The Bears are making a habit of fourth-quarter rallies.
Thursday night's 20-19 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was less drastic than the 17- and 16-point comebacks against the Detroit Lions and Atlanta Falcons, respectively. However, going against one of the league's top defenses, the Nick Foles-led offense found a way to retake the lead twice in the fourth quarter.
Foles powered through a slow start, which saw the first three drives stalled with two off-target throws and an interception. In the fourth quarter, the Bears got the ball back with 2:21 left to play, trailing 19-17, two yards shy of midfield. Needing to move the ball about 20 yards to get into range for kicker Cairo Santos, Foles had to ignite an offense that had struggled to move the ball in the second half.
"It wasn't pretty," said Foles, "and then all of a sudden, [we] move the chains and get into field-goal range. I think, once again, tonight was a big night for everyone in the huddle, offensively [as we] just continue to learn who we are as human beings and athletes within this game."
Foles ended the game having completed 30 of 42 pass attempts for 243 yards, a touchdown and an interception, numbers strikingly similar to his performance in the 19-11 loss to the Indianapolis Colts last Sunday.
On the previous drive, Foles had been flustered by the Buccaneers' pass rush, getting sacked by defensive end William Gholston and completing just 1 of 4 passes for a mere two yards. After two weeks of the Bears coaching staff praising Foles' short memory, his resiliency was on full display.
"They did a nice job on that second-to-last drive of really getting some pressure on me as I was trying to throw it," said Foles, "so that made it difficult. They did a nice job there. I think the big thing is just trusting my teammates, trusting the guys in the huddle to where, 'you know what, I can have that short memory because I trust them and I'm gonna lean on them,' and we have to continue to believe in one another and doing it tonight showed it."
On the play after the two-minute warning, Foles found Anthony Miller for a 10-yard gain, putting the Bears five yards shy of Santos's range of 53 yards.
Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Todd Bowles elected to keep pressure on Foles, a strategy that had paid off for most of the game. However, on second-and-11 and with Buccaneers linebacker Devin White in his face, Foles lofted the ball between three defenders into the hands of running back David Montgomery for a 17-yard gain.
"They were getting aggressive," said coach Matt Nagy, "trying to go Cover 0 a couple times to try to get us out of field-goal range. I can specifically remember looking at David's eyes when that ball was floating in the air and he totally looked that ball in to make that secure catch."
For the second straight game, the Bears struggled to get their running game going. However, Montgomery compensated by being a reliable outlet when Foles was under duress. Montgomery finished the game with seven receptions for 30 yards.
"They were showing a pressure look," said Foles, "and they did bring pressure, but I was trying to figure out where the safety would be. We were able to get ourselves into a play to where we get David on a linebacker or safety going up the side, and we were able to get a little bit of a pick action. The defender sort of collided and [I] dropped it in there where he could make a play."
In three appearances with the Bears, Foles has pulled together two game-winning drives. Unlike his three-touchdown performance in relief against the depleted Falcons secondary, Thursday night's win came against a stout defense that had played well all night. However, the through-line seems to be a knack for having things come together at just the right time.
"That was a huge play at a huge moment," said Nagy, "and that's kind of what Nick has always done. And then for David to make that catch, for the line to get protection, again, there were certain plays that just happened, and it gave Cairo a chance to make [the field goal]."
Suddenly well within field-goal range, the Bears faced a decision: pass the ball to continue the advance, or run the ball to leave as little time on the clock as possible. Given that the opposing quarterback was Tom Brady, the team was wary of leaving the six-time Super Bowl champion too much time to answer.
After a first-down run, Nagy called two passing plays, one of which fell incomplete. Santos connected on his game-winning 38-yarder with 1:13 remaining on the clock, ample time for Brady to drive the Buccaneers offense for a field goal of their own. After the game, Nagy explained his reasoning for passing the ball.
"We wanted to stay aggressive there at the end," said Nagy. "We were going back and forth. There's a situation there where we can get into a mode where if you break a tackle on a slant route or a hand-off, whatever, where they are out of timeouts, and you can kick a field goal to win, that's always a tough situation to be in. But we were trying to stay aggressive, and then [we tried] just to get some more yards to be able to make that field goal, and then [we] did it."
The point became moot after Bears safety Deandre Houston-Carson knocked Brady's fourth-down pass into the turf to seal the victory. For the fourth time in five games, just enough fell into place for the Bears to walk away with a win.