackson’s fumble return accounted for Chicago’s lone touchdown.

The offensive line needs a massive offseason overhaul. It all starts up front, where the Bears accomplished next to nothing against the Rams. Run the football. Nope. Protect Nick Foles. Nope. Commit costly penalties (Germain Ifedi, Rashaad Coward). Yep.

The Bears have scored a touchdown on just 48% of their red zone possessions –- tied for fourth worst in the NFL, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Some of the play selections didn't help matters. The football world probably has seen enough of fourth-and-1 pitches to Cordarrelle Patterson. Patterson is a Pro Bowl kickoff return man. He is a maximum-effort guy. Yet the fascination with calling his number on plays out of the backfield is baffling. The Bears drafted David Montgomery to be a three-down back. Where is Montgomery when the Bears need a couple of tough yards on the ground?

"This is hard -- I’ve never really been a part of this before. It’s a situation that’s frustrating for all of us … when you care so much and are trying so hard, that’s the part that stings," head coach Matt Nagy said. "Just trying to get that thing right, and it hasn’t happened … we have to look across the board at everything. We gotta start fast. When you come out and get a penalty, it kills the drive. Penalties hurt; you cannot have them early on in the game. You cannot have penalties in fourth-and-1 trying to move the sticks. That’s the part when we have to figure out when this is going to stop.”

The frustration for Bears fans also has been palpable and building. The Bears spent the past week defending their record while choosing not to focus too much publicly on the faults. Fair enough.

After that display on Monday Night Football, there is nowhere to hide those faults and the criticism will continue.

QB breakdown: Not good enough. Foles' best play occurred in garbage time when he connected with Allen Robinson for 42-yards -- Chicago’s first 40-plus yard reception of the season. Foles missed a wide-open Darnell Mooney on a deep ball down the sideline as he faced pressure from Los Angeles’ defense. Foles later had a third-quarter pass tipped and intercepted in the end zone that effectively ended the game. Foles finished the night 28-of-40 for 261 yards and two interceptions (66.8 passer rating). Not good enough, indeed.

(Sort of) Promising trend: Chicago spent a second-round pick on tight end Cole Kmet. Finally, the Bears have begun to utilize the rookie. After a mini-breakout performance -- first career touchdown -- against Carolina in Week 6, Kmet caught two passes for 45 yards on Monday night. Kmet needs more targets, but at least Foles is looking his way. Veteran tight end Demetrius Harris dropped another pass against the Rams and is best suited to block. More Kmet, please.

Troubling trend: The Bears might want to re-examine their punt return game. Veteran Ted Ginn Jr. has struggled to make any sort of impact on either offense or special teams, but Ginn’s issues on punt returns were magnified at SoFi Stadium. On four occasions, Ginn let a punt bounce that Los Angeles downed inside the 10. Ginn took over punt return duty after Tarik Cohen suffered a season-ending torn ACL. Might be time for Plan C.

Silver lining: Chicago’s defense played another reasonably strong game until it ran out of gas. As advertised, Khalil Mack applied pressure on Rams quarterback Jared Goff. Mack recorded his 17th career strip-sack in the third quarter -- the second most in the NFL since the start of 2014. Mack’s sack happened in the span of just 2.64 seconds. That’s the second-fastest time Mack has had as a Bear. The defense (despite a bunch of penalties, most notably by dominant defensive lineman Akiem Hicks) kept the Bears in it for a good chunk of the night. At some point, Chicago’s offense has to join the party. Otherwise, the defense is going to wear down over the final nine weeks.

Bold prediction: The Bears' never-ending kicker controversy is over. Veteran Cairo Santos -- the reigning NFC special-teams player of the week -- made another field goal and is 11-of-13 on the year. Last year’s starter, Eddy Pineiro, is stuck on injured reserve with a groin problem, but even when Pineiro is cleared to return, the Bears have to stick with Santos. Nagy is big on trust -- hence the decision to bench Mitchell Trubisky in favor of Foles -- and the coach’s history with Santos, dating back to their time together in Kansas City, weighs heavily in the decision-making process.

Eye-popping NextGen Stat: Foles’ 37-yard completion to Kmet had an air distance of 44.1 yards and Kmet had 0.67 yards of separation when he caught it. The downfield reception marked Foles’ longest tight-window completion of the season.