The first time Chase Daniel trotted out to line up next to Mitch Trubisky — which elicited plenty of “huh" or more profane reactions from the crowd at Soldier Field — we didn’t get to see exactly what bizarreness Matt Nagy had concocted.
Kyle Long was guilty of a false start on that play, which came early in the second quarter with the Bears facing a first-and-goal from the four-yard line. Trubisky found Tarik Cohen for a nine-yard touchdown on the next play, but Nagy wasn’t ready to punt that strange look just yet.
“Chase couldn’t get his helmet on soon enough to get in there,” Nagy said. “And I know Kyle wasn’t going to hear the end of it if we didn’t get a second shot at it.”
Added Daniel: “We were trying to run it the first time and (false started), and right when I came off the field (Nagy) said we’re coming right back to it.”
So the next time the Bears got to the right distance from the goal line — about seven minutes of game time later in the second quarter — out again came Daniel to line up next to Trubisky.
The play was called “Willy Wonka,” which came from a collective brainstorming session in the Bears’ quarterback room.
“When you can just go ahead and give it a two-word name, they remember that,” Nagy said. “You can sit there and say, ‘Squeeze left, Y left, Zebra right, counter motion, such-and-such, such-and-such – then you look up at the (play) clock and there’s 14 seconds on it. But you go ‘Willy Wonka’ and boom, they know it, they remember it. it’s crazy how they think but it works and when you give them ownership on that kind of stuff, it’s fun for them.”
So how did this play actually work?
Let's have some fun breaking down "Willy Wonka."— JJ Stankevitz (@JJStankevitz) October 2, 2018
First, Taylor Gabriel (blue arrow) and Trey Burton (red arrow) go in motion pre-snap, which is meant to confuse the Buccaneers' defense. pic.twitter.com/pmoSYuQCuT
First, Taylor Gabriel (blue arrow) comes in motion from the far sideline and lines up between wide receiver Kevin White and left tackle Charles Leno, about two yards behind the line of scrimmage. Then, Trey Burton (red arrow) comes in motion from the far sideline, stops behind Gabriel, and runs back across the offensive line to get set between right tackle Bobby Massie and wide receiver Allen Robinson.
“There’s two quarterbacks, you got me going in motion, you have Trey going in motion, it’s just a lot of things going on,” Gabriel said.
Second, by the time Gabriel catches the pop pass from Trubisky (who fakes a zone read to Daniel only after getting the ball to the WR), he's already fully accelerating to the far sideline. CB M.J. Stewart (white arrow) is slow to pick this up. pic.twitter.com/vMWOYUg13M— JJ Stankevitz (@JJStankevitz) October 2, 2018
Trubisky completes what’s essentially a touch pass to Gabriel — he barely has the ball for a half-second before popping it to the wide receiver, who’s quickly accelerating to the far sideline as he catches the ball. In the yellow circle, three Tampa Bay defenders are surrounding White, while cornerback M.J. Stewart (white arrow) is slow to read the play. Burton (red circle) seals off defensive end Vinny Curry, while Robinson (green arrow) moves toward engaging cornerback Brent Grimes.
Meanwhile, Trubisky fakes a zone read mesh point with Daniel only after he’s flipped the ball to Gabriel.
“(There was) a lot of confusion on the other side of the ball,” Daniel said.
Alternate view. Allen Robinson (green arrow) is sizing up CB Brent Grimes, who he'll solidly block to really make this play work. Also, in the yellow circle...three TB defenders surround Kevin White. pic.twitter.com/ByYsbLWirp— JJ Stankevitz (@JJStankevitz) October 2, 2018
The alternate viewpoint shows just how rooted Stewart’s feet were when the pass was made. An already depleted and scrambled Tampa Bay defense was going to have a tough time stopping this play, so in that sense, it was an ideal time to use it.
“Just the misdirection and all the motion, it kind of confuses the defense a little bit,” Gabriel said. “And I think that’s what happened, they kind of got confused and then I came out scot free open and got the touchdown.”
Robinson delivers a strong block on Grimes, and when Gabriel plants and cuts inside, Stewart is too late getting there and can only shoulder-bump the Bears’ receiver as he goes into the end zone for a touchdown.
You can see Robinson's excellent block in the green circle. Gabriel cuts inside, and Stewart is too late getting to him, only throwing a shoulder into the #Bears WR as he darts into the end zone for a touchdown. pic.twitter.com/PyXSb2c780— JJ Stankevitz (@JJStankevitz) October 2, 2018
Robinson delivers a strong block on Grimes, and Stewart is too late getting to Gabriel when the Bears receiver cuts inside. Stewart can only shoulder-bump Gabriel as he easily gets into the end zone for a touchdown.
“I think that's why it opened up so much because they know about (Daniel's) run ability and his break tackles and spin moves,” Trubisky said. “Just the running threat he brings to the offense. But that was a really fun play that we had in practice. Chase was a big part of coming up with it, and it opened right up just the way we drew it up.”
Quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone said Nagy was the one who came up with the concept for the play — “His mind can go a little with being creative, which was awesome,” he said — while Daniel and the Bears’ other quarterbacks had input on how it was schemed, named and executed.
There is, of course, a method to Nagy’s madness here. Using a play that has two quarterbacks on the field at the same time is unorthodox, but Gabriel said there wasn’t a lack of trust from players when Willy Wonka was called. Instead, it was the opposite — the thought was, if Nagy is willing to call this play, he trusts us to execute it.
“I believe in him, and he believes in us,” Gabriel said.
“Just the swag,” he added when asked why he liked the play call. “The confidence in us to go through with those type of formations and schemes. And that’s what you get when you get coach Nagy, just the swag and confidence.”
But for as cool, or fascinating, or bizarre — whatever adjective you want to use — as this play was, Nagy was still sticking his neck out a bit in calling it. FOX’s television broadcast of the game ripped the play call when it was first used (after Long was flagged for the false start), for example.
“When they work, they’re awesome,” Nagy said. “When they don’t work, they’re not too awesome.”