All the hand-wringing and talk about “calibrating” the Bears’ offense came down to something pretty simple Thursday night: quarterback Nick Foles had the ball in his hand with 2:21 to play, near midfield, and needed to go about 25 yards to give the Bears a chance to kick a field goal and beat the Buccaneers.
And then he did just that, going 32 yards in nine plays to set up a 38-yard Cairo Santos kick with 1:17 left. A stop by the opportunistic Bears defense clinched the 20-19 win, a stunner, at Soldier Field.
“Emotionally, winning [Thursday night] is huge ...” Foles said. “That’s a really good team.”
It marked his first win as a starter since — can you believe this? — Cody Parkey double-doinked the Bears into the playoff dustbin against the Foles-led Eagles in January 2019. The Bears’ 4-1 record is the best mark they’ve had since that season.
“I keep saying, like, ‘it’s a fistfight,’” Foles said. “It wasn’t an easy game by any means. We just kept fighting, kept fighting, and everyone just kept, you know, throwing punches.
“I would say the big thing from [Thursday night] was we got to learn how to go through a fistfight like this and come out on top. You don’t want them every week, but if that’s what it takes to win every week, that’s what we’ll do.”
Trailing by two after the Bears defense forced the only three-and-out of game, Foles began the Bears’ final drive at his own 48. And third-and-9 pass left to Anthony Miller, and a wild scramble toward the sideline by the receiver, put the Bears at the Buccaneers’ 42. A wheel route pass to running back David Montgomery up the left sideline earned 17 more.
The Bears managed only five more yards, though, before Santos split the uprights.
“In practice and everything, I’ve done to this point, I feel like they truly trust me,” Santos said.
Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady got the ball back but didn’t go far. With no timeouts left, he couldn’t convert on fourth-and-6 from the Buccaneers’ 41, throwing an incompletion broken up by third-string safety DeAndre Houston-Carson. He was only playing in the Bears’ dime package because Deon Bush was inactive Thursday after hurting his hamstring four days ago.
“We knew going into that drive it was going to be on us,” inside linebacker Roquan Smith said. “And we love it that way.”
As the Bears offense took the field in celebration, the Buccaneers huddle seemed confused. Brady apparently thought it was third down.
“I wasn’t too concerned about what he thought,” Smith said. “I knew what the sticks said.”
Foles said that “any time you can frustrate Tom Brady, that’s a great thing.”
Foles went 30-for-42 for 243 yards and a 83.7 passer rating. But it was good enough — and almost as good as Brady, who went 25-for-41 for 253 yards and a very mortal 86.7 passer rating in their Super Bowl LII rematch.
Foles didn’t look sharp in the first half but sprung to life in the final two minutes. David Montgomery’s 3-yard touchdown run — the first rushing score by any Bears player all season — put the Bears down 13-7 with 1:58 to play
Three plays later, Brady threw a crossing route pass to Ke’Shawn Vaughn, the Buccaneers’ fourth-string running back. Cornerback Kyle Fuller leveled him to the ground, putting his shoulder in Vaughn’s chest and jarring the ball loose as he took his third step. Officials ruled the pass incomplete, then changed it to a fumble. Robert Quinn recovered the ball at the Bucs’ 27. Four players later, Foles found Graham for a 12-yard touchdown pass — and the lead.
Santos made a 47-yard field goal to give the Bears the lead early in the fourth quarter. Ryan Succop made a 25-yard field goal, his third of the game — to give the Buccaneers a two-point lead with 4:49 to play. The Bears and Bucs traded punts to set up Foles’ final drive.
The Bears defense looked ugly in the first half, missing tackles as the Buccaneers’ marched down the field for two field goals and a touchdown.
Foles looked ugly at the beginning, too. On third-and-2 on the first drive, Foles had receiver Allen Robinson wide open in the right flat but threw the ball high and wide. Later in that quarter, Foles launched a pass 20 yards through the air toward Robinson, who leapt at the Buccaneers’ 16-yard line. Robinson inadvertently kicked the ball into the air with his shin. Carlton Davis picked the pass, returned it 34 yards and the Buccaneers scored a touchdown five plays later.
“You know, the best part about all this — and I’m super excited about with our players and our coaches — is that we are 4-1,” coach Matt Nagy said. “And we know we can play a lot better.”