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Career backup QB Chase Daniel to ‘let it loose’ for Bears vs. Raiders

There’s a lot Bears coach Matt Nagy likes about Daniel, whom he treats almost like a member of the coaching staff. He was solid last week. Can he do it again in London?

Chicago Bears quarterback Chase Daniel #4 is tackled by Minnesota Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter #99 after rushing for a 2-yard gain during the second quarter at Soldier Field, Sunday, Sept. 29, 2019.
Starts have been rare for Chase Daniel. Sunday will be his fifth in 10 seasons.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

The last time Chase Daniel was in London, his job was to sprint back and forth from the sideline to relay plays to Drew Brees because the helmet radio malfunctioned. He’ll have slightly more responsibility Sunday.

The Bears will start Daniel at quarterback against the Raiders after ruling out Mitch Trubisky because of a shoulder injury. If his performance in the win over the Vikings was an indicator of what to expect, Daniel should be crisp.

“My mindset going out there this week is just calm and cool, same as it was when I came in off the bench,” he said. “I try not to do anything different. Just go out there . . . and just let it loose.”

Let’s go easy there on letting it loose. No need for that given how dominant the Bears’ defense has been. But staying loose? That’s what they want, and Daniel certainly seemed that way against Minnesota.

He took over for Trubisky six plays into the game and acted as though it was all part of the plan. He didn’t say anything when he got in the huddle. He just played.

Daniel picked up the drive where Trubisky left off and took the Bears down for a game-opening touchdown. He completed 22 of 30 passes — his 73.3 completion percentage was the seventh-highest by a Bear in the last three seasons — for 195 yards with a touchdown and no turnovers.

As the highest-paid backup quarterback in the NFL, he delivered at the high end of what any team could reasonably expect from that position. His preparation will be more thorough this week as he’ll get all the first-team snaps in practice.

“I prepare every week like I’m the starter regardless of any circumstances,” Daniel said. “I think that’s why we were able to come in and move the ball a little bit on offense. Obviously, it’ll be good to get some live reps with these guys, but not much changes.”

Daniel was impressive beyond the result of a solid stat line and a 16-6 victory. He looked confident.

The guy with four career starts over a decade in the NFL didn’t flinch. He had expert pocket presence and made decisive throws. He showed some attributes the Bears hope Trubisky eventually acquires.

One of Daniel’s greatest assets, perhaps the greatest justification for his two-year, $10 million contract, is his fluency in coach Matt Nagy’s offense.

Daniel was a backup in Kansas City when Nagy was the quarterbacks coach there from 2013 through ’15 and is so versed in the playbook that Nagy uses him as an on-field tutor when teaching it in training camp.

“He knows the offense really, really well,” Nagy said. “He’s really like a coach out there. He can fix any mistakes that I have.”

He added that Daniel has exceptional ability when it comes to “directing people, telling them where to go, how to get there. And then the anticipatory throws of knowing, ‘OK, this guy is going to be open because of this defense,’ and being able to throw the ball on time.’’

Sounds like everything he’d want from a starter, let alone a backup.

Daniel, who turns 33 next week, has appeared in 63 games, completed 68.5 percent of his passes and thrown for five touchdowns against three interceptions. Half of his career starts came when Trubisky hurt his shoulder last season. Daniel beat the Lions before losing to the Giants.

It won’t require much from him to win with this Bears defense, as Trubisky knows, but Daniel isn’t thinking like that. He’s aiming higher than adequacy.

“I want to be perfect on every play, and I want to score as many points as we possibly can,” he said. “My goal in this game is to give the defense a little bit of a break, so they’re not having to play lights-out, which they will continue to do, I’m sure.”