Chicago Bears Make the Big Switch, Stay Undefeated

It always felt like a matter of when the Chicago Bears would make the switch from Mitchell Trubisky to trade acquisition (and former Super Bowl MVP) Nick Foles, not if. Trailing the winless Atlanta Falcons 26-10, Matt Nagy finally reached his breaking point. With about nine minutes remaining in the third quarter, the Bears head coach made the switch.

Undefeated Bears Stay That Way After Making Switch

Wait, What Changed?

More of the same things that plagued them throughout the first two contests. Inconsistency from the offense, questionable personnel usage, and special teams issues all showed up. We also saw our worst fears about the defense come to be as Atlanta wideout Calvin Ridley and the duo of Todd Gurley and Brian Hill gave the Bears problems.

All of those faded away, if only for the rest of the day. Foles came off the bench to rally the Bears to a 30-36 victory. It marked the second time in as many weeks that the Falcons blew a 15-plus point lead in the fourth quarter. It was also the second time this season the Bears rallied back from such a deficit.

It’s fair to wonder if the coaching staff, namely Nagy, was just biding time until he could install Foles after the early season shakiness from the offense. Trubisky had rallied the Bears back two weeks earlier in Detroit. A repeat performance wasn’t out of the realm of possibilities.

Same Song And Dance

That might just be it though. Living so dangerously in the NFL catches up to you. After watching his offense struggle for seven of ten quarters Nagy could take no more. He said after the game it was a “gut feeling” and that he knew when Trubisky threw a really bad interception. But Trubisky was shaky from the jump, including nearly being picked twice on the opening drive.

That first possession was a nine-play drive that ended in a missed Cairo Santos field goal attempt (Eddy Piniero is eligible to return next week) but Mitch got lucky after throwing off of his back foot Atlanta made them pay. A 63-yard pass to Ridley on their first play of the game led to a short one to Hayden Hurst for the touchdown. Trubisky marched them down on a 12-play drive, this time netting a field goal. They then had back-to-back three-and-outs as Trubisky began to look uncomfortable in the face of an Atlanta defense that generated more pressure than usual.

The teams traded punts and Atlanta hit a field goal to go up 3-9, then after another Chicago punt, they got another score on Brian HIll’s 35-yard scamper. Chicago got some life when Trubisky broke off a 45-yard run setting up a two-yard pass to Jimmy Graham, bringing the Bears within six. An Atlanta punt led to one for Chicago after Trubisky missed Anthony Miller deep; a key development when it was all said and done.

Tricky Nicky

Turbisky actually started the second half after Atlanta opened it with a Gurley touchdown to make it 23-10, but he promptly threw that awful pick. After the Falcons tacked on their final points of the day on another field goal to make it 26-10, Foles entered and, for all intents and purposes, ended the Trubisky era in Chicago. He drove the offense down the field but only after having a pass sail just over a defender’s hands into those of Graham. His luck would turn when his apparent touchdown to Allen Robinson was overturned on review and deemed an interception.

Chicago then got a break when Atlanta began to do what they have become known for and collapsed with questionable play-calling and poor execution, including missing a field goal. They almost fell short of the comeback when Anthony Miller had what looked at first glance to be a touchdown but replay showed it hit the ground resulting in a turnover on downs.

Atlanta proceeded to go three-and-out on three straight drives while Foles threw touchdowns to Graham, Robinson, and Miller. Miller’s was important for two reasons. First, it gave the Bears the lead. But second, and maybe more importantly, it was the same throw Trubisky had missed before halftime; a fact he acknowledged in his presser. Matt Ryan threw a pick of his own to seal the deal but the most important decision had already been made.

Three & Out

Trubisky said it was offensive coordinator Bill Lazor who came to him with the news of the Bears switch. If true, this isn’t a good look for Nagy. Their history supersedes any other coach and player on this team. And with all the implications of such a decision, Nagy owed it to Trubisky to tell him. Again, this whole thing feels like Nagy was just waiting for a moment to make the switch. Not determining where or not to do it at all. It falls in line with the off-season predictions made here about the position. It still wasn’t handled as well as it could have been.

The defense (Tashaun Gipson) came up with the big, game-sealing interception and even had some moments in the red zone where they tightened up. But they let the Falcons running back reach the second level far too often. They racked up 144 yards and the two scores on just 25 carries. Kyle Fuller also had a rough day with Ridley (5/110) as the Bears defense had troubles early against the Julio Jones-less Falcons.

Nothing coming out of this game is worse than the news confirming Tarik Cohen tore his ACL after being hit while fair-catching a punt. It was deemed not to be a penalty though it certainly could have been one. Cohen, fresh off signing his three-year extension, was showing well in this one. He gained 21 yards on his two carries and adding another 20 yards on three catches. Hopefully, he can return to full strength next season.

The Switch Made, Bears Remain Undefeated

The switch went just about as expected. Trubisky had the luxury of being the incumbent without a preseason to lose the job. A little over 10 quarters of the same uneven play was all it took for Foles to get his shot. With Nagy announcing Monday that Foles would be the starter going forward, we have to come away asking a few questions.

What is the ceiling for this group now? After scraping by the first two weeks, the guy many felt should have been leading the Bears the entire time now is. Does that raise them to playoff contention with what is still a good defense? Also, will this be the last time we see Trubisky take a meaningful snap in a Bears uniform? Foles has never started more than 11 games or played in more than 13 in a regular season. There are 13 games left. Can he stay healthy and, the real question, remain effective for the rest of the season? He only completed 55 percent of his passes on Sunday but also had a couple of would-be touchdowns taken away. His first test comes next week against another banged-up opponent in the Indianapolis Colts.

 

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