Matt Nagy doesn’t think he will have to remind wide receiver Javon Wims how unacceptable his dropped touchdown pass was for the Chicago Bears in Sunday’s wild-card-round playoff loss to the New Orleans Saints.
While Nagy by no means attempted to push the blame onto Wims for the Bears’ general failings on offense in the 21-9 loss, the third-year coach also told reporters in Sunday’s postgame he would “be sitting here lying to you … if I told you it didn’t hurt” to see the would-be touchdown slip through his receiver’s fingers.
Here’s how Nagy responded when ESPN’s Jeff Dickerson asked him about how much damage Wims’ drop caused for the Bears.
“Against a team like this, when there’s an opportunity to be made, you have to make that play, right? And Javon knows that. I’m not saying anything that Javon doesn’t know. He understands that, but … Mitch did a great job of giving him a chance. He put great air on the ball and Javon, he didn’t make the play. So now, the next step of that, what’ve we got to do? So when that happens, to teams that’ve got to grow in that scenario, you don’t let that affect you, you don’t let that deflate you. So I really feel like everybody — coaches, players — you learn from that. You say, ‘OK, who cares? Let’s get the next one.’ And we just never ended up putting points on the board.”
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Bears Held Onto Trick Play for Weeks
According to Nagy, the trick play that yielded an open look for Wims had been sitting in the Bears’ playbook “for weeks” while they waited for the “right time” to use it. It would also be hard to argue Nagy and offensive coordinator/play-caller Bill Lazor picked a bad time to run, as it went off without a hitch minus Wims’ drop.
For the play, quarterback Mitchell Trubisky lined up on the right side as a receiver while running back David Montgomery stood in the shotgun to snap the ball. Corrdarrelle Patterson took off on a pre-snap jet motion from left to right, quickly taking the handoff from Montgomery as the ball was snapped and popping it back to a late-motioning Trubisky after briefly faking an outside run.
The entire thing was near-flawless. The Saints’ secondary was pulled far enough forward for Wims to get behind the safeties. The pass protection bought Trubisky all the time he needed to pinpoint a deep ball from the 49-yard line into the end zone. There weren’t even disputes about timing or separation with the ball falling right into Wims’ hands as he reached the middle of the end zone with defenders falling behind him.
The hands just couldn’t secure the catch.
Here’s what Trubisky said in Sunday’s postgame about what was going through his mind on his trick-play shot to Wims:
“Throw him the ball, it was a touchdown. You don’t get a lot of opportunities like that, get your guy pretty wide open behind the safety (on) a play we’ve been practicing for the past few weeks. I was excited Coach got it called and that definitely would have helped early on getting on the board and getting us some momentum. I thought it was gonna be a touchdown, but we’ve got to have that next-play mentality.”
Was Trick Play Initially Designed for Wims?
It is difficult to imagine Wims was always the intended target for a trick play that had been in development for weeks. The 2018 seventh-round pick was targetted in the passing game just 12 times in 13 games during the regular season, catching six of them for 48 yards and a meaningful touchdown in Week 1’s win over the Detroit Lions.
The better candidate would have likely been rookie wide receiver Darnell Mooney, who was a breakout hit for the Bears in 2020 with 61 receptions for 631 yards and four touchdowns. He caught a career-high 11 passes for 93 yards in Week 17’s finale against the Green Bay Packers but also came away from the loss with an ankle injury, one that has sidelined him ever since.
The Bears may never say whether Mooney was originally intended to receive the deep ball on the trick ball, nor would it necessarily matter at this point if they did. The lone comfort for fans might be knowing how successfully the rest of the play went. If the Bears can put a more capable receiver in the same situations next season, defenses beware.