Welcome back to another edition of Bear Down, Nerd Up, where we take a look at the strange stats and obscure facts that made this week unique for the Chicago Bears.
Coach Matt Nagy finally made the long-awaited switch at quarterback from Mitch Trubisky to Nick Foles this week in Atlanta. The Bears erased another deficit and somehow are 3-0, despite falling into deep holes twice and nearly blowing a big lead in the other game.
It seems there’s never a dull moment with the 2020 Bears.
First time: Let’s start with a stat that circulated social media following Sunday’s game. According to Elias Sports Bureau, the Bears are the first team in NFL history to win two games in a single season where they trailed by at least 16 points entering the fourth quarter.
After coming back from down 17 to beat the Detroit Lions in Week 1, the Bears erased a 16-point deficit against Atlanta. Those two wins mark two of the top nine biggest comebacks in team history.
Also per Elias, the Bears became the first team to have two different quarterbacks throw three touchdowns in the fourth quarter of a game in the same season. Trubisky did it against the Lions, Foles against the Falcons.
The Bears are 3-0 for the first time since 2013. A win in Week 4 would make it the first 4-0 start since 2006. It also marked the Bears’ first undefeated month of September since 2010.
That’s all great, but what about the QBs?: Statistically speaking, one number jumps out in NFL Next Gen Stats’ quarterback analysis. Foles made decisions a lot quicker than Trubisky – at least on Sunday.
It’s a small sample size, but if Foles continues to play like he did Sunday, his “time to throw” ranks fifth-fastest among NFL QBs. Foles released his passes on average 2.56 seconds after the snap. Trubisky ranks 30th at 2.9 seconds. That’s a minuscule number, but a big difference in the world of quarterbacks.
That could have had something to do with the pace of the game. Foles entered with the Bears down by 16 and needing to make up points quick. It’s worth watching to see if that metric keeps up when he plays a full game.
Weekly QB check up: The only former Super Bowl MVP on the Bears roster finally played a snap.
Nick Foles' 2020 snap count: 43
Mitch Trubisky's 2020 snap count: 169
Speaking of snap counts: Linebacker Danny Trevathan played 79% of the defensive snaps (54 snaps) against the Falcons. This came a week after he played only 48% (31 snaps) the week before. The Bears subbed Trevathan out often for an extra defensive back in Week 2.
Inside linebackers coach Mark DeLeone said Trevathan is an example of the Bears trying to find the right amount of practice reps for a veteran, while also taking care of his body. Trevathan took frequent rest days – or “vet days” as Nagy calls them – during camp, and maybe that had an effect on his early-season performance.
“This has been a unique year,” DeLeone said Monday. “It’s been a different year from OTAs, from the way training camp was. So getting a guy like Danny to be ready to play on Sunday at the speed he wants to play at, it’s just been unique. The week of practice, how he worked from a reps standpoint, I think put him in a really good position to play on Sunday.”
DeLeone said 54 snaps is more in line with what the Bears envision for Trevathan moving forward.
No easy catch: Sunday’s game-winning touchdown pass from Foles to Anthony Miller had just a 31.3% chance of being completed, according to Next Gen Stats. That makes it the 16th-toughest catch of the week in the NFL.
Miller’s game-winning catch against the Detroit Lions in Week 1 was also a top-20 catch, in terms of catch probability, that week.
Truly special: Cordarrelle Patterson continues to work his magic in the kick return. His 31.6 yards per kick return ranks third in the NFL through three games. His 284 total kick return yards ranks first, but he has also fielded more returns than anyone with nine.
This was the Bears’ best pass rush yet: According to Next Gen Stats, the Bears’ top four pass rushers against Atlanta were all, on average, less 4 yards away from Matt Ryan when he threw a pass.
All the attention offensive lines must give to Khalil Mack, Robert Quinn and Akiem Hicks is opening things up for guys like Roy Robertson-Harris.
On average, Robertson-Harris was closer to the quarterback than any other Bears pass rusher on Sunday (3.33 yards at the QB's time of release). Outside linebackers coach Ted Monachino said Quinn’s addition is felt in more ways than just his strip sack against the Giants.
“They can’t double-team all three of them, all four of them, when Roy and Akiem are rushing well and Robert and Khalil are rushing well, it’s hard to keep eight of them in there to protect,” Monachino said. “The impact is felt all throughout the defense. The secondary doesn’t have to cover as long. The linebackers don’t have to cover backs in space and tight ends in space as long.”
The average viewer might not notice Mack on every play, but Monachino said he believes Mack’s presence impacts 90% of plays.
“When teams can run away from you or throw the quick game, and he still impacts plays, that’s a really good thing,” Monachino said.