Matt Nagy played scared and lost. Frank Reich played it safe and his kicker made him look smart.
The Chicago Bears lost 17-16 to the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday because Eddy Pineiro missed a 41-yard field goal after Nagy had quarterback Mitchell Trubisky take a knee on first-and-10 from the 21 with 43 seconds remaining.
The Indianapolis Colts beat the Denver Broncos 15-13 on Adam Vinatieri’s 51-yard field goal after Reich called two runs to set up a long field goal.
Both coaching philosophies were conservative, but the results were different because of execution.
Trubisky had just scrambled 11 yards and the Bears had one timeout left. There was plenty of time to run a couple more plays to move the ball closer for Pineiro, who already had a miss when he hit the right upright on a 33-yard try earlier in the game.
David Montgomery had run for 135 yards and seemed like the best option to get more yards to make it a shorter kick.
But Nagy was worried about a turnover.
“I have zero thought of running the ball and taking the chance of fumbling the football,” Nagy said. “They know you’re running the football, so you lose 3, 4 yards, so that wasn’t even in our process as coaches to think about that.
“We were in field goal range before the scramble, and then we got the scramble, so that didn’t even cross my mind.”
Nagy was blistered on social media for his decision. He should know he can’t take any kick for granted given the way Chicago’s season ended last year. The Bears lost 16-15 to the Eagles in the playoffs when Cody Parkey’s 43-yard field goal in the closing seconds was tipped at the line of scrimmage and doinked off an upright and the crossbar.
Yet Nagy was defiant when questioned about his play calling.
“Throw the football right then and there? What happens if you take a sack or there’s a fumble?” he said. “I’ll just be brutally clear. Zero thought of throwing the football. Zero thought of running the football. You understand me? That’s exactly what it was. It’s as simple as that.”
Nagy displayed no confidence in his offensive line, quarterback and running back at a critical time in the game and put all his faith in a rookie kicker.
At least Reich trusted a guy who is the most clutch player to ever play his position in NFL history.
The Colts trailed Denver 13-12 and faced a second-and-11 from the Broncos 35 with 1:13 remaining after quarterback Jacoby Brissett was stopped for a 1-yard loss on first down. Reich wasn’t content to kick from there, but didn’t want to risk a big loss. So he called two running plays even though throwing the ball may have seemed like a better option to gain more yards.
Marlon Mack only gained 2 yards on two carries, but Vinatieri drilled the game-winner after missing a 45-yard try earlier and the tying extra point. He also kicked a 55-yarder at the end of the first half.
“We didn’t have any timeouts left so I didn’t want to take a chance of a penalty or a sack and get out of field goal range,” Reich said, explaining why he chose to run instead of pass. “I knew we were inside of 55 yards. I knew that was money for Adam. I had all the confidence in the world that he was going to make that. Even after we missed the extra point, he came running off and I said: ‘Hey. Don’t worry about it. You’re going to win it for us.’
“It was not tough for me to have that confidence. I didn’t want to be too aggressive there. … We had a shot to win it, and that’s all we wanted there at the end.”
AP Sports Writers Jay Cohen in Chicago and Michael Marot in Indianapolis contributed to this report.
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