What we’re about to tell you about the Chicago Bears could easily be explained in a few different ways.
One: Chicago has been historically unlucky and any surge in fortuitous events is the inevitable karmic backswing of a franchise whose most recent trip to the playoffs ended in a double-doink field goal miss (and the subsequent years in which they tried to strangle any memory of said miss through a chaotic series of kicker-related events).
Two: Nick Foles is as advertised; a talisman of otherworldly proportions. He simply radiates good fortune and, when properly incubated as a plucky mentor-type backup quarterback for an undefined period of time, begins to accumulate massive amounts of luck-causing powers that he proceeds to unleash on the field once given the opportunity to start.
Three: The Bears are like a wobbly Atlantic City tourist who just won an unbelievable amount of money at the roulette table and instead of cashing in are about to order another Crown and Coke and double down, eventually costing them their wallet, shirt and Uber money.
But let’s not think about No. 3. Because the truth is that, at almost any point during the fourth quarter of a game this season, Chicago has been one of the most beautifully fascinating teams in the NFL. Should it continue on this pace, studying this kind of cosmic defiance would be a great benefit to the scientific community. While all seasons have a million specific events that need to go correctly in order to be considered successful, everything from health to a bounce of the football or a timely interception, the Bears seem to be challenging the perception that this can’t happen to a team every week of the year.
Join us as we venture through the fourth quarter of four of their five wins this season and count just how many strange things had to go precisely right in order for the Bears to be sitting at the point they are now.
Week 1: Fourth quarter vs. Detroit Lions
1. Chicago begins its first fourth quarter of the season trailing 23–6, needing to convert a critical fourth down in order to keep this necessary touchdown drive alive. The Bears call a fake dive and flip toss to Cordarrelle Patterson, who squeezes out the first down by a matter of inches thanks to two Lions players taking horrendous angles to the play.
2. Two plays later, Mitch Trubisky fakes a handoff to David Montgomery (although it appears both are traveling in different directions), cocks his arm and fires a pass directly into the hands of Lions safety Tracy Walker, who has the ball in his hands and drops the interception. On the next play, Trubisky hits Jimmy Graham for a touchdown.
3. On their next offensive possession, now trailing 23–13, Trubisky is sacked on third-and-13 at his own 39-yard line. He fumbles, with the ball now squirting back 18 yards behind the initial line of scrimmage completely up for grabs. It is recovered by another Bears player, Charles Leno, and Chicago can safely punt on fourth-and-41, preventing the Lions from an easy scoring opportunity.
4. On the ensuing possession, the Lions drive down to the Bears’ 37-yard line, ahead by 10 points, and kicker Matt Prater misses a 55-yard field goal wide right.
5. Three plays into the Bears’ next drive, Trubisky throws a pass down the right sideline to Anthony Miller, who catches the ball with one hand. The highly unlikely catch sets up a 17-yard pass to Graham and then a one-yard touchdown pass to Javon Wims. The score is now 23–20, Lions.
6. On the Lions’ next possession, a third-and-5 that can ice the game for Detroit, Matt Stafford throws the ball over the middle and the ball whacks Eddie Jackson’s forearm, popping it straight into the air. It is a perfectly interceptable pop-up, which is brought down by Kyle Fuller. The Bears get the ball at Detroit’s 37-yard line. They score two plays later to go up 27–23. The touchdown catch by Miller is another incredibly low-percentage throw that is miraculously caught for a touchdown.
7. With 11 seconds remaining, the Lions are driving for a game-winning score. Stafford hits rookie running back D’Andre Swift directly in the hands with a pass in the end zone. Swift has about two yards of separation on the nearest defender but drops the ball. The Bears win.
Week 2: Fourth Quarter vs. the Giants
8. Leading the Giants 17–10, Trubisky begins the fourth quarter by throwing an interception. On the Giants’ ensuing possession, they drive down to the Bears’ 19-yard line when, on third-and-10, Daniel Jones drills receiver Damion Ratley square in the chest with a fastball beyond the first down marker, which would have set the Giants up for a first-and-goal situation to tie the game. Ratley drops the pass. The Giants settle for a field goal.
9. On the Bears’ next drive, a fourth-and-2 that could seal the game, Trubisky tries to force a pass to Graham, who is blanketed by two defenders. The ball is batted, flies slightly to the left and is caught by … Bears offensive tackle Bobby Massie, who happened to be eligible on the play and was sitting a few yards beyond the first down marker. They are able to continue the drive, keeping the ball away from the Giants until the two-minute warning.
Week 3: Fourth Quarter vs. the Falcons
10. With 13:35 remaining in the fourth quarter, and the Falcons ahead 26–10, kicker Younghoe Koo misses a 48-yard field goal. To this day, it is his only miss of the season.
11. On the Bears’ next drive, Nick Foles chucks a ball downfield to Graham after getting chased out of the pocket. The pass is complete, but only after going straight through the hands of Falcons cornerback Isaiah Oliver. Like, right through his hands. Oliver was high-pointing the ball, prepared to catch it, and it just slipped between his two hands. Then, Graham fumbles the ball and it is, of course, recovered by the Bears.
12. Later on that same touchdown drive, Oliver drops a second interception on a Foles pass to Graham on third-and-17.
13. After two quick Chicago scoring drives, Matt Ryan drops back to pass on a third-and-15 from his own 20-yard line and launches a ball to a wide open Olamide Zaccheaus on a sure touchdown with no Bears defenders behind him. However, the ball goes long by a few yards and the Falcons are forced to punt.
14. On that punt, Falcons fullback Keith Smith commits a boneheaded unnecessary roughness penalty, hitting the Bears’ returner helmet-to-helmet when he’s already on the ground, gifting Chicago another 15 yards and the ball on Atlanta’s 44-yard line. Chicago scores the game-winning touchdown three plays later.
Week 5: Fourth quarter vs. The Buccaneers
15. Trailing 16–14 with 12:47 to play, Foles is sacked at the Tampa Bay 15-yard line and fumbles backward, nearly eight yards behind the line of scrimmage. Massie, the same player who caught the miraculous bobbled pass against the Giants, recovers the fumble. Cairo Santos is then able to still kick the go-ahead field goal, making it 17–16.
16. Now trailing 19–17 with 3:07 to go, Foles drops back on second-and-8, looking at Darnell Mooney. His pass comes within inches of getting pick-sixed by Jamel Dean (Dean, a few days later, will get his first pick-six on Aaron Rodgers). Had this drive not ended in a punt, we could have added that, on a third-and-19 a few plays later, Foles was hit by Shaquil Barrett and the Buccaneers were flagged for roughing the passer. Studio officiating analyst Mike Pereira would later say he would not have called that as a foul.
17. Also on that drive, Dean again has a chance to pick off a pass, this time on a second-and-8 with 3:14 remaining. Mooney barely manages to stick a hand in between Dean’s and helps break up the pass.
18. Perhaps most notably, as the Buccaneers started a drive at their own 25-yard line, now trailing 20–19, Tom Brady, the greatest quarterback of all time, forgot it was fourth down and chucked a 50–50 ball well beyond the sticks for no reason.
While there are probably threads like this you could pull throughout the season for other teams, this seems wonderfully excessive, no? All it’s taken for the Bears to get to this point has been the strength of one of the league’s best defenses. Oh, and the only missed field goal of the season from a good kicker, a dropped pass in the end zone, a few missed interception opportunities, a few missed throws from a future Hall of Fame quarterback, a few popped-up interceptions, the eternal loose-ball gobbling abilities of offensive tackle Bobby Massie and, oh yes, Tom Brady, the most maniacally prepared quarterback in NFL history, making a rookie mistake with the game on the line.
This isn’t some smug way of saying the Bears don’t deserve to be here. Who can say whether or not their luck will run out? It’s merely a primer for another week and another fourth quarter, where, odds are, something unexpected is going to happen.