New playcaller, same results: Bears' offense struggles as skid hits four

Matt Nagy or Bill Lazor. Old or new. It didn't matter.

The Chicago Bears' (5-5) offense is broken beyond repair, regardless of who calls plays, an assignment that fell in Lazor’s lap during Monday night’s 19-13 divisional loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

Chicago’s offense occasionally showed life in Lazor’s Bears playcalling debut, but it finished the night 2-of-11 on third down and contributed six points.

Losers of four straight, the Bears are stuck in a cycle of offensive futility. Nothing seems to work. No help is on the horizon. Suddenly, a team that opened 5-1 might find itself in last place in the NFC North in a matter of weeks.

The Vikings (4-5) are surging and next play the disappointing Cowboys (2-7) on a short week.

The Lions (4-5), whom the Bears miraculously beat in Week 1, take on the depleted Panthers (3-7) without Christian McCaffrey and possibly Teddy Bridgewater on Sunday.

Green Bay (7-2) looks light-years ahead of the rest of the field.

Typically, the bye week is a welcome relief. Not so for the Bears. Chicago will have to stew on its four-game losing streak for an extra week -- until the Bears travel to Lambeau Field on Nov. 29.

The worst could be yet to come.

Silver lining: Stop me if you’ve heard this before: The Bears wasted another brilliant effort by their defense. They completely bottled up Vikings running back Dalvin Cook until the second half, when Bears defensive tackle Akiem Hicks left the game because of a hamstring injury. Linebackers Khalil Mack (interception) and Roquan Smith and safety Eddie Jackson were all over the field. The Bears have a championship-level defense and a Pop Warner offense.

Silver lining II: Cordarrelle Patterson returned the opening kickoff of the second half 104 yards for a touchdown. Patterson, who was a first-round pick by the Vikings in 2013, has eight career kickoff return touchdowns. The all-purpose threat chipped in 49 yards on offense while starting running back David Montgomery sat out because of a concussion. Veteran Dwayne Harris did muff a punt, but after Harris left because of a triceps injury, Anthony Miller took over punt return duties and gained 44 yards on two returns.

QB breakdown: Nick Foles was carted off with an apparent lower back/hip injury late in the fourth quarter. Prior to the injury, Foles struggled, completing 15 of 26 pass attempts for 106 yards and one touchdown. Career backup Tyler Bray finished the game. Foles’ injury puts the Bears in an interesting spot, given that Mitchell Trubisky has missed the past two weeks because of a shoulder injury. Do the Bears turn back to Trubisky after the bye? Stay tuned.

Troubling trend: Send out the search party for Cole Kmet. In what has become a running theme, the rookie tight end proved to be a nonfactor on Monday. The Bears simply refuse to use Kmet in the passing game. The second-round pick had one catch for 7 yards on two targets against the Vikings. That gives him seven receptions all season. Kmet has dealt with a groin injury, but the reluctance to throw him the ball is baffling.

M-V-P … M-V-P: Bears kicker Cairo Santos went 2-for-2 on field goal attempts (23,42) to extend his steak to 14 consecutive made field goals. Chicago has not had such an automatic kicker since Robbie Gould, who converted 17 consecutive field goals in Weeks 1-8 of the 2015 season. Santos is also perfect on extra point attempts in 2020. The Bears' best offensive weapon -- by a wide margin -- has been their kicker.

Eye-popping NextGen stat: The Bears had 10 offensive linemen play 35-plus snaps in the previous three weeks. Chicago’s offensive line received a little relief on Monday, when starting center Cody Whitehair returned off the reserve/COVID-19 list, but the Bears still started backups Rashaad Coward at right tackle and Alex Bars at left guard. Another storyline to watch post-bye week is the status of starting right tackle Bobby Massie, who has been on injured reserve because of a knee injury. Massie will make $7 million in 2020 and is scheduled to earn $8 million next year. The Bears have plenty of offensive line decisions to make in the offseason, and Massie is at the top of the list. Massie, 31, is under contract through 2022.