DETROIT — The details on tight end Jesper Horsted’s first NFL touchdown catch were a bit hazy to him after the Bears’ 24-20 victory against the Lions.
Horsted caught an 18-yarder over his shoulder late in the third quarter to tie the game at 17, but that was about all he could recall.
“I don’t really know what happened, to be honest,” he said, smiling. “I’ve gotta see the catch. I just know I wasn’t letting it go. I knew I caught the ball, and I knew it was a contested catch, and there’s no way that ball was dropping. That’s all I can tell you.
“It was in slow motion, yet I don’t really remember what happened. I just remember looking at the ball in my hands and rolling over so he couldn’t rip it out.”
If there’s any position the Bears need an unsung hero to emerge from down the stretch, it’s tight end. Horsted, an undrafted wide receiver out of Princeton, made his pro debut against the Giants four days earlier and got the start on Thanksgiving because veteran Ben Braunecker was out with a concussion.
Plan A, of course, was Trey Burton, but he went on injured reserve two weeks ago. Adam Shaheen, the team’s second-round pick in 2017, hasn’t played since Nov. 3.
That left the Bears with Horsted, part-time fullback J.P. Holtz and converted offensive lineman Bradley Sowell. The trio had four career catches combined going into Thursday.
Horsted kept himself in contention for the opportunity by working tirelessly on the practice squad since the end of the preseason and caught coach Matt Nagy’s attention several times.
“He’s made some spectacular catches in practice, so it doesn’t shock me when you see him make that type of play,” Nagy said. “He has that talent. How happy I am for a kid on national TV, in front of everybody, to get a chance to make a play, and he made it.”
With their first-and-32 and second-and-26 plays in the second quarter, the Bears have taken an NFL-high nine snaps with 25 or more yards to go.
“There are no calls for that,” Nagy said of first-and-32. “You have to fight back to get to third-and-10 unless you take a shot, but then you have a risk of getting hit, and they know screens and draws are coming on first-and-forever, second-and-forever.
“If there’s a negative to the game, in which there were a lot of positives, the improvement that we need to make is the penalties.”
The Bears had 10 accepted penalties for 89 yards and three declined or offsetting penalties. Three were pre-snap penalties, including two defensive offsides.
Anthony Miller stole the show with the best game of his career, but Allen Robinson kept his steady season going with eight catches for 86 yards. He was coming off a season-high 131-yard game against the Giants.
Robinson has 71 catches for 850 yards and four touchdowns, putting him nine receptions away from matching his career high.
He’s on pace for 1,133 yards, which would be the most by a Bear since Alshon Jeffery in 2014.