If it was Matt Nagy's last game with the Bears, he went out being true to himself.
As he always says, be you.
Nagy played it exactly the way he usually did. The Bears took unnecessary risks, made questionable play calls, performed horribly in the red zone, put themselves in bad down-and-distance situations and lost 31-17 to the Minnesota Vikings Sunday to close the 2021 season with a 6-11 record.
"Big picture just from the game we weren't able to get going in that big red zone from that plus-, you know, 35 to the plus-25," Nagy said. "You felt it. I felt like we controlled the game for the first half."
It wasn't all on Nagy and the offense as the defense came out for one more curtain call with their own specialty from earlier this season -- the late-game collapse. The Bears were outscored 21-0 in the fourth quarter, but one of the three TDs came on a 66-yard pick-6 by Patrick Peterson of Andy Dalton's fourth-down desperation throw.
"I don't think we were good enough this year in the red zone," Nagy said, in a classic understatement. "Getting better there, whether that’s players, whether it's scheme, whatever it is, you have to score more points when you get down in the red zone."
Nagy decided against trying field goals on three of their first six possessions and on all three incursions into the Minnesota territory his fourth-down gamble failed. Two of them resulted in sacks, one from the 1-yard line. Appropriately, the clinching pick-6 also came on a failed fourth down.
The Bears went 1-for-6 on fourth down on the day.
"It was frustrating," Dalton said. "On fourth downs (they) are important plays. They tend to be the difference in this game today. So I mean it's unfortunate we were unable to convert and make the plays when we needed to."
A fourth-and-goal sack after replay determined Dalton's TD scramble had actually come up short at the 1 seemed to trigger a drastic change in the game away from Bears dominance.
"I mean you can definitely feel the momentum," wide receiver Darnell Mooney said. "I mean when we're getting down there you can definitely feel like, hey, you're giving them another chance to make this a game or we don't get the fourth down, or convert on fourth down you can definitely feel like we've got to get over the hump of at least something positive.
"Then when we do get something positive with Andy scoring the touchdown but that wasn't the touchdown."
The Bears could have led 23-3 at halftime simply by taking the field goals they turned down. They did get a 23-yard touchdown pass from Dalton to Damien Williams and field goals of 43 and 46 yards to lead 14-3 at the half.
Just before halftime the Vikings finally started gaining rhythm with their passing game and had a 39-yard Greg Joseph field goal.
A 44-yard TD pass from Kirk Cousins to Ihmir Smith-Marsette, after Artie Burns fell in coverage, drew the Vikings within 14-10 and fueled Minnesota's comeback.
"Man, it's crazy after being in the first half, but that's why it's a 60-minute game," linebacker Roquan Smith said. "Yeah, it got away from us and shifted the momentum and those guys made more plays than we did."
Justin Jefferson beat Eddie Jackson for a 45-yard tying TD pass with 13:35 to play and Kevin Osborn hauled in a 21-yard TD with 8:04 left to break the 17-17 tie.
"So it sucks, but hey, it is what it is and all we can do is go into the offseason with a chip on our shoulder and just get better," Smith said.
Peterson's interception capped off the day, the season and possibly Nagy's career.
All the Bears had in the second half was Santos' third field goal, a 42-yarder. They dominated in terms of possession time (36:47-23:13) and first downs (24-11) but victory wound up eluding them again.
They wasted a career-best 12-catch day for 126 yards from Mooney, who went over 1,000 yards on the season, as well another half a sack from Robert Quinn, who came up a half-sack short of his career high of 19 sacks.
"You know, you have 80 plays like we were, we were moving the football, doing different things similar to the first time that we played these guys," Nagy said. "We just weren't as productive."
Before the Vikings went on their march to a field goal to close the second half, they had been outgained by the Bears 210 yards to 22 but found themselves in it because of the failed Nagy fourth-down gambles and red-zone inefficiency.
After losing nine of their last 12, the Bears turn their attention to Halas Hall and the fateful verdict from ownership, most likely on Monday after players meet with Nagy.
"I've never been in this position before," Nagy said. "For me I continue to just go about business like normal, and I mean that. I've had conversation (with Ryan Pace and ownership)–nothing has changed, as I told you guys a few days ago.
"I know this: Whatever is supposed to happen will happen. I'm a positive person. I think that it's about these players right now, and these players have fought their asses off. They play hard. They sacrifice their body every day. Everything else will take care of itself how it's supposed to."