How Nick Foles Upgrades the Chicago Bears Offense
A little over 2 1/2 games into the season Bears coach Matt Nagy made a decision he just as easily could have made at the end of training camp.
The Bears lived through some wild swings in offensive productivity in their time with Mitchell Trubisky at quarterback this season, so if Nick Foles wasn't the winner three weeks ago what made him capable of lighting it up now to bring them back from 16 down?
Apparently it's simply the extra time being in the offense.
"I would say that, if anything, maybe it's just given him more time to just, maybe more than anything, get to know his teammates and what kind of players they are and what their strengths are in practice," Nagy said Monday. "But other than that, nothing's changed a whole lot.
"I feel like both Nick and Mitch have done a really good job, along with Tyler Bray, at just trying to figure out the identity of our offense and who we are and just them supporting one another."
Foles after the game couldn't disagree with Nagy's assessment. He pointed to good old mental reps as a reason for being better than he was earlier, as he didn't get many first-team snaps if any during preparation for the first three games.
"Obviously, you know, practice throughout the week you don’t get reps, so you're constantly getting mental reps and being prepared and running the scout team and just trying to play ball," Foles said. "It really came down to, you know, we were down by a little bit and our defense did a great job of holding them. And just going out there and playing ball, trusting guys, watching the defense, watching the secondary, getting us good plays if we need be and executing."
At least the Bears (3-0) haven't lost a game while they continued to use Mitchell Trubisky at quarterback.
What they have now in Foles is the type of player who has the type of experience reading defenses to allow for making adjustments on the fly, whether by the coaches or his own decision.
They saw this on the game-winning touchdown pass of 28 yards to Anthony Miller. Earlier in Sunday's game Trubisky ran this play and missed with the pass.
Foles had some words for Miller just before the play to show he understood his own offense better than could be expected, not to mention the possibility he was going to get blitzed with everything the Falcons had to offer on a third-and-eight play.
Foles told Miller to run his pattern all the way to the "L" on the end zone turf if they got the all-out blitz he expected, and if he had to ditch the play he would target it there to give them an outside chance at a big play. Foles then stood in and heaved it there with pass rushers in his face and Miller was there by himself for the throw.
"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," Foles said. "He made a great play. So that's a fun way to win a game: when they bring one more and you can handle (it) and we executed."
It wasn't just the game-winning touchdown.
"There were several other plays that we had with them, too, that there was some ad-libbing like Jimmy (Graham) said, which is something that Nick kind of has always done," passing game coordinator Dave Ragone said. "That's a strength of his that he has.
"He’s seen a lot of different defenses and I think that that will be something when it’s done the right way can be very effective."
This said, there can be changes and an adjustment period for Foles with the offense, although he didn't seem to need much of an adjustment Sunday. Some has to do with Nagy adjusting to being a play caller with a new quarterback.
The offense itself won't change, according to Nagy. Trubiksy is a more mobile quarterback so it would seem this could have an impact, but Nagy said it won't.
"It doesn't change because of the quarterback, if that's what you're asking," Nagy said. "It doesn't change for that reason. We have our plays on there that we stuck to."
The plan wasn't altered much when Foles came in, other than when he made a change himself as he did with Miller.
"There was a couple plays that might have been game-plan specific that he did not rep in practice that he didn't get this week that were new, that we didn't maybe do in training camp," Nagy said "So you've gotta be careful how many of those you do.
"But that's, I think, the experience that he has in this offense. And then for him to be able to add some (ad-lib) things to a play here or there that he likes that are his strengths, we let him do that, too."
They've got benefit of an experienced, successful quarterback now.
So they need to use every bit of the advantage this provides.