The one man to score a touchdown in the Chicago Bears' 15-6 victory over the Los Angeles Rams hadn't scored a touchdown in his 96 NFL games entering Sunday night.
That fact alone speaks to the strangeness of the Bears' signature victory in 2018. On the one hand, it shows that the Bears can win low-scoring games with a dominant defense, just enough offense and a dash of creativity. That's a formula that's mostly worked all season long for a Bears team that's on the cusp of winning the division for the first time since 2011.
When the Bears' Allen Robinson was ruled out of bounds at the Rams' 2-yard line early in the third quarter, it gave head coach Matt Nagy his chance to dig deep into his mad funhouse of plays. The Bears trotted on QB Mitch Trubisky, four defensive linemen and six offensive lineman — one of whom, reserve OT Bradley Sowell, was the unlikely recipient of the scoring pass.
"I thought it was very impressive," Nagy said. "... I mean, that was a complete thumbs catch. He just looked it in. The ball was up high. That was an unbelievable catch. Great throw, too. Great throw."
The TD was the first of Sowell's NFL career and the only one in a game pitting the two NFC heavyweights. His touchdown celebration also lit up the Soldier Field crowd, which watched the Bears take over the game in the second half. Even the play's name, "Santa's Sleigh," had Bears fans lathered up when they heard it after the game.
"When you actually catch the touchdown, you just blank out," Sowell said after the game.
But interestingly, it wasn't the first touchdown in Sowell's football career. The athletic blocker goes 6-foot-7 and 312 pounds, but early in his college career at Ole Miss he pulled double duty as a tight end.
Sowell was a freshman in 2008 for the Rebels, and he waited patiently all season to have his receiving prowess unleashed. It finally came in a game against the Rebels' biggest rival, Mississippi State. That annual matchup is known as the Egg Bowl, and the winning school gets bragging rights for the following 364 days in the Magnolia State.
So when a good Ole Miss team — featuring Michael Oher of "The Blind Side" fame, plus Mike Wallace, Greg Hardy and others — was putting a beatdown on the Bulldogs in the third quarter, leading 31-0 and threatening for more, the call came for Sowell.
The Rebels faced a fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line, and he lined up as a tight end (wearing No. 85) on the right side of the formation. There was a play-action fake, just as there was Sunday night against the Rams, and Sowell ran a quick route toward the end zone. The pass from QB Jevan Snead was on the money and Sowell forever etched his name into the box score of the eventual 45-0 blowout.
"It was very similar," Sowell told PFW after Sunday's game. "Everyone just blocked down, and I ran a little flat route. This one [Sunday night] came from the other side. But it crazy how similar it was."
The 1-yard touchdown would be the only one of Sowell's college career, where he was a college teammate of Bobby Massie. Sowell would move full time to the offensive line the following season and start most of his next three years as Ole Miss' left tackle after Oher left school, with Massie manning the right side part of that time.
And it would be Sowell's first TD until the Rams game, 10 years and two weeks to the day. Both were pretty big games at the time, too.
"It's been a long time," he said, laughing. "Long wait."
Sowell found out last Friday that there could be a chance the play would be called against the Rams, but the genesis of it goes back farther.
"Me and [Khalil] Mack always throw the ball, and [Nagy is] always like, 'Hey, you guys can throw it. I'll keep the wheels turning,'" Sowell said. "But you never know if he's actually going to do it. And he told me [Sunday] morning at breakfast, 'Hey, it's on. We're calling it.' I'm like, 'Here we go!'"
Said Nagy, "Bradley in practice does some unique things for being a big offensive lineman."
Might Mack be next to get a play called on offense for him? Nagy admitted after the game that calling on defensive players and offensive linemen receiving work as skill-position players has the rest of the team's wheels turning on the next sleight-of-hand plays that should be dialed up.
"Our defensive coaches are coming up with names, too," Nagy said. "They're having fun."
And so is Sowell, who — despite his effort Sunday — likely knows his chances to score. He's just having fun with what he's asked to do when he can.
"Hats off to [Nagy]," Sowell said. "He's awesome for trusting us and having fun with us."