Matt Nagy keeps it cool with Akiem Hicks touchdown play called Freezer
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The play is called Freezer, as in Freezer right or Freezer left.
It has been called exactly once this season, and it featured Bears 6-5, 332-pound defensive tackle Akiem Hicks taking a handoff from quarterback Chase Daniel against the Giants on Sunday and plowing into the end zone for a one-yard touchdown.
If the sight caused your brain to drift back to images of William “the Refrigerator’’ Perry carrying the ball for coach Mike Ditka some three decades ago, well done!
The Refrigerator — or with his nickname for a nickname: “Fridge’’ — was a defensive tackle who tipped in at anywhere from 309 to 350 pounds during his career. When Ditka saw dirt clods flying from rookie Fridge’s cleats in five-yard sprint drills, Da Coach knew he had a secret offensive weapon in waiting.
San Francisco 49ers coach Bill Walsh had set the stage when he used All-Pro guard Guy McIntyre as a blocking back against the Bears in the 1984 NFC Championship Game en route to the 49ers’ Super Bowl XIX title. Ditka, of course, wasn’t thrilled by any of this.
McIntyre was one of the first linemen used in the backfield in modern times, but he only weighed 275. Ditka, of course, would do him better, unleashing the first 300-pound ballcarrier the next year.
If thoughts of a gridiron Cold War nuclear-arms race came to your mind back then, bravo.
Flash forward to last Sunday.
The Bears sent in Freezer Left along with Hicks. Not only was a touchdown scored, with various Giants flattened in the process, but Bears history was saluted by rookie coach Matt Nagy.
Nagy, you’ll recall, is the young and innovative coach who nevertheless believes strongly in Bears tradition. He wanted his players to meet owner Virginia Halas McCaskey early on, and he opened the season with a play called Papa Bear Left, a handoff to Tarik Cohen out of the closed T formation the Bears made famous three generations ago.
But this Hicks blast was not only a nostalgic swing of the sledgehammer. It came on fourth-and-goal from the 1 in the first half of a close game the Bears would ultimately lose 30-27 in overtime.
It was important.
And so perhaps the Freezer formation is not done yet. Nor should it be. Remember this: It worked. Who’s next up for a headache?
So you pose the question to Cohen, who, at 5-6, 179, is to Hicks as a jackrabbit is to a mastodon: Could Hicks keep rumbling with the ball?
“I think he could do the same thing again,’’ Cohen said Tuesday at Halas Hall.
Could Hicks be a, hmm, regular running back?
“I mean, if he can average four yards per carry, who knows?’’
Right now, Hicks is averaging one yard per carry, plus a touchdown, each time he touches the ball. So would Cohen gladly line up behind Hicks in the backfield?
“I wouldn’t have a choice.’’
The big man himself is pretty amused by the whole situation. On a Pro Bowl arc at his tackle position, Hicks pondered his sudden offensive notoriety.
“It was super fun. Nerve-racking, but fun nonetheless,” he said. “You get a thousand looks at the running back getting the ball, you see it from your block on the other side. But as a defensive tackle, it gets a little scary, but we got it in there.’’
You see, Hicks is defense through and through. The ball, to him, is a foreign object, created only to be followed like a bloodhound, bashed from somebody’s grip, jumped on like a winning lotto ticket.
“This is the first time ever in my CAREER [on offense],” he said. “I’ve been playing on the defensive side since I was 15.’’
He understood well the historic implications of his run.
“I watched this team on NFL Films growing up, the ’85 Bears and things like that,’’ he said. “I hope the Fridge is sitting at home and he can see me put one in the end zone and he can say, ‘I did it better!’ ’’
Hicks was jovial through all this. He’s a good sport.
Then you mention to him that Perry once caught a pass in a game.
“Fridge caught a pass? Come on. He’s got a lot for me to live up to.’’
Then he got a little sly. Could he, uh, be a Bears pass catcher, too?
“Who knows what’s gonna happen next?’’ he replied. “Shoot, I don’t know.’’
But can he catch?
“I got great hands. I got the best hands on the defensive line!’’
Look out, people.