Jimmy Graham felt the difference almost immediately. The Bears’ offense, now with Nick Foles at the helm, was humming in a way that the veteran tight end – who had two touchdowns of his own on Sunday – hadn’t seen before.
“His execution and really taking over the kills and the calls was pretty special,” Graham said after the Bears’ 30-26 win in Atlanta. “He was out there ad-libbing a bit for sure and checking and changing some plays. There’s one play called, I’m like, ‘We got that?’ So it was pretty cool to see and pretty cool to be a part of.”
There were nine and a half minutes left in the third quarter when Matt Nagy decided it was time to go to Foles. Up to that point the Bears coach hadn’t been pleased with the rhythm and energy that Trubisky was bringing to the offense, and there was discussion among coaches at halftime about making a switch. Ultimately, it was Trubisky’s third quarter interception – which, as Trubisky admitted, happened because he wasn’t “on the same page” with Graham – that sealed the deal. Nagy turned to Foles, told him to warm up, and that was it. “It was just simple as that,” Foles said.
Things got off to an inauspicious start when, on Foles’ first drive, an Allen Robinson touchdown was overturned and ruled an interception. Falcons defensive back Darqueze Dennard wrestled the ball away from Robinson on the ground, though it was hard to really tell who had possession. For what it’s worth, Foles said that throughout his time in the NFL, he’s always seen the offense get calls on a jump ball like that. Robinson put it a bit more bluntly.
“It’s not easy coming in cold like that,” Foles added. “But if you can approach it with a mindset of ‘Hey, one play at a time, you can’t get all those points back in one throw,’ that helps a lot.”
It didn’t take long for Foles (or Robinson, for that matter) to straighten things out after that. Three of the Bears’ next five drives ended in touchdowns, and Foles finished the game 16-29 with 188 yards. Ironically enough, the final, game-winning score came on the same play – a deep ball to Anthony Miller – that Mitch Trubisky missed at the end of the first half; it was the miscue that Nagy said made him consider making the switch originally.
“I would say that with Nick, he kind of has a history in these big moments of making things happen,” he said. “There was just a calm out there that I really felt by him. You become a little bit one-dimensional and there were some plays that he did in those last couple drives where he got us in a good situation, and he made a lot of plays happen based off of his experience, and that’s good to have, and when you have that, that’s good.”
Foles told reporters after the game that the ball to Miller was an improvised look; after recognizing a certain front that Atlanta showed, the two agreed on a specific spot in the end zone that Foles would throw at if the Falcons brought pressure. They did, and Foles didn’t even see the play happen in real time after getting knocked to the ground.
“We sort of had two plays on,” he said. “And we didn’t know if they were dummying their look – they had sort of got me earlier in the game and swiped back to two-high safeties when it looked like they were bringing everyone, so we were able to configure a pretty cool little two-play play.
“They showed what we call a zero blitz, and we were able to check it and get the ball snapped quickly. The linemen did their job to give me just enough time to throw and A-Mill was right where he needed to be to catch it. He made a great play. So that’s a fun way to win a game: when they bring one more and you can handle and we executed.”
Nagy wouldn’t commit to either Foles or Trubisky going forward, though that decision’s probably more procedural than anything else. The Bears got their first taste of the Nick Foles Experience and scored 30 points in the process – it’s hard to see a compelling reason to turn back now.