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From Wildcat to Tebow, Fox proves ‘you do what you have to do to win’

Bears coach John Fox has won two of his last three games. (Getty Images)

Before the Bears’ victory Sunday against the Panthers, only two NFL teams since 1983 had thrown seven or fewer passes in a game.

In 2004, the Chargers threw six times against the Browns when the wind chill was minus-10 degrees in Cleveland.

In 2006, the Panthers threw seven passes against the Falcons and along the way invented the modern NFL’s version of the ‘‘Wildcat’’ formation.

The Panthers’ coach at the time was John Fox, who has proved the last two weeks he’s happy to sacrifice the forward pass at the altar of winning, even while trying to develop No. 2 overall pick Mitch Trubisky at quarterback.

‘‘You just don’t take a lot of risks,’’ Fox said Monday. ‘‘It’s a little bit like investing your money. I don’t know if you want to be 100 percent in tech stocks. You might want to have some bonds. You might want to have some money in cash. Everything is risk/reward, including football.’’

The Bears undoubtedly will branch out when they play the Saints, the fourth-highest-scoring offense in the NFL, on Sunday. Still, Fox’s history shows he doesn’t care if he wins pretty — his 2013 Broncos set the NFL’s all-time scoring record — or ugly.

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In 2006, Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme was out with a broken thumb and backup Chris Weinke had hurt his ribs, so Fox’s offense was limited against the Falcons. He devised a plan to use running back DeAngelo Williams in a shotgun formation. The Panthers named the scheme ‘‘Tiger,’’ after the nickname of Williams’ alma mater, Memphis.

Two years later, offensive coordinator Dan Henning took the formation to Miami, where the Dolphins popularized it in an upset victory against the Patriots.

‘‘You do what you have to do to win,’’ Fox said, recalling the Panthers’ 10-3 victory against the Falcons and Michael Vick. ‘‘We controlled the clock.’’

Fox said the same about the Bears’ 17-3 victory against the Panthers, in which Trubisky went 4-for-7 for 107 yards. History shows he means it. Since 1983, only two teams completed fewer passes in a game than Fox’s Broncos did on Nov. 13, 2011. His quarterback was Tim Tebow, who went 2-for-8 for 69 yards and a touchdown in a victory.

Not that Tebow and Trubisky should be in the same sentence. Fox inherited Tebow and replaced him with Peyton Manning after one season. Trubisky is the No. 2 overall pick who only will improve.

‘‘I’m not comparing them as players,’’ Fox said.

Fox was quick to mention that Trubisky’s 101.8 passer rating was almost double that of Panthers quarterback Cam Newton’s 54.8 on Sunday. Since Trubisky made his debut three weeks ago, the Bears ‘‘haven’t been a turnover machine, and that’s given us a chance’’ to win, Fox said.

The fact the Bears ran only 37 offensive plays — Eddie Jackson’s two defensive touchdowns kept the offense on the sideline — probably skewed the stats.

‘‘At one point, I needed to re-warm up,’’ tight end Zach Miller said.

Fox has forced his conservative identity on the Bears’ offense. For now, it’s working.

‘‘It’s a different formula,’’ he said. ‘‘But we didn’t turn it over; they turned it over. . . . Those are the ways you win football games.’’

Follow me on Twitter @patrickfinley.

Email: pfinley@suntimes.com

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