If you squinted just long enough Sunday — and during a deliberate, dull game, that actually counted as entertainment — you could trick yourself into thinking of the Colts’ dominant defense as a giant push broom. For 100 yards, the Colts marched shoulder-to-shoulder, swept up what was left of Nick Foles’ pixie dust and pushed it through the back of the end zone, past the Cody Parkey goalposts and under the stands.
The past week sure was fun, wasn’t it? Foles rattling off three fourth-quarter touchdowns — and being an eyelash short of two more — in the fourth-quarter comeback in Atlanta. Foles taking the starting job officially less than a day later. And, for a full week, Bears fans tricking themselves into thinking he’d be the capital-A answer — not just for this season, but for two more going forward.
He wasn’t 26 like Mitch Trubisky, but he wasn’t ancient, either.
“Being 31 is by no means old,” coach Matt Nagy said this week.
Then came this 19-11 loss, in which Foles took 58:25 to lead the Bears to a touchdown. By the light of day Monday, this much should be clear: Foles has a better chance of being the Bears’ starting quarterback in 2021 than Trubisky, but that’s only by default.
If it’s a choice between Foles, Trubisky and the field in 2021, bet the field.
The Bears’ starter in 2021 needs to offer more than what Foles did against the Colts. He went 26-for-42 for 249 yards and one touchdown, was sacked once and had a 76.4 passer rating. Foles wasn’t helped by a running attack that averaged 1.8 yards per carry and allowed the Colts’ nasty defense to play Cover 2, negating the deep threat that should separate him from Trubisky. But he never showed a spark.
“I mean, obviously, the outcome sort of shows how we executed,” Foles said.
Bears fans have spent 3½ years watching Trubisky make inaccurate passes down the field — and another eight years before that seeing Jay Cutler do the same. So Foles absolutely couldn’t do what he did with 11 minutes to play Sunday, when he led Anthony Miller too far right as he crossed, wide open, down the field.
“I’ve got to be more accurate,” Foles said. “I’ve got to help him out. I was trying to lead him out of the break to have him split the safeties, and it was probably about six inches too far. That’s on me, and that’s something that is an easy fix.”
The best play Foles made was drawing a 32-yard pass-interference penalty when he threw deep to David Montgomery on fourth-and-two in the fourth quarter. The biggest distinguishing factor between Foles and Trubisky came when he used a hard count to get the Colts to jump offside — twice.
Otherwise, he looked a lot like Trubisky did. He rolled right and overthrew Darnell Mooney along the sideline on third-and-four. He threw a screen pass off DeForest Buckner’s face mask. And he continued the Bears’ third-quarter scoreless streak.
Maybe wide receiver Allen Robinson was just trying to be polite. But when asked what felt different with Foles on the field, as opposed to Trubisky, he demurred.
“It wasn’t too much difference,” he said, “and it really hasn’t been too much difference in terms of things that you can actually feel.”
The Bears sold Trubisky’s mistakes — at least until midway through last season — as growing pains. Nagy painted Foles’ struggles against Indianapolis as the result of him running a different offense than the one he orchestrated last week, when he was forced to throw throughout the second half to chase a deficit.
“This is part of building those relationships and understanding plays and continuing to grow,” Foles said.
Maybe Foles’ game blossoms as his relationships grow. Maybe he improves every week from here on out.
That should be enough to beat out Trubisky for another 12 weeks.
But that should be it.