Plenty of par­al­lels be­tween Pa­tri­cia, Bears’ Nagy

The Detroit News - - Sports - BY MATT SCHOCH Spe­cial to The Detroit News

Allen Park — The first two head coaches named Matt in NFL his­tory will meet Sun­day, and that’s not the only par­al­lels for the side­line rook­ies.

Chicago’s Nagy and Detroit’s Pa­tri­cia were among seven head coaches hired this off­sea­son, and Pa­tri­cia will meet an­other first-timer for the first time as his last-place Li­ons meet the first-place Bears.

The two are fa­mil­iar op­po­nents, as Pa­tri­cia’s de­fense in New Eng­land met Nagy’s Kansas City of­fense in Week 1 of last sea­son, a 42-27 road win for the Chiefs.

“There’s a lot of things to cover there,” Pa­tri­cia said. “They do a great job of game-plan­ning, so it’s not the same plays ev­ery week. It’s a bunch of dif­fer­ent looks, dif­fer­ent for­ma­tions. Some of the con­cepts are the same, but it’s go­ing to look en­tirely dif­fer­ent maybe than what you saw be­fore.”

Nagy was also quar­ter­backs coach on Andy Reid’s staff dur­ing a 2016 play­off game, a 27-20 win for the Pa­tri­ots.

For the head-coach­ing po­si­tion, the Li­ons went with the un­der­ling of Bill Belichick, long re­garded as the NFL’s best de­fen­sive mind. The Bears did the same with Nagy, a pro­tege of Reid, who has led po­tent of­fenses

in the league for decades.

The re­sults have so far been con­trast­ing, as Pa­tri­cia has taken a 9-7 team back­ward in the stand­ings at 3-5 head­ing into the sec­ond half of the sea­son.

Nagy has turned the 5-11 Bears into a play­off con­tender, al­ready match­ing last sea­son’s win to­tal at 5-3.

For­mer Li­ons quar­ter­back Frank Re­ich of In­di­anapo­lis — 3-5 this sea­son af­ter the Colts went 4-12 last year — is the only other new coach on pace for a win im­prove­ment over his fired pre­de­ces­sor.

Pa­tri­cia joins Oak­land’s Jon Gru­den, Ari­zona’s Steve Wilks, Ten­nessee’s Mike Vra­bel and Pat Shur­mur of the New York Gi­ants as new coaches on pace to un­der­per­form the men they were hired to re­place.

Nagy and Pa­tri­cia in­her­ited vet­eran groups on the other side of the ball than their spe­cial­ties, keep­ing co­or­di­na­tors Jim Bob Cooter to run the Detroit of­fense and Vic Fan­gio to re­main with the Chicago de­fense.

Fan­gio’s de­fense, with the ad­di­tion of All-Pro linebacker Khalil Mack, is ranked in the top five in to­tal yards, rush­ing yards, passer rat­ing against, points al­lowed and turnovers.

Mean­while, Cooter’s of­fense has sput­tered un­der quar­ter­back Matthew Stafford, rank­ing 21st in yards per game and 20th in points per game. The Li­ons are also fourth-worst in the NFL at con­vert­ing touch­downs in the red zone.

Nagy’s of­fense has been led by sec­ond-year quar­ter­back Mitchell Tru­bisky, a throw­back and im­proved passer, who is av­er­ag­ing 7.9 yards per rush­ing at­tempt.

Tru­bisky’s com­ple­tion per­cent­age has gone up nearly 5 per­cent­age points from last sea­son to 64.2 per­cent, and he has thrown 16 touch­downs and seven in­ter­cep­tions af­ter throw­ing seven of each last sea­son.

Pa­tri­cia also sees growth in Tru­bisky’s abil­ity to make some­thing out of noth­ing un­der duress.

“He’s very, very calm in those mo­ments that usu­ally you only see from a quar­ter­back that has a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence in the NFL,” Pa­tri­cia said.

“His abil­ity to han­dle those pres­sure sit­u­a­tions is what’s al­low­ing him to turn some of those into some huge plays.”

Tru­bisky’s play has fans think­ing play­offs in Chicago. The Bears could take a big step to­ward mak­ing that more re­al­is­tic if they con­quer their prob­lems with Detroit, as the Li­ons have won nine of 10 against the Bears.

The teams play twice in 12 days with a re­turn meet­ing on Thanks­giv­ing Day in Detroit, two games that could give the Bears great post­sea­son po­si­tion­ing.

Though you’ll never hear about “play­offs” from Nagy, who told the Chicago me­dia that he doesn’t ut­ter the P-word.

“Never,” Nagy said Mon­day. “You’ll never hear that from me. You’ll never hear the word ‘play­offs’ from me.”

If Pa­tri­cia can con­tinue the re­cent blitz of the Bears, maybe he’ll have the op­por­tu­nity to en­ter­tain a sim­i­lar quandary in the sea­son’s sec­ond half.

Li­ons head coach Matt Pa­tri­cia, left, will face an­other first-time head coach Sun­day in the Bears’ Matt Nagy.

Nam Y. Huh/As­so­ci­ated Press

Matt Nagy, right, lost to Bill Belichick 38-31 in Oc­to­ber. Nagy faces Belichick’s pro­tege, Matt Pa­tri­cia, on Sun­day.

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