The origin of the unique and entertaining two-point conversion the Bears ran in Monday night’s game against the Vikings dates back 17 years.
Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains was a freshman quarterback at Arkansas in 2000 when he saw the exact same play executed by the Buccaneers in a Christmas Eve contest against the Packers at Lambeau Field.
Already interested in becoming a coach, Loggains diagrammed the play in a notebook he had started four years earlier when he was a freshman in high school.
Needing a two-point conversion to draw within 14-11 of the Packers in the fourth quarter, Buccaneers quarterback Shaun King took a shotgun snap and handed off to running back Warrick Dunn, who gave the ball to fullback Mike Alstott. Alstott then pitched it back to King, who jogged into the end zone.
The play was designed by Les Steckel, the Buccaneers offensive coordinator at the time.
Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky scores on the two-point conversion play Monday night.
Fast forward to 2013 when Loggains was the offensive coordinator of the Tennessee Titans working for head coach Mike Munchak, who happened to be neighbors with Steckel.
“I got to meet coach Steckel one day,” Loggains said. “We go to Easter with [former Titans offensive coordinator] Chris Palmer, Mike Munchak and Les Steckel and his wife. I had this notebook and I said, ‘Coach, I’ve got to ask you about this one play. You ran it 13 years ago.’ He called it ‘doughnut.’ He’s a really creative guy.
“So I’ve always had this play. But you’ve got to have Zach Miller. You’ve got to have a tight end or a Mike Alstott that you trust with the ball-handling. It’s just an option play off that. That’s where the play came from. Coach Les Steckel deserves all the credit for it. We just installed it 17 years later.”
Miller’s experience as an option quarterback at Nebraska-Omaha gave Loggains the confidence to call the play. The tight end is responsible for reading the edge rusher—in Monday night’s case it was Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr—and determining whether to keep the ball or pitch it to the quarterback.
“I think the key to making the play successful was the fantastic design from Dowell,” Miller said. “For him to put that together, everything has to be executed perfectly. There are a lot of transitions, passing the ball off here and there, so it was just a great design and execution by everyone involved.”
Miller said that operating the option again years later was “just like riding a bike” and joked that he switched from college quarterback to NFL tight end “because the option was my best pass.”
When Trubisky was asked whether he knew Miller had played quarterback in college, the rookie said: “I did. He tells me all the time, says ‘I could spin that. I could make that throw.'”
Trubisky enjoyed the role he played in the two-point conversion, which tied Monday night’s game 17-17 with 12:24 left in the fourth quarter.
“There was a little smile going into the huddle,” Trubisky said. “We were like, ‘we’re going to score and tie the game right here.’ So I just handed it off and really it came down to the execution by the other guys; good handoffs and Zach Miller making a great play. That’s not an easy read and a tough pitch, and he executed it perfectly.”
The Bears originally ran the play during training camp in Bourbonnais this summer.
“We practice it, go over it over and over again and it came to life in the game, so that was really cool to see,” Trubisky said. “Those are the kind of plays you do get excited for.”