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A Christmas miracle from St. Nick: The Chicago Bears steal a last-minute victory with their 3rd-string quarterback as the hero

The winning play Sunday at Lumen Field was called “Q-8 Swivel.” That’s according to Nick Foles, who began Week 16 as the Chicago Bears’ third-string quarterback and ended it as the team’s hero.

In an all-or-nothing situation, with the Bears trailing the Seattle Seahawks by one point with 1 minute, 1 second remaining and lining up for a game-deciding two-point conversion, Foles came to the line of scrimmage operating how he so often does. Calm and eager and grateful for his opportunity.

The play the Bears designed — “Q-8 Swivel” — had been put in the queue before the offense’s final drive began on the Seahawks 20-yard line with 2:56 left. Coach Matt Nagy knew if the Bears scored a touchdown — or maybe when they scored — he was going for the win.

Why the hell not? What was there to lose with this 4-10 team playing behind its QB3 on the road in the final game of the calendar year and trying again to show a heightened level of resistance and grit?

So here came Foles, who gave the Bears this shot with a 15-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jimmy Graham on third-and-14 just a moment earlier. Yet the pivotal conversion play was disrupted almost immediately after Foles took the shotgun snap and began rolling right, with the Seahawks passing off Darnell Mooney in man coverage near the front right of the end zone.

That caused receiver Damiere Byrd, whose first responsibility from the slot was to run a pick for Mooney, to alertly alter his route. That explains why Foles was a beat or two late in seeing how open Byrd was about 2 yards behind the “K” in the Seahawks end zone.

“I saw an opening,” Byrd said. “And I kind of just stood there. I was hoping Nick threw it. He gave me a chance.”

By the time Foles fired, the Seahawks defense was converging around Byrd with cornerback Sidney Jones IV, linebacker Jordyn Brooks and safety Ugo Amadi crashing into the Bears receiver as the ball arrived.

Somehow, some way, right?

Somehow Foles’ pass buried into Byrd’s orange gloves, face-mask high as he jumped. Some way Byrd — with Jones, Brooks and Amadi trying to either dislodge the ball or force him out of the back of the end zone — got the right side of his right foot and then the knee of the same leg down inside the navy blue paint.

Bingo!

That was it. A day-after-Christmas miracle from St. Nick.

That was the improbable exclamation point on a 25-24 Bears victory. An unlikely gift from Foles, who last started a regular-season game on Nov. 16, 2020, and last recorded a victory as a starter four weeks before that.

“(The Seahawks) actually played it perfectly,” Foles said. “And the reason it worked was Byrd played backyard football. He knew they covered it well. And if he wouldn’t have done his thing and just stopped and came back, we don’t win this game.”

Can you even fathom all Foles had been through since that last win as a starting quarterback one year, two months and eight days ago?

The hip/butt injury that sent him off Soldier Field on a cart in a Week 10 loss to the Vikings last season. Getting replaced by Mitch Trubisky for the final seven games of 2020. Being squeezed out of the starting competition the instant the Bears signed Andy Dalton in March and then being demoted to third string when the team drafted Justin Fields six weeks later.

Still, Foles’ emotions Sunday night were rooted in his presence — in the thrill of a victorious moment for a united team that needed a little something like this.

“I just did my job,” Foles said. “I went in there and I knew my teammates needed me because of the situation.”

The situation? The reason the Bears dusted the cobwebs off Foles and threw him back on the field? Fields was a scratch late in the week because of an ankle injury that worsened as a shortened week of practice moved along. Dalton, the opening-day starter, was declared out for Sunday with a groin injury. That meant Foles didn’t even get the word he would be starting until Friday morning.

It was either him or the Bears would have had to turn to Ryan Willis, signed Dec. 18 to provide emergency depth.

Any feelings of bitterness or frustration that might have gnawed at Foles during his odd 21-month stint with the Bears had been stashed away long ago. Foles has always been a faith-driven optimist.

“There are going to be trials and adversity in life,” he said Sunday evening. “You have to figure out how to find joy in them.”

Foles focused on the teammates he has grown attached to and the admiration he feels for this group’s resolve. Regardless of what happened for the first 57 minutes and 4 seconds Sunday — and, yes, there was plenty of vintage Bears folly — the offense took over for its final series feeling a certain calm. That emanated from Foles, who barely blinked when he was pushed back into a leading role.

“Nick is a pro and has had a ton of success in this league,” Byrd said. “(He’s a) Super Bowl MVP. So obviously he’s built for that.”

The longest play of the winning drive was a 30-yard completion to Mooney to start things. The most important was the scoring toss to Graham, who just so happens to have his locker right beside Foles at Halas Hall.

That scoring connection was oh-so-simple with Graham, split to the left, drawing man coverage from cornerback John Reid, then using his 9-inch, 72-pound size advantage to post up.

Foles loved everything he saw.

“All I was looking for right there,” Foles said, “was who’s covering Jimmy. Are they going to double him? All right, they’re not doubling him. I’m just going to throw it.”

Simple decision. And a nice, easy throw.

“Let him close the cushion and let him do his thing,” Foles said. “That’s Jimmy Graham, Hall of Famer.”

That touchdown set up the game-winning moment with Byrd and a celebration that meant a great deal.

“It’s his DNA, who he is,” Nagy said. “You guys see in big-time moments how he acts.”

Against the league’s worst passing defense, Foles finished 24 of 35 for 250 yards. He was sacked four times and was beyond fortunate that right tackle Germain Ifedi pounced on his fumble two plays before the touchdown pass to Graham.

This wasn’t, by any stretch of the imagination, an offensive masterpiece. The Bears’ persistent red-zone issues — they didn’t score at all after a 15-play, 71-yard march and later turned first-and-goal from the 5 into fourth-and-goal from the 17 before settling for a field goal — were familiar and frustrating, added evidence that this offense remains disjointed and inconsistent.

Still, Foles found the inner peace he tries to use as his compass and tapped into it during the final series.

For a former Super Bowl MVP who has tried to come to grips with taking scout team reps for most of this season, finding a new purpose has been both challenging and rewarding.

“I never thought I’d be a third-string quarterback,” Foles said. “So God presented an opportunity where I was a third-string quarterback. And I get to go to work and do all those things and still stay ready and be able to impact my teammates by just going to work.

“I mean, it’s crazy. I never thought (I’d be in this position). But it’s been humbling but great at the same time.”

Foles again cited scripture with his intent to continue finding joy within trials.

“That sounds crazy. Why, if something rough is going on, would you be joyful?” he said. “But I’ve said it many, many times. When you’re going through trials, you grow.

“If everything was good, how can you grow? You can get complacent. So I understand with the different trials, I get an opportunity to just keep working.”

Said Nagy: “I’m happy for Nick that he got an opportunity today.”


Source: Berkshire mont

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