Nick Foles still needs time — to throw
If Matt Nagy is going to stick with Foles, he has to find a way to give him a chance to do what he does best. Foles is no more built to win without a running game and consistent protection than Mitch Trubisky is.
When Bears center Cody Whitehair was beaten by defensive tackle Aaron Donald on a first-down pass play in the first quarter Monday night against the Rams, it could have been disastrous for Nick Foles.
Instead, Whitehair shoved Donald in desperation, which gave Foles that extra split-second to unleash a deep ball that tight end Cole Kmet caught over linebacker Justin Hollins for a 38-yard gain. Who knows what would have happened if Donald comes at Foles clean — but almost certainly not a 38-yard pass play.
That play is one of several that illustrates just how fine the line is for Foles to succeed in an offense with no running game. Early in the third quarter, Foles missed an open Darnell Mooney down the sideline that could have been a 95-yard touchdown when he had to rush his throw because of blitzing pressure that wasn’t picked up.
“I just didn’t have enough time, because of the nickel pressure, to really step and throw it,” Foles said. “I actually had to throw it right when he’s starting his break. They did a really nice job disguising the blitz. At that time, our call was different.”
With no running game and with shaky protection, Foles struggled again in his fourth start with the Bears. He completed 28 of 40 passes for 261 yards and no touchdowns and threw two interceptions for a 66.8 passer rating in a 24-10 loss to the Rams at SoFi Stadium. He was pressured on 37.2% of his drop-backs, according to NFL.com’s Next Gen Stats.
In his four starts, Foles (74.5 rating, three touchdown passes, five interceptions) is statistically worse than Mitch Trubisky (87.3, six touchdown passes, three interceptions) was in three. But coach Matt Nagy isn’t looking to make another change.
“No,” Nagy said Monday. “I have a lot of confidence in Nick right now with where he’s at. This is a process for us to work through, and it’s not just one person — it’s really not.”
If Nagy is going to stick with Foles, he has to find a way to give him a chance to do what he does best. Foles is no more built to win without a running game and consistent protection than Trubisky is. Actually even less so because Trubisky has better mobility to make something happen when a play breaks down.
The Bears under Nagy always seem to have to resort to something different to make things happen.
Last year, they used the I-formation to boost the running game. This year, the no-huddle offense provided the rhythm that Foles craves.
Now they have to come up with something similar to protect Foles and give him more time to make big throws. There has to be a way.
“There’s a lot of ways, schematically,” Nagy said. “And . . . we have that. Those are in there. Some of those don’t happen, like [on the miss to Mooney from the 5-yard line]. That happened to be a five-man scat protection [only the offensive line blocking]. It just wasn’t one of those.
“But . . . for sure, you have to be able to do that. Now, when you do that, a lot of times you’ll lose some type of receiver — whether it’s a tight end or a receiver, you lose an element of a receiver [when] you use an extra guy to protect. So it’s kind of weighing that out. But absolutely you can do that, and we have that in our playbook to be able to do that.”
Giving up a receiver for pass protection is not Nagy’s game. But at this point — with the Bears 29th in total offense and 25th in passing — it might be time to keep it simple. The most important thing to remember is: Protect your quarterback.