‘That’s contagious’: Why one clutch Nick Foles throw has Chicago Bears coaches excited for what’s ahead
The play opened up before the ball was even snapped. Nick Foles surveyed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense, diagnosed a blitz and alerted his playmakers accordingly.
Foles needed David Montgomery to be crisp with his wheel route and Allen Robinson to help free Montgomery with a pick on linebacker Shaquil Barrett.
The pass was thrown just as Montgomery was turning the corner, getting a step on Barrett and cornerback Carlton Davis and breaking free up the right sideline. Foles understood where the ball needed to go and trusted Montgomery would get there on time.
Much has been said and written about that 17-yard completion on the Chicago Bears’ game-winning drive Thursday night, the pass that pushed the offense into field-goal range and helped punctuate a 20-19 victory.
But on Tuesday afternoon, Bears passing game coordinator Dave Ragone elaborated on what impressed him most about Foles during that sequence. Ragone likened that 17-yard floater to Foles’ game-winning 28-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Miller 11 days earlier, the throw that completed the Bears’ 30-26 comeback win over the Atlanta Falcons.
Both completions beat blitzes.
Both came in clutch moments.
Both showed why the Bears believe in Foles to carry their offense.
“If you go back and watch both those plays, he was under distress,” Ragone said. “He had someone in his face early and was about to get hit. Both of those throws were trust-belief throws that he made that were game changers. And both (throws), you could argue, won the football game.”
For Ragone, Foles’ presence throughout his three appearances with the Bears has been impressive, particularly notable in those game-deciding moments.
“In the pocket he’s able to stand in there and make a throw under duress to a receiver who, at the time, maybe is not even open,” Ragone added. “He’s throwing them open. I walk away impressed by those type of throws because the reality is those type of throws win you football games.
“With Nick early on (this season), he’s been able to do that. And through the course of his career, you see those throws show up. Those aren’t ones you really practice or talk about. Those are instinctual. And I feel like he has made those plays happen just by having faith and belief that he can make those throws.”
Foles and the offense still have plenty of work to do to experience a more significant breakthrough that would establish the Bears as legitimate championship contenders. After scoring 20 points in the fourth quarter in Atlanta in Week 3, the Bears have averaged only 15.5 points and 256 total yards in Foles’ first two starts. The offense was shaky throughout a 19-11 home loss to the Indianapolis Colts and did just enough to sneak past the Buccaneers last week.
Foles has described the rhythm of the offense as “sporadic.” The Bears have scored only three touchdowns in 21 possessions the last two games. And coach Matt Nagy has reiterated that he and Foles still have to get synced up in their play caller-quarterback relationship.
Nagy has also issued a public demand for every member of the offense to be sharper with his attention to detail going forward.
As Week 6 begins, the Bears rank 27th in the NFL in yards per pass play (5.72), total offense (323.2 ypg) and scoring (21 ppg).
Still, Foles’ ability to lead game-winning drives in two of his first three games seems like an important building block. And, just as with the touchdown pass to Miller in Atlanta, Foles showed tremendous pocket poise on his pivotal throw to Montgomery on Thursday, delivering another strike while being hit.
“The quarterbacks who last in this league and have great careers are the ones who are able to sit in there even though they’re about to get hit and they can constantly make the throw,” Ragone said. “That’s the difference. You can get a quarterback back there who can take a hit but can’t complete the ball. And the reality is the defense won that play.
“When the quarterback can take a hit and still deliver the football? … Those kind of high-pressure type throws help you win a football game.”
Ragone acknowledged that Foles' pre-snap recognition was key on the throw to Montgomery. Foles understood what the defense was showing and knew how to react accordingly.
But he also had to cut the ball loose with confidence after he took the snap, delivering a pass that was on target and never in danger of being picked off.
“That goes back to the instinctual part of playing the position,” Ragone said, “and having the utmost inner confidence that you can make those type of throws. That’s contagious. Guys feel that when they watch the film at the other positions and they realize, hey, if we’re in our right correct spots at the right time, then this quarterback has now proven over the short time (he has been playing) that the ball will be delivered.”
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