Matt Nagy Invited Trouble by Helping Nick Foles and the Eagles
LANDOVER, MD (973espn.com) - Matt Nagy was in a tough spot.
There was a slight chance that the Chicago Bears could earn the No. 2 seed in the NFC side of the playoffs but San Francisco was fighting for its own No. 2, as in the second pick in April, so the 49ers essentially mailed it in when facing the Los Angeles Rams, assuring that Sean McVay and Co. would be the ones earning a bye.
Other astute observers realized Arizona was hanging in against Seattle and a Cardinals win coupled with a Minnesota win over the Bears would have had the Vikings leapfrogging the Seahawks and Seattle bound for the Windy City. So maybe the team Nagy really wanted to avoid was Pete Carroll and his Seahawks.
What really happened, however, was there was no strategy and Nagy wasn't concerned with any hand-wringing because the first-year coach believes his 12-4 Bears will simply knock down the next pin put in front of them so Nagy, who is good friends with Doug Pederson, let the dogs loose against the overmatched Kirk Cousins and they did what they usually do.
Turns out the reward for that is the reigning Super Bowl champions playing their best football of the season with perhaps the strangest quarterback of all-time riding another almost inexplicable streak.
This time for Nick Foles it was matching the NFL's all-time record for consecutive completions with 25 in the 24-0 whitewashing of the Redskins.
Add that to 27 and 2, the seven-touchdown game and the Super Bowl MVP award on the mantle.
Foles' mantra has become "stay in the moment" but the veteran backup who most dismiss as nothing more than Carson Wentz's relief pitcher is staying in a moment he found last winter when he blitzed the Vikings in the NFC Championship Game and then outdueled Tom Brady in Super Bowl LII.
Nagy might believe in his team but others believe in magic and for the second consecutive season Foles is pulling rabbits out of hats.
So maybe Nagy's real hope here should be that the chest injury that knocked Foles from the game against the Redskins is serious enough to affect him in Chicago.
Otherwise, the new-school coach who wowed the NFL by scheming easy completions for a young QB in Mitchell Trubisky made a mistake by playing it old-school on Sunday, a decision that essentially invited a battle-tested team to try its luck against a first-time playoff signal caller.
The early indication is that Foles has bruised ribs, not the best-case scenario with Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks looming, but one which will allow him to play.
The Bears made it clear they are not afraid of Foles or anything else on Sunday but maybe they should be.
Inviting the heavyweight champion of the world to the middle of the ring instead of the overmatched club fighter shows a lot of things -- guts, confidence, and swagger among them.
What it doesn't highlight are the smarts to beat him.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen