After replacing an ineffective Mitchell Trubisky in the second half Sunday in Atlanta, Nick Foles threw three touchdown passes in the final 6:20 of the fourth quarter in lifting the Bears to a stunning 30-26 win over the Falcons.
Outplayed on both sides of the ball, the Bears trailed 26-10 entering the fourth period before rallying for the dramatic victory. Foles threw TD passes of 3 yards to Jimmy Graham, 37 yards to Allen Robinson and 28 yards to Anthony Miller on third-and-eight with 1:53 remaining in the fourth quarter.
The Bears defense sealed the improbable win when veteran safety Tashaun Gipson Sr. intercepted an overthrown Matt Ryan pass with 1:07 to play after the Falcons had reached the Bears' 44.
"Our resiliency and our perseverance with these players, the high-character guys who we have, there's something special about this group," said coach Matt Nagy. "I don't know what it is, but there's something special about this team, and I love it. I'm proud of them. No one gave up."
With the victory, the Bears improved to 3-0 for the first time since 2013. They also became the first team in NFL history to win two games in the same season after trailing by at least 16 points in the fourth quarter. Two weeks earlier in Detroit, Trubisky's three TD passes in the final period turned a 23-6 deficit into a thrilling 27-23 season-opening victory over the Lions.
"I'm getting a little older, so I've got to watch out; I don't know how much more of this I can take," joked 33-year-old tight end Jimmy Graham, who caught one TD pass from Foles and one from Trubisky. "To battle through this adversity the way we have, on the road, it shows our character. It shows the type of family we are and, truly, we're never out of a game."
The Bears not only stormed back to win by outscoring the Falcons 20-0 in the fourth quarter, but they pulled off the amazing comeback after having two apparent Foles touchdown passes taken off the board via replay review.
The first was reversed to an interception after it was ruled that cornerback Darqueze Denard had snatched the ball away from Robinson before the two tumbled to the ground in the end zone. And the second was changed to an incompletion on fourth-and-goal from the 17 when Miller failed to control the ball as he fell to the ground in the end zone.
Robinson and Miller rebounded to produce the Bears' final two touchdowns. Robinson caught a team-high 10 passes for 123 yards, while Miller added two receptions for 41 yards.
"I thought they played really well," Nagy said. "It's tough to have those two touchdowns called back. That part was hard, but that's real. Overall, without watching the tape, I felt like they made plays. There was just an energy there that we got a couple there where they had to make some tough catches and then run after the catch.
"I have a lot of belief in our wide receivers, our tight ends, our running backs, everybody for that matter. I just think overall when guys had to step up today, they did it, and that's probably what I'm most proud about."
“To battle through this adversity the way we have, on the road, it shows our character. It shows the type of family we are and, truly, we’re never out of a game.” Bears tight end Jimmy Graham
Defensively, the Bears shut down the Falcons (0-3) in the fourth quarter after allowing three touchdowns and two field goals through the first three periods.
After the Bears turned the ball over on downs when Miller's TD catch was reversed by replay with 10:46 remaining in the game, the defense stepped up. The unit produced three straight three-and-outs, allowing just six yards on nine plays on possessions that took just 1:36, 1:00 and :22 off the clock.
It was no coincidence that the Bears offense and defense started playing well at the same time.
"Having your offense go out there and push the ball down the field maybe gives us a chance to catch our wind before we go out and compete again," said defensive tackle Akiem Hicks, who recorded 1.5 of the Bears' two sacks of Ryan. "All those things play a role when it comes to momentum in the game, making sure that you have a proper energy, start pushing things in your direction. It all benefits us."
Things looked bleak for the Bears when the Falcons scored a touchdown and field goal on their first two possessions of the second half to increase their lead to 26-10. The field goal came after Trubisky's third-down pass intended for Graham over the middle was intercepted by Blidi Wreh-Wilson. Trubisky didn't appear to see the Falcons cornerback, who was playing zone coverage.
It was then that Nagy decided to replace Trubisky with Foles. At the time, the Bears had converted just 1-of-7 third-down opportunities.
"I think really when I knew [it was time to make a change], it was the interception there on third down," Nagy said. "We were struggling on third down a lot. We weren't producing points in the red zone and I just think that sometimes there's a gut feeling as to when to do it, and that seemed like the right time.
"It's never fun. You guys understand that these relationships we build with these guys, these players, they're strong relationships. It's not easy. There's personal relationships and past relationships, and that's just where we were at at that time."
The decision obviously paid major dividends for the Bears, who proved for the second time in the first three weeks of the season that there's no fourth-quarter deficit they cannot overcome.
"We are not afraid to fight. We are not afraid to have our backs against the wall," Hicks said. "Do we want to be in situations in the fourth quarter where we need a score in order to win? We don't want that all the time. But over a course of a football game, you find yourself in that position and you have to be able to fight out of it. I think that one of the characteristics of our team that makes us special is that we are not afraid to compete."