The Bears have had countless missed opportunities under coach Matt Nagy, and those failures have cost them dearly.
They’ve cost the Bears, who sit at 5-10, their season. They’ve also almost certainly cost Nagy his job with two games left before what seems like an inevitable firing.
All of that faded Sunday when Nagy called the perfect play for a game-winning two-point conversion with a minute left to top the Seahawks 25-24.
Somehow, with one shot from the 2-yard line, he got it right. In the first quarter, he couldn’t steer the Bears into the end zone from first-and-goal at the Seahawks’ 4-yard line.
That sequence, which ended in a turnover on downs, was emblematic of many of the Bears’ miscues under Nagy. They scored two touchdowns on four trips to the red zone Sunday and rank 30th in the NFL with touchdowns on only 48.8% of their red-zone appearances.
If there’s anything good about the offense at this point, it’s the power running game led by David Montgomery. Even that is unreliable, but it’s the closest thing they have to an identity. So when the Bears arrived at the 4-yard line, the plan should’ve been clear.
Instead, like Nagy’s offense and his perpetually confounding explanations, it was anything but.
It started well, with Montgomery finding a hole between right tackle Germain Ifedi and right guard James Daniels for two yards. Then, as it often does, the Bears’ offense got too clever. Whether it’s offensive coordinator Bill Lazor still calling plays or Nagy interjecting in a key situation, the Bears won’t give up the bells and whistles even though they haven’t been working.
On second-and-goal from the 2, the Bears tried Montgomery out of the wildcat with quarterback Nick Foles split wide left — there was no chance they’d throw to him given that recently signed practice-squad quarterback Ryan Willis was his backup — and everyone at Lumen Field knew what was coming.
The Seahawks didn’t bother playing the pass and swarmed Montgomery for a loss of two.
How often during Bears games is everyone begging them to just do what a normal team would do?
If Nagy was set in a touchdown-or-nothing mentality, he still could’ve run the ball on third down. But whenever it gets dicey, he relies on the pass. The pocket collapsed quickly on Foles, so he stepped up and started running. The refs actually missed that he crossed the line of scrimmage before he threw, which should’ve been a five-yard penalty and loss of down. Seahawks linebacker Jordyn Brooks leaped and deflected the ball for an incomplete pass.
If this game meant something in the standings, the Bears should’ve kicked a field goal on fourth-and-goal from the 4, but they were already eliminated, so they might as well take the risk.
But the play never had a chance. Foles checked down to Montgomery two yards short of the goal line, and Brooks wrapped him up the instant he caught the ball. Even if Montgomery had been able to shake Brooks, Seahawks cornerback Sidney Jones was right behind him to make the stop.
Every part of that series was a mess. But give credit to Nagy and Foles: They did much better in short yardage on the two-point conversion at the end.
Nagy called “QH Swivel” from the 2-yard line with Darnell Mooney running to the right sideline to create a target for Foles as he rolled right. Seahawks safety Ugo Amadi stayed with Mooney long enough to take him out of the play, but Jones lost track of Byrd and allowed him to sit in the back of the end zone and yell for the ball.
Imagine that: Nagy called a play so brilliantly crafted that a secondary read was wide open to win the game. Then his quarterback came through for him with a tough throw across his body.
Credit Byrd, too, because that catch was much more difficult to make and finish by staying in bounds than it looked in real time or than Byrd portrayed it. Brooks and Jones tried to force him out of the back of the end zone after he caught it, but Byrd clearly got his right foot and right knee down in bounds while clinging to the ball with one hand on his way to the turf.
“It was just one of those times where everything kind of set into place,” Byrd said. “They actually helped me by picking me up that way. I was able to kind of scoop my foot underneath to be able to get it back down.”
Bears wide receivers coach Mike Furrey called it “probably one of the most remarkable catches I’ve ever seen.”
Everything about it was remarkable. And if the Bears had executed more plays like that, especially on scoring chances, this season would’ve gone much differently.