The Bears did it again last week, erasing another double-digit lead to come from behind and beat Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday Night Football.
This was the Bears’ third such comeback win this season. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that is tied for the most such wins in a team’s first five games of the season in NFL history. It has happened seven previous times before, but the last team to do it was the 2014 Philadelphia Eagles.
The 2014 Eagles were quarterbacked by none other than current Bears quarterback Nick Foles – at least, until Foles suffered a broken collar bone in Week 9, ending his season. Those Eagles also missed the postseason in epic fashion, collapsing after a 9-3 start to finish the year 10-6.
So hopefully for Bears fans this year’s team is nothing like the 2014 Eagles moving forward.
And thus begins another edition of Bear Down, Nerd Up, where we take a look at the weird and wacky stats that made this week unique for the Chicago Bears.
Tom who?: Bears quarterback Nick Foles improved to 2-0 against Tom Brady. The only other quarterbacks with multiple wins against Brady without a loss are Jake Plummer (3-0), Brian Griese (2-0) and Cam Newton (2-0), according to ESPN Stats & Info.
The win also marked Foles’ first win as a starter for the Bears.
According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Foles’ interception in the first half against the Bucs was his first interception against a blitzing defense in more than 100 such passing attempts. His last interception against a blitz predates Next Gen Stats (which has been around since 2016). No other quarterback had gone so long without an interception against a blitz in that time period.
Stops when it matters: The Bears have the best red zone defense in the NFL. Teams are converting just 36.8% of their red zone attempts against the Bears. Teams have scored on just 7-of-19 trips to the red zone.
That’s been a staple of this Bears defense the past few years, but being the No. 1 red zone defense would be new heights. The 2018 Bears defense ranked tied for fifth in the league, before last year’s defense slipped to 13th in the red zone.
“It comes down to a pride factor,” Bears safeties coach Sean Desai said. “We do simple better. We have our red zone calls and [defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano] has been sticking to those and the guys know how to play them and execute them and they work well off of each other. And then when the guys have that confidence, it shows on the tape.”
What a rush: Khalil Mack turned in a masterful performance against the Buccaneers, sacking Brady twice and having a third sack waved off due to a penalty. He was flipping 320-pound linemen with one arm and generally making the Bucs offensive line look silly.
It marked Mack’s fifth multi-sack game since joining the Bears in 2018. His 13 multi-sack games since 2015 ties him for third in the NFL during that span. Mack’s 3.5 sacks this season pulled even with teammate Akiem Hicks for the Bears’ team lead in 2020.
According to Next Gen Stats, the Bears defense pressured Brady on 43.2% of his drop backs. That is Brady’s highest pressure rate since 2017.
Mack pressured Brady six times on 34 pass rushes, while linebacker Robert Quinn pressured Brady five times on 28 pass rushes. Though Quinn hasn’t had as many sacks to show for it, his presence is being felt by offensive lines. Quinn was, on average, closer to Brady on Thursday than any other Bears pass rusher at 3.39 yards at the time Brady released the ball. Closer even than Mack (who averaged 3.54 yards Thursday).
Quinn played 41 snaps Thursday (58% of defensive snaps), his most this season. That number is likely to remain about the same moving forward, according to outside linebackers coach Ted Monachino.
“We are keeping very close track of his rep count and trying to keep him as fresh as we can so if we do run into two-minute situations at the end of a game, he and Khalil are as fresh as possible,” Monachino said.
According to Next Gen Stats, defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. was surprisingly effective in the pass rush, too. Edwards had three pressures on just 11 pass rushes.
4-and-won: The Bears are exactly 4-1 for the sixth time in team history. Four of the previous five seasons ended with a playoff appearance. The Bears’ average record in those season is 11-5.
The previous five 4-1 starts were in 1990, 1991, 2001, 2010 and 2012. Only the 2012 team missed the postseason, despite a 10-6 record.