Grading the Bears: QB Move Was One Series Too Late
There were numerous small groups of Bears fans, co-workers communicating though working at home, who had pools on what week Mitchell Trubisky would be replaced by Nick Foles.
The number three is the winner.
The Bears have become the only team in history to come back from more than one deficit of 16 points or more in the fourth quarter during a season, and it took them only three weeks to do it, and three weeks to replace Trubisky.
Here are the grades from their second great comeback of the 2020 season.
Running Game: C-
During the early portion of the game David Montgomery ran effectively on first or second down and they had the Falcons off balance. The stats show 5.2 yards per carry but it's a misnomer because Mitchell Trubisky scrambled on one play for 45 yards against a blitz. When the defense couldn't keep a deficit from building and Mitchell Trubisky could do little about it the Falcons started to run-blitz and everything fell to pieces in the ground game. Cordarrelle Patterson seemed totally out of place in the backfield for the first time in this game, but this was largely due to all the blitzing and the gap-shooting Falcons front line. It was something he hadn't seen to date. They have to work at solving this because other teams will try it in the future.
Passing Game: B-
This should be a split grade. Trubisky should get a personal D for his wild and errant deep passing and interception before his benching. Give him credit, though, for making the tackle on the interception or a pick-6 would have ensued and the Bears would have been tied at the end of regulation instead of winning. Nick Foles' 6.5 yards per pass attempt won't earn anyone much, but it's difficult to come in cold as he did and be sharp, especially in a new offense. His deeper passes late in the game as he warmed up were spot on. He threw behind Jimmy Graham a few times and had a few other passes dropped. Foles was money when it counted even after being thwarted twice by officials on touchdown passes. He had the ball in receivers' hands in the end zone five times in a quarter and a half while Trubisky was having the usual red zone struggles.
Run Defense: D
The Falcons pounded at the suddenly soft interior of the Bears defense and there was little done to stop it. The Bears should be trying everything they can to get Damon Harrison after this one. A 25-carry, 144-yard day without real benefit of a running quarterback's stats indicates the Bears missed John Jenkins as a nose tackle to split time with Bilal Nichols, and that Nichols is probably still best used at defensive end. Danny Trevathan and Roquan Smith both were late to gaps and picked up by Falcons blockers at the second level.
Pass Defense: B
Tashaun Gipson made certain they closed this week, after allowing Matt Ryan to move it 25 yards without eating much time off the clock. The pass rush was far more consistent in this game and came at Ryan from all directions, and have had a strip sack if not for a poor official's call against Mario Edwards for roughing Matt Ryan during the scramble for the ball on a play when he had fumbled. Sure, Eddie Jackson got beat in a rare moment of mediocrity for a 63-yard completion. But besides that play the Bears held Ryan to 4.7 yards per attempt, and that will beat any quarterback in the league.
Special Teams: C+
Cordarrelle Patterson's 30-yard average on three kick returns and a 64-yard punt by Pat O'Donnell highlighted a day when a special teams play brought an end to Tarik Cohen's season. The fair-catch injury was the result more of Falcons overaggressiveness and not knowing where they were on the field, but they got away with it thanks to an officials mistake picking up the flag. The down side on special teams was a critical missed early 46-yard field goal by Cairo Santos. They can't have that type of thing. If Santos can't make 46- and 50-yard field goals like he missed the last two games, the Bears need to find another replacement until Eddy Pineiro's groin injury heals.
Matt Nagy made the decision on Mitchell Trubisky probably a series too late. I was calling for it at halftime. The offensive coaches never really found a way to cope with Atlanta's run blitzes but the Falcons' poor pass coverage rescued them. There seemed to be too much emphasis on trying to punish the Falcons deep early when more catch-and-run opportunities were there, but it's possible this was more on Trubisky than coaches. Matt Nagy took chances on fourth down and also the play calling was responsible for dialing up bolder plays downfield late with Foles at quarterback when they faced shorter down-and-distance, making it possible to catch a banged-up, poor secondary in disarray.
The quarterback change was needed and it's hard to see how they could ever go back now, unless Foles has a few games where he's also struggling. They have to do what's necessary to win games without worrying about what the quarterbacks think or feel.