Coach Matt Nagy is under no legal obligation to declare Nick Foles his starting quarterback, but he didn’t fool anyone with his absurd hedging and ‘‘Honestly, we’re not there right now’’ line after Foles led the Bears to a stunning 30-26 comeback Sunday against the Falcons.
Honestly, you are.
This was more than just a one-time call to the bullpen. It’ll be Foles against the Colts next Sunday at Soldier Field and for however long he can give the Bears what they’ve been lacking at the position: competence.
That’s all Nagy has wanted, but Foles delivered so much more when he replaced Mitch Trubisky after an interception on the Bears’ first possession of the second half.
Foles came in facing a 26-10 deficit and, after a touchdown pass to Allen Robinson was changed to an interception upon replay review, still trailed by that score when the Bears got the ball with nine minutes left. From there, he led three consecutive touchdown drives with so much time to spare that the Bears ended the game with three kneel-downs.
After Trubisky went 13-for-22 for 128 yards with an interception, Foles burned the Falcons for 188 yards, three touchdowns and a questionably officiated interception. He posted a 95.2 passer rating — nearly eight points higher than Trubisky’s season mark — and it would have been 120.6 if his excellent throw on the play to Robinson had been called a touchdown.
‘‘I just wasn’t expecting this today,’’ said Foles, who got minimal reps the last three weeks and has been taking snaps on the scout team. ‘‘I felt good out there. Not perfect, but I felt good.
‘‘This is one game. We have a long road ahead.’’
A long road, indeed, and the sign ahead is one of those ‘‘Hills and curves, next 78 miles’’ warnings you see on the Pacific Coast Highway. Buckle up for a wild ride because that’s what Foles’ entire career has been.
This is a guy with the capacity to play great enough to be one of the 22 quarterbacks who has been voted MVP of the Super Bowl and poorly enough to get dumped by the Jaguars. He went to the Pro Bowl with a 119.2 passer rating in 2013 and was dismissed by the Rams with a 69.0 rating two years later. His ledger features a seven-touchdown game — tying the NFL’s all-time record — and a start in which he was 4-for-11 for 39 yards.
A few weeks ago, he couldn’t beat out Trubisky for the starting job. Now, he’s a hero again.
Warning: Following Foles can cause whiplash.
Incidentally, Foles probably suffered actual whiplash on his winning touchdown pass to Anthony Miller with 1:53 left. He told Miller simply to run to the ‘‘L’’ in ‘‘ATL’’ spelled out in the end zone and made good on his promise to get the ball there by altering his arm angle just as linebacker Mykal Walker leveled him.
Foles called it a ‘‘pretty cool’’ play-call and ‘‘a fun way to win a game,’’ even though he couldn’t see how it ended as he lay on the turf.
‘‘He kind of has a history in these big moments of making things happen,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘There was just a calm out there that I really felt by him. You become a little bit one-dimensional, [but] there were some plays in those last couple of drives where he got us in a good situation, and he made a lot of plays happen based off of his experience. That’s good to have.’’
It’s especially good to have if Nagy thinks his team is a steady quarterback away from being a contender. In the last three decades, teams that started 3-0 made the playoffs 74% of the time. Foles is anything but steady, of course, but if his highs and lows balance out sufficiently, he’s the right choice to steer the Bears.