Saints coach Sean Payton admits they stole Bears play in playoffs
It’s been over a month since the Chicago Bears lost their wildcard matchup against the New Orleans Saints 21-9 that sent them packing in the first round of the playoffs for the second time in three seasons.
While the game was close for much of the evening, the Bears failed to make enough explosive plays to keep pace with the Saints, most notably the dropped touchdown to wide receiver Javon Wims in the first quarter on a trick play.
Bears fans wound up seeing that exact same play again the next week, when the Saints ran it to perfection against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to score a touchdown. Though things went south for the Saints later in the game, fans were beside themselves seeing Saints quarterback Jameis Winston find wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith for six points.
Jameis Winston's touchdown was the same play design the Bears ran last week when Javon Wims dropped it. pic.twitter.com/Dv7RU386ZK
— Jordan Heck (@JordanHeckFF) January 18, 2021
But did New Orleans actually steal the play from the Bears? Their head coach didn’t try to cover up the theft.
Saints head coach Sean Payton joined ESPN 1000’s Carmen and Jurko show on Thursday morning to set the record straight.
“I had seen the the play, obviously, that they had run and I just took a pencil and erased ‘Matt Nagy’ and then I put my name at the top,” Payton joked.
He then detailed what he thought of the play when he saw it happen in real time.
“Honestly, I had never seen it before,” Payton said. “I remember seeing the play live because when Chicago broke the huddle, [Mitchell] Trubisky was right in front of me on our sideline. He wasn’t just – you know you’re getting a wildcat play, but generally speaking, you’re close to the line of scrimmage and Mitch was about three yards deeper than normal. There was the timing, the snap, the motion, the handoff, and then back to the quarterback. At that moment, you’re like ‘ugh.’ Honestly, it was a magnificent throw.”
Payton continued and talked through whether he wanted to change the play at all against the Buccaneers.
“We started with the idea that maybe we just flip the whole thing around and go the same exact play, but go the other direction,” he said. “We said no, just show our players this picture.”
The former Super Bowl-winning coach did offer his thanks to Nagy and the Bears, however.
“The next day, I text Matt and said ‘I appreciate that play’ and everyone got their credit,” he said. “That had zero to do with us and was Chicago’s design.”
This isn’t the first time a team admitted to copying the Bears playbook. In 2019, the Houston Texans took trick play from former Bears offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains during a 2017 game.
While the trick play fooled both the Saints and Buccaneers defenses, the team that ran it in both games wound up losing. It might be awhile before either Nagy or Payton picks it up again.