The Week 1 replacements who set the tone for 2018, and what comes next

Chiefs' big-play ability for real under Mahomes (1:50)

Ryan Clark and Jeff Saturday react to Patrick Mahomes' four-touchdown effort in the Chiefs' 38-28 win over the Chargers. (1:50)

Week 1 is the first step in confirming the unknown of an NFL season. It's seeing teams that spent the offseason as sleeper candidates take their first step toward their potential. It's watching rookies emerge. It's staring slack-jawed at the screen as you wonder why a team would trade away a Hall of Famer in the middle of his career who appears to be single-handedly reducing an entire offense to dust, and then seeing another Hall of Famer hobble back out to rescue a season that seemed lost and then immediately found again.

It's also about the replacements, the guys who are taking over in new roles or moving to new teams. We've seen many of them before, of course, but there's something exciting about a player showing up and having an immediate impact in a new spot. It's defenders like Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett and Jabari Greer, who swung Super Bowls by leaving for new pastures in free agency. We saw immediate impacts last season from rookies like Kareem Hunt and Tarik Cohen, to go with impressive debuts in different roles from the likes of Sean McVay and Adam Thielen.

In a wildly entertaining opening Sunday, we witnessed several polarizing performances from players and coaches in new roles or with new teams. Let's break down some of those performances, see how they impacted the league, and figure out if they're likely to keep things up. And let's start that with a quarterback who might already be appointment viewing:

Jump to a replacement: Mahomes | Conner | BAL WRs | Peterman | T. Brown | Peterson | Fitzpatrick | Nagy

Patrick Mahomes, QB, Chiefs

After an advance showing in Week 17 last season, the Chiefs finally unveiled their new starting quarterback, who delivered a series of highlight-reel plays without making many mistakes. In his second career start, Mahomes went 15-of-27 passing for 256 yards with four touchdowns. He averaged 9.5 yards per throw, a figure Alex Smith only topped 10 times in 76 starts with the Chiefs. Crucially, he kept up Smith's habit of holding onto the football -- he didn't turn the ball over -- and benefited from two Chargers giveaways. Andy Reid's record as Chiefs coach in games with a turnover margin of plus-two or better improved to 29-1 (.967), which is better than the league average of .867 in those games.

In taking a closer look at Mahomes, I have to admit that the performance wasn't necessarily as good as the numbers would suggest. There are some clear plans the Chiefs had about how they wanted to use Mahomes, which I think are to his benefit. He's also undoubtedly going to grow as the season goes along. The biggest concern for the Chiefs might be getting their other players touches given the effectiveness of Tyreek Hill. The third-year wideout was the focal point on Sunday, both in terms of scheme and outcome.

Two of Mahomes' four touchdowns were "touch passes," in which the quarterback essentially takes the snap in the pistol or shotgun and just shovels it forward to a receiver in motion. It's more commonly associated with college football, and that should be no surprise. As Chris Brown noted on Twitter, the Chiefs' offense was built heavily upon the modern college football attacks of the past several seasons. They built their running game off the threat of outside zone out of the shotgun with Kareem Hunt, who had a relatively quiet day, while Hill and De'Anthony Thomas sprinted across the formation and terrified the overmatched Chargers linebackers.

The running game led to those two aforementioned touchdowns. If you want to see a confused defender, look at Melvin Ingram on the 1-yard touch pass to Thomas in the third quarter. He runs into the backfield and thinks he has a shot at making a play, but Thomas runs by him in the opposite direction with the football just as he thinks he can stop it. The Chiefs aren't even attempting to block Ingram on the play; backup tight end Alex Ellis literally pushes Ingram into the backfield behind him before trying to find someone else to block. Ellis can't block Ingram, as the Chiefs found out during an ill-fated pass protection attempt during this game. Better to read him and let Ingram spin his way into disappointment.

Mahomes drew the star edge rusher offside twice on Sunday, a sign of his abilities with a hard count. Sadly, one of the offsides came on what would have been a free play, a shame given that the league is cracking down on giving quarterbacks freerolls this season. Mahomes would immediately step in alongside Aaron Rodgers as the league's most terrifying quarterback on free plays, and given his weapons, Mahomes might be able to do more when he has nothing to lose.

Having said that, this was a restrained performance from Mahomes, in part because Reid didn't want to burden him with too much on third downs. Mahomes had one big play on third down all day, when he scrambled deep in his own territory and found Hill for a 34-yard gain.

Otherwise, the Chiefs played things extremely conservatively when they got to third down. Mahomes ran a quarterback draw when they went five-wide on their opening series. Reid gave Mahomes a half-field read on a rollout and Mahomes threw the ball away when nothing was open. They ran a draw deep in their own territory on a third-and-10, chose to throw an immediate swing pass to Spencer Ware on another third-and-long, and direct-snapped to Ware in the Wildcat for another first down. The two touch-pass touchdowns came on third-and-goal. Mahomes also was pressured on two additional third downs, taking a sack on one from Derwin James and throwing the ball away to avoid another sack in the second half.

This had the effect of limiting the Chiefs' exposure to turnovers, which was the big concern with Mahomes coming into this season, although that's only in comparison to Smith, who is one of the best quarterbacks in league history at avoiding giveaways. Mahomes threw only one near-interception, a contested pass to Chris Conley that was tipped in the air and then caught by Chiefs back Damien Williams before being called back for holding. The Chiefs ran the triple option with Mahomes, but when they used him as a runner, Mahomes was conservative and even essentially slid to protect himself at the Chargers' half-yard line, avoiding the sorts of dangerous hit we saw Kirk Cousins take Sunday. As the season goes on and the Chiefs find themselves in tighter games or trailing, Reid will obviously open up the playbook more on third down and challenge Mahomes to make big plays.

The difference between Mahomes and other big-armed quarterbacks from recent draft classes is the work Reid has done with making his motion more consistent and improving Mahomes' accuracy while still retaining the improvisational skills that made the Texas Tech product such an exciting prospect. We saw both on display on Mahomes' two other touchdown passes. One was a gorgeous, Garoppolo-esque lob to fullback Anthony Sherman for a 36-yard touchdown.

The other was Mahomes' most impressive play of the day. Chargers nose tackle Brandon Mebane shot through the A-gap at the snap, and with a 311-pound defensive lineman basically running free in his face, Mahomes didn't panic and try to scramble out of the pocket. Instead, he stayed tall and fired an absolute strike to Hill. The pass came out so quick that Jahleel Addae wasn't able to gain any sort of angle of attack on Hill, who ran right by a diving tackle attempt and sprinted upfield for a 58-yard touchdown.

That's the thing about these Chiefs. There are going to be moments in which they simply beat you with athleticism no other team in the league can match, plays in which Mahomes throws the ball as hard as anybody in the world and Hill outruns athletes who have never been outrun in their life. There was a 21-yard touch pass to start the second half where Ingram identifies Hill coming across the formation and just makes a desperate, cartoonish lunge to try to take him down. Hill is already out of the way by the time Ingram leaves his feet. Ingram is 264 pounds and had elite agility markers coming out of college. What happens when the Chiefs play a bad defense?

The league will start looking at some of the Chiefs' motion packages on tape as the season goes on, and they'll adjust, as was the case in 2017. Offenses will steal their stuff and defenses will get a sense of how to stop it. There might even be a midseason lull similar to the one we saw last season, when the Chiefs' offense went on vacation for most of November during a four-game losing streak.

The difference, though, is that the Chiefs have another gear they couldn't get to last season. This was the Hill Show, but we know Hill isn't the only guy. Reid lined up Travis Kelce as the lone man on one side of the field and went with trips and diamond formations on the opposite side, as he has done in years past, but Mahomes rarely looked Kelce's way. The tight end had only one catch on six targets, although he dropped a curl route. Wideout Sammy Watkins, who's making $16 million a year and had a quiet preseason, only caught three passes for 21 yards on five targets. Hunt had 49 yards from scrimmage. There will be days in which Hill isn't as spectacular as he was on Sunday. When that happens, no team has more weapons waiting in reserve than the Chiefs. And when the league figures out the Chiefs' motions and misdirections, Mahomes might be good enough to beat teams with whatever Reid is holding back.

James Conner, RB, Steelers

If the Steelers wanted to show Le'Veon Bell what he was missing, Conner might have served as the Ghost of Christmas Future on Sunday. With Ben Roethlisberger struggling in a rainy, windy mess of a Cleveland afternoon, the Steelers turned things over to their second-year back, who absorbed a mammoth workload. Conner finished the 21-21 tie with 36 touches, which would have been the sixth-largest total in any game for a player last season. Two of the five games with 37 touches or more belonged to Bell. When Conner scored the first of his two touchdowns on a 4-yard plunge, it was telling that the Steelers' offensive linemen celebrated as if it was their first NFL touchdown, too.

It would absolutely be fair to say that Conner got a ton of help from his offensive line, which helped clear out big enough holes for Conner to seemingly go untouched on both of his touchdown runs. Eighty-seven of his 135 rushing yards came before first contact. Conner doesn't have the unique patience of Bell to wait around behind the line of scrimmage for his hole to open, but the 23-year-old had the vision to adjust his runs and consistently make the right cut upfield while extending those runs by breaking ankle tackles.

On the other hand, Conner's efficiency went down as the Steelers tried to take the air out of the ball late and the Browns keyed on the run. Eight of his first 11 carries improved Pittsburgh's expected point totals for the drive in question, but just three of his final 20 rushes built expected points for the Steelers. The former Pitt star also cost the Steelers dearly by fumbling the ball away deep in his own territory to the Browns, who scored a touchdown to get within seven on the next play.

The most exciting thing about Conner's afternoon to me, though, was that he was functional as a receiver. He hasn't been a useful receiver at the college or pro level; he ran the ball 668 times at Pitt but caught just 30 passes, including 21 during his senior season. Conner failed to catch his lone target last season, but like Bell, he lost weight after his first NFL season and came back as a leaner, more explosive back. On Sunday, the Steelers were able to throw to him out of the backfield for five catches and 57 yards on six targets. Three of the catches went for first downs, while a fourth gained valuable yards to set up what should have been a game-winning field goal in overtime, only for Chris Boswell to miss from 42 yards out.

Before Sunday, the idea that the Steelers could replace Bell with Conner just didn't add up. Conner is never going to be a like-for-like replacement and probably won't be as special of a back as Bell has become, but the Steelers just can't replace Bell with a back who isn't a factor in the passing game. The Steelers don't need to be able to split Conner out against cornerbacks and have him win one-on-one, but if he couldn't scare teams as a receiver, Conner would have topped out as part of a rotation. Sunday showed that Conner is good enough to hurt teams that want to drop their linebackers deep into coverage or who forget about him if he starts as a blocker and leaks out into the flat as a receiver. The guy we saw on the field Sunday could replace Bell in 2019.

What happens this season, though? So much depends on Bell, who tweeted out a curious emoji after the game yesterday. It still seems likely that Bell returns at some point, but if Conner continues to play this well, there's no way the Steelers can just hand Bell 30-plus touches per week and park Conner on the bench. Some sort of rotation would make the most sense, given that it would allow Conner to continue his on-field education while resting Bell, who clearly wants to stay healthy in advance of a big deal from some other team in free agency this offseason.

Bell hasn't really split time with another back since 2014, when the Steelers signed LeGarrette Blount and used him in a rotation with the still-emerging Bell. (DeAngelo Williams was really either a starter when Bell was unavailable or sat on the bench when Bell was active.) Blount averaged 6.5 carries per game before being released and making his way back to the Patriots. It would make sense to see the Steelers give Conner a similar sort of workload while adding a target or two per game.

In the long term, Conner's success in Week 1 should remind Steelers fans that there will be life if Bell does leave in free agency. The Steelers have one of the best offensive lines in the league, arguably the best wide receiving corps in the league, and a Hall of Fame quarterback. They've managed to find a replacement for Barry Foster by making a draft-day trade to acquire Jerome Bettis after a down season. They found a partner for Bettis by signing Willie Parker as an undrafted free agent. When first-round pick Rashard Mendenhall failed to live up to expectations, the Steelers found another franchise back in Bell with the 48th pick of the 2013 draft. They're good at this. Sunday was the first sign that they might have found their next great running back.

Baltimore's wideouts

For one day, at least, the trio of additions Ozzie Newsome made to his long-suffering wide receiving corps clicked with Joe Flacco. The Ravens moved on from Jeremy Maclin, Mike Wallace and former first-round pick Breshad Perriman and replaced them with free agents John Brown, Michael Crabtree and Willie Snead. The only wideout left on the roster who caught a pass last season is backup Chris Moore.

The results couldn't be better through Week 1. Flacco threw 11 passes to his wideouts on Sunday and completed all 11, generating 136 yards and three touchdowns in the process. The result was a 157.8 passer rating on throws to those wide receivers, which is the best passer rating Flacco has ever posted on throws to his wide receivers in a single game. If you look at Flacco's 10 previous best games on throws to his wideouts (with a 10-attempt minimum), just one of the previous 15 have come since the end of the 2014 campaign.

While the simple story about this Ravens season after the draft seemed to revolve around the inevitable swap of Flacco for first-round pick Lamar Jackson, what we've seen so far suggests that the Ravens aren't in a rush. Jackson struggled some during the preseason, although he improved as the month of August went along. On Sunday, Jackson was an ancillary figure, running seven times for 39 yards while completing one of his four pass attempts for 24 yards, most of which came late in the blowout. The Bills made this easy for Flacco and impossible for their defense -- the average Ravens drive began on their own 41-yard line -- but if the Super Bowl MVP plays like this, the Ravens won't be in a rush to make any change.

Nathan Peterman, QB, Bills

It's hard to have sympathy for the Bills, who did this to themselves in scapegoating Tyrod Taylor for their offensive problems over the past year. It's far easier to feel for Peterman, who is simply overmatched at the NFL level and is being used as a sacrificial lamb. By going 5-of-18 passing for 24 yards with two interceptions, Peterman became the 36th quarterback since the merger to post a passer rating of 0.0 in a game with 15 or more attempts and just the second since 2008. The bright side might be that the last passer to do it was Peyton Manning, on the day he was benched for Brock Osweiler and during the season in which he won a Super Bowl.

Unsurprisingly, Peterman is off to the worst start of any young quarterback in recent memory. He has been unable to finish each of his first three starts, as he was benched against the Chargers in the five-interception games last season and then again against the Ravens on Sunday (he was injured after starting against the Colts last season). Going back through 2001, Peterman's 16.8 passer rating across his first three starts is the worst for any passer, comfortably behind Alex Smith (29.4) and Brooks Bollinger (37.0). The best passer rating for any passer through three starts over that time frame, ironically, belongs to Taylor.

The Bills took out Peterman for rookie first-rounder Josh Allen, who went 6-of-15 passing for 74 yards without any interceptions in his professional debut. Buffalo didn't commit to a starter after the game, with coach Sean McDermott suggesting he needed to watch the tape before making a decision on Peterman, which honestly might be more about penance than study. Peterman's five completions on Sunday traveled an average of minus-0.4 yards in the air. While Allen isn't a finished product, he's better than Peterman right now and obviously will be starting by the end of the season.

It's pretty clear, though, that the Bills aren't especially desperate to insert Allen into the lineup given their early-season slate. They faced the Ravens, who led the league in pass defense DVOA last season, in the opener. Buffalo gets the Chargers and their ninth-ranked pass defense next week, and they already know what Los Angeles' defense can do to an overmatched quarterback making his first start. They travel to Minnesota to play the Vikings in Week 3. Would you want to put Allen in for his NFL debut against any of those defenses with one of the league's worst offensive lines protecting your future franchise quarterback? The Bills probably hoped to get by with Peterman against that brutal early slate before turning things over to Allen. Peterman might not be good enough to afford them even that modest luxury.

Trent Brown, OT, Patriots

This year's Patriots-Texans game failed to live up to the excitement of the classic 2017 battle between Deshaun Watson and Tom Brady. Much of that was because Watson struggled in his return from knee surgery, which you can attribute to the Patriots winning at the line of scrimmage. Trey Flowers began what should be a breakout season with 1.5 sacks and three knockdowns, while the Patriots took advantage of one of the league's worst offensive lines by knocking down Watson 12 times on 37 dropbacks. That line is now stretched even thinner after right tackle Seantrel Henderson went down with an ankle injury.

The Patriots have struggled mightily with offensive injuries during this preseason, but one player who had been flying underneath the radar was tackle Brown, whose spot on the left side was confirmed after first-round pick Isaiah Wynn went down with a torn ACL. The 6-foot-8 Brown struggled during the preseason and missed practices in advance of the Week 1 matchup against star Texans pass-rusher Jadeveon Clowney.

It's hard to argue with the results. The former 49ers right tackle came through with flying colors in his first Patriots start, holding Clowney without a sack or a hit on Brady. The Patriots quarterback was sacked only twice, both of which came from the other side of the line and only well into the fourth quarter. After quarterback, left tackle has been the most stable spot on the Patriots roster under Bill Belichick, given that the job during the Brady era has belonged to exactly two men in Matt Light and Nate Solder. Brown has an even tougher test next week with a trip to Jacksonville approaching, but the former seventh-round pick just began his contract year with a sterling performance.

Adrian Peterson, RB, Washington

In the small group of backs who went from the street to playing meaningful roles on Week 1 rosters, Peterson was the one who emerged from the opening week of the season looking like the most useful runner. He finished a 24-6 win over the Cardinals with 166 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown in his preferred role as Washington's workhorse. Peterson's 28 touches were second in the league behind James Conner, who had a fifth quarter to work with against the Browns. Peterson also did this against the league's No. 1 rushing defense by DVOA from a year ago.

You might remember that Peterson also had big games against the Buccaneers and 49ers last season and was otherwise anonymous during his time with the Saints and Cardinals. That could be the case here, although he's working with a much better offensive line in Washington with Trent Williams and Brandon Scherff both healthy. For one, 70 of his yards were as a receiver, a role Peterson hasn't filled much for most of his career. Much of that came on a 52-yard catch with a blown coverage, and it ended with Peterson fumbling. He has had one of the higher fumble rates in the league during his career, which hurts his value when he's not producing the way he did during his peak.

As a runner, Peterson's numbers were merely good. In 2017, the future Hall of Famer wasn't effective because he didn't move the chains frequently enough; he finished 42nd among 47 qualifying runners in success rate, which measures how frequently a back keeps his offense on schedule. On Sunday, half of his runs actually reduced Washington's expected points for their current drive.

Peterson, who was signed only when Derrius Guice suffered a season-ending injury in August, made up for the modest efficiency by producing a 13-yard run and two 17-yard runs. Sixty-eight of his 96 rushing yards came after contact, which would have ranked right alongside the league leaders last season on a per-attempt basis. He averaged 2.6 yards after contact per carry after racking up an average of 1.5 YAC last season. If Peterson has found the Fountain of Youth, Washington will have stumbled onto a No. 1 running back. It's going to be difficult for him to stay productive with a game built around yards after first contact and big plays in the passing game, however.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Buccaneers

You didn't see this coming? Fitzpatrick carved up the league's most improved defense from a year ago, racking up 417 yards and four touchdowns in the air while adding 36 yards and a rushing touchdown on the ground in the 48-40 win over the Saints in New Orleans. The well-traveled backup, filling in for suspended quarterback Jameis Winston, didn't fumble, throw an interception, nor take a sack. He finished with a 97.5 Total QBR, which was the top mark of Week 1 and the best Total QBR for the opening week of the season since Jay Cutler posted a 98.1 mark in 2008.

Is it a sign of things to come? Fitzpatrick has had great games before, but they haven't marked a new trend or a lengthy stretch of success. This was Fitzpatrick's best passer rating in a start since entering the league. If you take his 10 best games in which he started and then threw 15 passes in a game the following week, his average passer rating during the great games was 122.8. In the following week after those games, Fitzpatrick's average passer rating was 83.7, right in line with his career average of 79.9. In 2016, for example, Fitzpatrick threw for 374 yards and posted a 116.5 passer rating in a Week 2 win over the Bills. The following week, Fitz threw six picks in a 24-3 loss to the Chiefs.

The most promising thing for the Bucs might be DeSean Jackson's return to life, given that the free-agent addition posted the worst full season of his career in 2017. He averaged just 13.4 yards per catch in his first season with the Bucs, as the once-dominant downfield threat caught just one of the 20 bombs traveling 26 yards or more in the air thrown to him last season. The league caught an average of just over 29 percent of those throws a year ago.

Jackson was thrown three bombs and caught all three on Sunday, tripling his reception total from a year ago. Those throws turned into 129 yards and two touchdowns. On the first, Jackson was able to run past isolated deep safety Marcus Williams and beat him to the corner for a 58-yard score. Then, on a two-play series, we saw what the Bucs envisioned Jackson doing across from Mike Evans when they signed him. First, he drew a 15-yard pass interference call on a curl route against Ken Crawley. On the next play, Jackson went to the opposite side of the field and beat Crawley one-on-one on a deep post for his second score. Jackson later torched Crawley on a third-and-3 fade for a 35-yard completion before leaving with a concussion.

It's tempting to imagine a scenario in which the Buccaneers just managed to pick on the weak links in the New Orleans secondary and preyed on some early-season miscommunication, but star corner Marshon Lattimore also had a rough day against Evans, who finished with 147 receiving yards, highlighted by 50-yard touchdown in which he ran right past Lattimore in one-on-one coverage. Most of Evans' yardage came with Lattimore serving as either the lone or primary defender. Lattimore said afterward that the Saints "needed to get slapped in our face one good time to see that we're not on the level we think we're on." This was more like being slapped in the face for hours on end.

Are the Saints losing their edge? New Orleans fans might point back to Week 1 of a year ago, when the Saints were ripped apart by Sam Bradford, who threw for 346 yards and three touchdowns in what would end up serving as his only full game of the season. The problem with that argument is that the Saints weren't using the same players who would help piece their secondary together later in the 2017 season; P.J. Williams was starting for Crawley, who was a healthy scratch, while Kenny Vaccaro was serving as a pure safety and not in a hybrid role. The Saints we saw in Week 1 this season aren't missing anyone. They're already supposed to be good.

The thing to monitor, more than anything, is the pass rush. The Saints barely bothered Fitzpatrick behind one of the league's lesser pass-blocking lines on Sunday, failing to sack the Tampa quarterback once. The closest New Orleans came was three roughing-the-passer calls, including two questionable flags on back-to-back plays in the third quarter. Cameron Jordan didn't rack up a single knockdown, while rookie first-round pick Marcus Davenport had one of New Orleans' two hits on Fitzpatrick. If the Saints can't manufacture a pass rush, their secondary isn't going to be able to hold up. The good news is that they get the Browns at home next week.

Matt Nagy, coach, Bears

In his first game as a head coach, Nagy looked like a lot like an Andy Reid season rolled into one game. The Bears got off to an incredibly hot start on offense, overwhelming the Packers with motion and looks they hadn't seen from the Bears in preseason. Chip Kelly ran the Emory and Henry offense for snaps in the NFL and split his tackles out, but the Packers weren't expecting to see left tackle Charles Leno lining up on the right side in trips with two other receivers. Throw in Khalil Mack's otherworldly first half and the Bears seemed like surefire locks to win at halftime in Lambeau.

Well, you saw what happened next. Aaron Rodgers took over, the pass rush slowed down, and the Bears' secondary was exposed. Kyle Fuller was burned for a long touchdown by Geronimo Allison and later dropped a would-be interception that would have sealed the game. Prince Amukamara was beaten repeatedly by Davante Adams, who scored the second touchdown of the half. Rodgers finished the stunning 24-23 comeback win by finding Randall Cobb, who ran away from Eddie Jackson and sprinted upfield for a 75-yard touchdown.

Nagy contributed to the problems with some questionable decision-making on Chicago's last fourth-quarter drive with the lead. Reid has been criticized for throwing the ball and stopping the clock in years past, and when the Chiefs stopped running the ball during the second half of last season's playoff loss to the Titans, it was odd to see Reid take the blame while the team's new playcaller, Nagy, mostly avoided public scrutiny.

That won't be the case anymore, as Nagy played his way into the Packers' hands late in the game. With the Bears running the ball successfully on a drive that had already taken six full minutes off of the clock, Chicago faced a third-and-1 on the Green Bay 14-yard line with 2:47 to go and the Packers out of timeouts. A first down would have possibly allowed the Bears to run the clock down to 35 seconds or so before kicking a field goal (or picking up another first down to seal the game). Running the ball would have allowed the Bears, at the bare minimum, to take the clock near the two-minute warning.

Instead, Nagy threw the ball on third-and-1 on a pick play designed to get Anthony Miller open on a drag route and Tarik Cohen open downfield for a possible touchdown. Cohen somehow found a huge mismatch against 261-pound linebacker Reggie Gilbert, but Mitchell Trubisky tried to make the shorter pass and threw the ball too hard to Miller, whose drag route was sloppy and came way too shallow to take advantage of the picks while staying close to the first-down marker. Even if Trubisky had completed the pass, Miller would have struggled to get a first down or even make it back to the line of scrimmage.

What compounded the mistake on third-and-1, though, was the decision to kick on fourth-and-1. Coaches like to kick a field goal up three points late in games to force the opposing team to try to score a touchdown, but it has the strange habit of accidentally optimizing coaching behavior. When a team is down three points late in a game, its coaches will often set the target of kicking a field goal to extend the game and base their decision-making around getting in field goal range. This goes double for a conservative coach like Mike McCarthy.

When you go up six points, though, coaches have no choice but to empty the well and score a touchdown. I don't think it made a huge difference here because Cobb took an 11-yard pass to the house, but the Bears would have been in the ascendancy if they had gone for it in lieu of attempting a 32-yard field goal to make it a six-point lead, given their chances of success. Brian Burke's model suggests that the Bears should have gone for it if they thought they could convert fourth-and-short 19 percent of the time against the Packers in that situation.

Nagy will learn. There are worse fates than living up to Reid, who has built a career out of being the honor roll version of Jeff Fisher in winning 10 games like clockwork every season. Doug Pederson has proved that coaches can learn from Reid and still get aggressive, and the Bears looked about as terrifying as any team in football during the first half. They also blew a 17-point halftime lead, which teams rode to a 53-5 record over the past five seasons. This one will sting.