NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Quarterback Mike Glennon’s make-or-break start Sunday began in the worst possible place. Or, rather, the fourth-worst.
The Bears were pinned on their 4-yard line.
On first down, he threw a nine-yard pass to tight end Zach Miller. Three plays later, he completed a pass to Kendall Wright for 10 yards, the first of a staggering three third-down connections they made on that drive alone. He found Kevin White for 11 yards and Cam Meredith for 28 more and eventually drew a pass-interference penalty in the end zone.
By the time half of Tennessee bit on his play-action fake and he found Dion Sims for a one-yard touchdown, Glennon had driven the Bears 96 yards on 15 plays — or 101, if you count the false-start penalty they had to compensate for.
“That’s about as good a drive as you’re going to have in football,” Glennon said. “It was nice to get that first drive, that long drive, to start the game.”
Before Glennon could jog to the sideline, he had cemented the Week 1 starting job. How close he had been to losing it was debated all week in Chicago, but know this: If Glennon had reprised his miserable first preseason game and rookie Mitch Trubisky had shined, the Bears might not have had a choice but to make a change.
The Bears are thrilled that they won’t have to make that decision after their 19-7 victory against the Titans.
“It’s great to start a game off with a drive like that,” center Hroniss Grasu said. “We’re super-excited about it. He’s just slinging it back there, making the right calls and staying there, trusting the protection. We’re just lucky to have him.”
For how long depends on Trubisky’s progress, which was on full display with his remarkable throws and pre-snap struggles.
Coach John Fox, meanwhile, praised Glennon’s strengths at the line of scrimmage, a credit to his studies during the week. The Bears treated the all-important third exhibition more like a regular-season game, and Glennon benefitted from the game plan.
If Trubisky is the gifted improv actor, Glennon is the one with years of experience learning his lines.
“I think that’s something I like to kinda hang my hat on — prepare during the week as much as I can, so that way I’m ready to go on Sundays,” Glennon said. “Having the full week, the Monday, the Tuesday, the Wednesday, all the way through, that does fit my strengths.”
Playing the entire first half, Glennon completed 11 of 18 passes for 134 yards and a passer rating of 102.5. Trubisky, playing against the Titans’ first team for three plays and backups afterward, went 10-for-15 for 128 yards and a touchdown.
“I think [Glennon is] improving,” Wright said. “He’s not a guy who’s just OK with his game. He wants to get better every day, and I just saw him get better, period, everywhere, his whole game.
“He’s the leader; we go with him.”
Glennon clearly has taken advantage of more game action after attempting only 11 passes the last two years.
“I feel like I’ve had plenty of reps at practice, and you get pretty good at that, but there’s nothing that you can do to replicate a game situation,” Glennon said. “Would I have liked to have played better early on? Of course, but I think that’s just part of it. I haven’t played, really, in over two years. So I think these reps are extremely valuable.”
White agreed, saying that “the more reps anyone — everyone — gets, the more and more comfortable we get.”
Asked about the Week 1 starting job, Fox said the Bears “are going to keep evaluating,” but he added that they never changed their depth chart in the first place. He said Mark Sanchez would play Thursday against the Browns.
Fox clearly was impressed by Glennon.
“He’s a competitor,” Fox said.
The Bears preached the benefits of competition all camp, even commending their kicker Connor Barth for dealing with free-agent addition Roberto Aguayo.
Glennon heard all week about Trubisky and responded.
“I just wanted to focus on myself and not really worry about all that,” Glennon said. “Are there going to be thoughts about it? Of course. But I always try to come back to focus on what I can, and I thought I handled it well.”
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