SEATTLE — No matter what happens, Matt Nagy and Nick Foles will always have their Christmas miracle in Seattle.
In a game in which Nagy started veterans over developmental rookies, rolled with third-string quarterback Nick Foles as his starter out of necessity, and went all-in with a two-point conversion with 1:07 left in the game, the Chicago Bears managed to pull out a stunning 25-24 victory over the Seahawks at Lumen Field Sunday afternoon.
Empty the cup. It was a message that originated from one of Nagy’s sons, morphed into an unplanned pregame speech at the hotel Saturday night, and eventually played out on the field in the fourth quarter against the Seahawks.
“After the game last week, my freshman son and I were driving home and we just talked about the story that he’s learned about ‘no regrets’ and ‘emptying your cup.’ Without dragging it out, it was a pretty cool story that he right now is doing as a young athlete,” Nagy said about his son Tate, a freshman at Lake Forest High School. “I thought it really resonated with our team and our coaches and players: Whatever you do, win, lose or draw, if you just empty your cup — (whether) you got a full cup, you got a half cup, and you empty it — and we all empty our cups, we’ll have a damn good chance to win the football game.”
To the players’ credit — and Nagy’s credit — the cups were fully emptied in Seattle. And it resulted in a gratifying win for the head coach, even if it doesn’t change much in the big picture of the Bears’ disappointing 5-10 season.
“They’re gonna play hard. The last couple weeks, they’ve done that. It means a lot to me,” Nagy said.
Nagy surely emptied his cup. He started two veterans on one-year deals over two rookies who need all the reps they can get, and he didn’t shy away from the fact he prioritized winning a meaningless December game over long term development.
“What have I been saying all year long? It’s what’s best for Sunday,” Nagy said.
And when Foles hit former Seahawks tight end Jimmy Graham for a 15-yard touchdown on 3rd-and-14 to pull the Bears within one point with 1:07 go, Nagy didn’t flinch. Two fingers went up in the air. He decided he was going for the win before the game-winning drive even started.
“Sometimes down in the red zone, it's about the players making plays, and that's what Nick and Damiere (Byrd) did,” Nagy said.
The play-call actually didn’t work. It was a pick-play called “Q-H swivel” that was designed for man-coverage, but the Seahawks defenders switched and covered it well.
“They actually played it perfectly and the reason it worked was Byrd played backyard football and knew that 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,” Foles said.
It was one of the better catches in the NFL this season. Multiple Seahawks tried to carry Byrd out of bounds, but he somehow managed to get one foot and a knee down, all while holding onto the football with one hand.
“I think they actually helped me by picking me up that way,” Byrd said. “I was able to kind of scoop my foot underneath to be able to get it back down, so they actually kind of helped me out.”
The Bears have been searching for incredible moments like that all season. And on this day in Seattle, Nagy’s message about “emptying the cup” and Foles’ veteran poise made for a winning combination.
“When (Foles is) calm, I mean, you can’t do anything else but be calm. He’s got the most pressure on him. He’s the quarterback,” running back David Montgomery said. “So to have him as calm and poised as he is, um, it’s special. So we just kind of follow his lead.”
With some of the quarterback attrition around the league, Foles could have been playing in a much more meaningful football game in a different city Sunday. But he was picky about potential landing spots before the NFL trade deadline and ultimately remained the third-string quarterback on a losing football team. And due to injuries to Justin Fields (ankle) and Andy Dalton (hand/groin), Foles found out Friday morning that he would be making his first start of the season against the Seahawks.
Good luck finding a better No. 3 quarterback in the NFL right now.
“I was a third-string quarterback tonight. I was just third string. That’s my label, but at the end of the day, that’s not who I am. I am just Nick Foles. I go out there and I play,” Foles said. “I lean on my teammates. I go to work. There are going to be trials and adversity in life. You have to figure out how to find joy in them and once again I am grateful to my teammates for being there for me.”
To say Foles’ two seasons in Chicago have been rough is an understatement. And they’ve been even uglier for Nagy. Both could have gone through the motions Sunday as a snowstorm made for miserable conditions in Seattle.
Instead, they did the exact opposite. And while the win might not mean much in standings, it surely meant something in that locker room.