“This league, there’s a lot of great plays, there’s a lot of great minds, so when you see something like that, that’s unique and it works well, you try to execute it like they do.” — Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles after his 15-yard reception in Week 1 helped set up the Eagles’ first touchdown of 2018
Trey Burton‘s touchdown pass to Nick Foles last February did more than help the Eagles beat the Patriots in Super Bowl LII. The Philly Special seemingly convinced every head coach who flirted with the idea of trick plays that now is the time to be creative.
And no coach was more creative with trick plays in 2018 than Matt Nagy, whose Chicago Bears will host Foles and the Eagles in a wild-card match-up on Sunday.
Sixteen quarterbacks caught a pass this season, which is the most since the 1970 merger, and four more were targeted. Not every QB reception was by design as seven caught their own pass, but that still means 13 quarterbacks were targeted, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Conversely, last season before the Philly Special, only two quarterbacks caught a pass, and both times they caught their own pass.
Bears lead way in trickery
The Bears hired Nagy as coach last offseason to revamp their offense and develop second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. But they also got a playcaller who has no hesitation to use some trickery.
Perhaps the peak of Nagy’s creativity came in Week 14 against the Rams. Facing third-and-goal from the 2-yard line, the Bears had three linemen run on the field and report as eligible receivers. The lightest player was Trubisky at 222 pounds. The Bears had 10 players on the field, including four defensive linemen, weighing 290 pounds or more. All told, the Bears had 3,288 pounds on the field for the play called “Santa’s Sleigh.” Trubisky faked a handoff to 332-pound defensive tackle Akiem Hicks, who had scored on a 1-yard TD run the week before, and hit 312-pound offensive lineman Bradley Sowell for the 2-yard touchdown pass.
“We needed a play, so they gave it to the playmaker,” joked Sowell, who caught the first pass of his seven-year NFL career. “It was one of those things that I’m glad coach Nagy trusts me to do. He tried it with me earlier in the season and got flak for it, but he gave it back to me and it worked out great.”
Among the other notable tricky moments for the Bears this season:
Week 13: DT Hicks scores a 1-yard rushing TD
Week 13: RB Tarik Cohen throws a tying 1-yard TD to Miller as time expires
Week 17: Trubisky completes a 2-point conversion to LB Nick Kwiatkoski
But there were many more.
Most impactful non-QB passes this season
Win probability added: 35.2 percent
Win probability added: 25.8 percent
Week 13: Bears RB Cohen hits Miller with a 1-yard TD
Win probability added: 19.6 percent
Win probability added: 17.9 percent
Win probability added: 17.7 percent
Most impactful QB receptions this season
Win probability added: 9.7 percent
Win probability added: 7.7 percent
Week 1: Eagles receiver Nelson Agholor hits Foles for a 15-yard gain, extending a drive and setting up the Eagles’ first TD of 2018
Win probability added: 7.6 percent
Week 12: Bears WR Miller throws an 8-yard pass to QB Daniel
Win probability added: 5.9 percent
Win probability added: 4 percent