(670 The Score) Bears coach Matt Nagy defended his decision to call a pass play that didn't work on a pivotal third-and-2 situation late in Chicago's 23-16 win at Carolina on Sunday afternoon.
Holding a seven-point lead, the Bears faced a third-and-2 at their own 46-yard line with 1:44 remaining. A first down for the Bears would seal a win, while the Panthers had one timeout remaining and needed a stop. Nagy called a passing play in which quarterback Nick Foles missed receiver Allen Robinson on a crossing route near the first-down marker.
The incomplete pass stopped the clock with 1:40 remaining and forced the Bears to punt it back to the Panthers, whose drive to potentially tie the game was quickly thwarted when quarterback Teddy Bridgewater threw an interception on first down.
Nagy didn't regret the decision to throw on third down, believing an aggressive approach was called for in trying to secure the win.
"If you get that first down right there, it’s game over," Nagy said. "You don’t punt the ball back to them. You can run the ball and possibly get it and you make them burn a timeout, but that’s not an aggressive approach. We’ve already decided, and it doesn’t mean that if we’re in that situation again that we can’t run the ball, but being in the situation that we were right there, we felt like, hey, we had a play we liked, we already knew it. We said it. Really in that situation, if it’s a run-run-pass situation, you know on first down that on third down if you’ve already made the decision to go for it, you already know what the play is.
"I couldn’t see exactly what happened, but we felt really good, all of us, with the decision to do that. It’s one of those ones that if you get it, it’s a great call and it’s game over. And if you don’t, it stinks and you’ve got to give the ball back to them. We’ve gotta finish the end of those games.”
The Bears set up that third-down play with two rushes by running back David Montgomery, which gained seven yards and then one yard.
It was the second time in as many games that Nagy was left to defend a late pass play in a close win. With the Bears trailing with less than two minutes remaining against the Buccaneers on Oct. 8 but in range for a go-ahead field-goal attempt, Foles missed Robinson on a long pass near the end zone. Cairo Santos followed with the eventual game-winning field goal, but the sequence was notable because by choosing not to run the ball, the Bears left 1:13 on the clock for Tom Brady and the Buccaneers -- who were out of timeouts --to drive back the other way for a potential game-winning field goal instead of fewer than 40 seconds. The Bucs turned the ball over on downs.
On Sunday, the Bears offense struggled again, posting just 4.1 yards per play and 261 total yards. But Chicago still improved to 5-1.
"It’s hard to explain the feeling that we have in this locker room, the 5-1 for our team right now," Nagy said. "That’s not easy to do. I told our guys that we’re fighters. We have a bunch of fighters on this team, guys that fight to the end in all three phases. Can we be better on offense? Absolutely. But our defense and our special teams today I thought really played well and put us in great situations."
Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.