Winning the way the Bears did Sunday doesn’t come without controversy. They withstood one of the wildest finishes in recent memory to beat the Broncos 16-14, and caught a couple of breaks on their game-winning drive.
Let’s get right into the questionable Denver penalty and the officials handling of the final seconds, as well as some other key aspects of the victory that showed up in film study.
The play that gave the Bears a chance to escape on Eddy Pineiro’s 53-yard field goal was a 25-yard pass down the middle of the field from Mitch Trubisky to Allen Robinson. That play began with nine seconds left, and it was difficult to tell in real time whether Robinson got down in time to call a timeout before the clock hit zero.
Video showed that he did. Furthermore, the NFL reviewed the play and determined it was officiated correctly, a source said.
The officials conferred on the field to discuss it and ultimately gave Matt Nagy the timeout, allowing the Bears to line up for Pineiro’s game-winner. Robinson was decisively down, and FOX’s clock showed :01. While the broadcast time isn’t official, it is typically synced precisely with the stadium clock.
Considering that Nagy told the official before the play he wanted a timeout if there was any time left and continued harping on it as Robinson made the catch, it is plausible that he called the timeout at the earliest possible instant.
There was a much shakier call that helped the Bears at the start of the drive, which began at their own 25-yard line with 31 seconds remaining and one timeout. Not an ideal situation.
However, Trubisky drew a roughing the passer call against Broncos outside linebacker Bradley Chubb on his 5-yard completion to Trey Burton on first down, and that flag added 15 yards to put the Bears near midfield. The net gain of 20 yards made it their third-longest play of the day.
Roughing the passer continues to be one of the most debated penalties in the NFL, and the league’s definition leaves a lot up to the officials’ discretion. The rule states that a defender can’t “stuff” a quarterback into the ground, “unnecessarily or violently” throw him down or land with “all or most” of their weight on him.
Chubb’s play was borderline, at most. He hit Trubisky from behind as he released the ball and went high in an apparent attempt to strip him. The officials’ best argument for making that call is he “stuffed” him into the ground.
Regardless of whether anyone likes this rule, Chubb’s follow-through was enough for the call to go either way.
There was a meaningful roughing the quarterback flag against the Bears, too.
Nose tackle Eddie Goldman was whistled for a hit on Joe Flacco on an incompletion in the fourth quarter on the Broncos’ scoring drive that cut the Bears’ lead to 13-6.
There was significantly less cause for Goldman’s flag. He began his lunge before Flacco released the ball, and did not land squarely on top of the quarterback, rolling to his right side instead as they fell.
How close was Fuller to pick-six?
Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller almost put the game away with a red-zone interception, and his team led 13-6 with 4:51 left and possession. He could have buried the Broncos altogether, though, had he been free to race down the sideline on the return.
Fuller made a brilliant play to step in front of Emmanuel Sanders for the interception at the 3-yard, and the officials ruled him down at the 11. However, It was unclear on replay whether his left knee indeed hit the ground when Sanders tried to wrap him up.
Best guess: He was actually down.
The official who called him down was standing right in front of the play, so he certainly had a good view.
If he had allowed Fuller to continue, there was nothing but open field ahead and his speed certainly would’ve given him a shot at the end zone.
Nagy’s not-so-secret weapon
Everyone knows about Cordarrelle Patterson, but he’s not at the top of the list when opponents go over the Bears’ playmakers. His versatility and speed make him a dangerous option for Nagy, and he turned in what seemed like a game-changer late in the third quarter.
With the Bears up 6-3, took a pitch to the left and ran 46 yards with it to set up a David Montgomery touchdown a few plays later. It is the team’s longest play of the season.
Two key moves made it happen. First, Patterson dodged Chubb, who powered past Burton into the backfield.
From there, left tackle Charles Leno and the offensive line blocked the play so well that Patterson got a running start of about 10 yards where he was completely unthreatened. Leno was his lead blocker and took Broncos safety Will Parks completely out of the play with a demolishing hit.
Once Patterson got going, the NFL clocked him at a top speed of 22.23 miles per hour. That’s the fastest recorded speed by a ball carrier over the last two seasons. Credit Broncos safety Justin Simmons for getting close enough to push him out of bounds at the Denver 22-yard line.
Revamped running game
Montgomery took over at running back, going from six carries to 18 and seeing his playing time rise from 38 percent of the snaps to 44 percent. Mike Davis, meanwhile, dropped from 56 to 25 percent. That’s a strong indicator of where Nagy is headed with the backfield.
Montgomery made good on the investment, too, with 62 yards and a touchdown.
Here’s how Nagy allocated the carries: Montgomery 18, Tarik Cohen 4, Davis 3, Patterson 2, Taylor Gabriel 1, Trubisky 1.
Offensive line heroics
The Bears’ o-line snapped back from a shaky opener and asserted itself throughout the win in Denver. The five starters played all 61 offensive snaps, allowed zero sacks, two quarterback hits (both by Chubb) and helped the team pound out 153 yards rushing for the fifth-highest total under Nagy.