THE MORNING AFTER: Just a few puzzle pieces short of a masterpiece

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Frankly, they had more highlights during the course of an afternoon than in the last few years of Chicago Bears football.

There were two plays reminiscent of iconic Super Bowl moments, a textbook onside kick, fourth-down conversions, impressive resilience, and a trick play rarely seen by the club that trademarked the “T-Formation.”

Call it a pretty impressive puzzle in which the Bears had the biggest pieces to make a masterpiece. It was a pretty picture even on an ugly day at Met Life Stadium, where Matt Nagy’s team was hoping to run their winning streak to six.

But if one is to compare the game with the Giants to a puzzle, then there was one problem. A few pieces apparently got out of the box and found their way underneath the couch, and they’ve weren’t found in time to complete the picture.

While fans might be able to have seen something impressive of Sunday, it was a few gaps around the near-iconic moments that leave a bitter taste in the form of a 30-27 defeat at the hand of a three-win New York team.

“The one thing I just told our guys is (that) I am proud of them for fighting to the end,” said Nagy, who saw his team rally from ten down with two minutes to left to force overtime. “Not every team will do that. I think we have a bunch of high-character guys that fight until the end, and that is a credit to them, so we have to figure out how to learn from this.”

But let’s take a moment to reflect on the moderate amount of memorable, creative, and kinda insane plays that took place.

  • An interception touchdown by Alec Ogletree on the second play.
  • Kyle Fuller’s NFL-leading sixth interception
  • Khalil Mack pushing Nate Solder into Eli Manning for an incompletion.
  • Allen Robinson pulling a David Tyree on his former team as he caught a pass of B.W. Webb’s helmet.
  • Akiem Hicks, ala William “The Refrigerator” Perry, rushing for a score on fourth down.
  • Aldrick Rosas 57-yard field goal.

Breathe.

  • Odell Beckham Jr. throws a touchdown to a wide open Sterling Shepard for a touchdown.
  • Chase Daniel completes a pass downfield to Tarik Cohen with 1:29 to go in which he was hit by two defenders just after he released it.
  • Cody Parkey executed a nearly flawless onside kick that landed right at Daniel Brown’s feet.
  • Daniel hits Cohen for a 23-yard gain on 4th-and-3.

Breathe again.

  • A pass interference call put the ball at the Giants’ one-yard line with three seconds left.
  • A double reverse gave Cohen the chance to pass, and he hit Anthony Miller for the touchdown. (Call it the “Swaggy Nagy” Play)
  • And, yes, Parkey easily knocked down the extra point.
  • Saquon Barkley breaks a 29-yard run to start overtime which led to a Giants field goal.
  • On 4th-and-7, Daniel finds Robinson on a great throw for a first down.

Again, that’s a couple of games full of moments, and in a down Bears’ era the past few years, those could make up a season. Yet it couldn’t save a very weird afternoon at Met Life Stadium for the Bears in a game they were favored.

There were pieces missing in this puzzle that prevented this from happening, ones that have been there been there this season for the Bears. Daniel threw a pick-six on the second play of the game then underthrew a pass for Cohen that would have been a touchdown.

A timeout called by Nagy late in the first half after a sack allowed the Giants to get two big gains that helped to set up a field goal, which made a major difference in the final score.

While they played a solid game, the defense had a rare major breakdown on Beckham’s touchdown pass in the third quarter. They also had a breakdown on Barkley’s 29-yard run that would set up the game-winning field goal.

Oh, and Daniel had some issues collecting the snaps, which hurt on the final drive in overtime when he couldn’t get the magic of the fourth quarter back again. It was a host of mistakes that were just enough to negate the incredible plays which defined one of the more memorable games of the decade for the Bears.

“That talks about our team’s mental fortitude and how we were able to put a disastrous three quarters to bed and really play the fourth quarter and overtime and be in the game. It was really cool to be able to score a field goal and touchdown and kick an onside kick,” said Chase Daniel. “I felt really good going into overtime. I felt good about our defense and our play calling.

“We put ourselves in some bad positions with some missed exchanges with Cody [Whitehair]. They made more plays at the end of the day.”

Or more pieces to make their puzzle whole.