Behind Chase Daniel and the mighty Bears defense, fun takes over Thanksgiving
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A paltry 85 hours between games? No problem.
The starting quarterback sidelined with a shoulder injury? What, the Bears worry?
The backup quarterback entering the game with all of 78 career pass attempts to his name? Come on, you said something about a real challenge.
These are the 2018 Bears, and if there’s anything in the world that bothers them, it has yet to present itself. To say that everything went their way in a 23-16 victory Thursday against the Lions is mostly true but also unfair. It implies that fate was with them when, in fact, it was backup quarterback Chase Daniel who was with them. And safety Eddie Jackson. And cornerback Kyle Fuller.
The moral of the story is that it takes a lot of good, willing players to win a football game and that the Bears have a glut of them, especially on defense. With starter Mitch Trubisky out from a hit he took in a victory Sunday against the Vikings, Daniel stepped in and was more than good enough. He completed 27 of 37 passes for 230 yards and two touchdowns. He came into the game with 480 passing yards and one touchdown since 2010, his first season in the league.
‘‘It means a lot,’’ he said after the game. ‘‘You don’t know when these opportunities will come. You just have to make the most of them.’’
Daniel’s Thanksgiving performance tells us that coach Matt Nagy isn’t going to stop being himself. No one in his right mind thought that Nagy was going to turn into Woody Hayes and that domed Ford Field would turn into three yards and a cloud of virtual dust. But who else lets his backup quarterback — the backup quarterback whose last start was in 2014 — throw 37 passes in a game?
Printed on the play sheet Nagy carries on the sideline during the game is the motto he has repeated to his players all season: ‘‘Be you.’’
Nagy was himself — in all his pass-calling glory.
That explains how Daniel ended up with the first reception of his career. It came early in the fourth quarter, when Daniel threw a pass behind the line of scrimmage to receiver Anthony Miller, who threw it back to Daniel, whose eight-yard reception was boosted by a face-mask call against the Lions.
Because things have gone the Bears’ way all season, let’s assume that Trubisky will be back in action Dec. 2 against the Giants and that Thanksgiving was a one-off for Daniel. If so, what a wonderful one-off. The Bears raised their record to 8-3 and their lead in the NFC North to two games over the Vikings. If you’re them, you really couldn’t ask for more out of the game.
They didn’t ask for more, but they got it. With the score tied at 16 with about six minutes left, Jackson jumped in front of Lions tight end Michael Roberts and returned the ensuing interception 41 yards for a touchdown. He had so much open space in front of him, he was able to high-step it into the end zone. It was his second pick-six in four days.
Man, this is fun stuff.
With the Lions threatening to tie the score again, Fuller picked off Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford in the end zone with 1:11 left. The Bears’ defense had group celebrations ready for both scores, including a nod to Motown music. The Bears have scored six defensive touchdowns this season, so I’m thinking the amount of choreographic preparation required must rival ‘‘West Side Story.’’
‘‘It’s a fun time, and it’s a fun time to play quarterback in this offense, especially for this team right now,’’ Daniel said.
One of his touchdown passes went to running back Taquan Mizzell, and I am not ashamed to admit that I didn’t know he existed until about a week ago. If you’re wondering, the Bears promoted him off the practice squad this month.
Fun everywhere you look.
No, the Lions aren’t the Rams. But a road victory less than four days after the Bears had beaten the Vikings? There’s a degree of difficulty in it that’s impressive.
‘‘There could have been a lot of excuses and [players] feeling sorry for themselves,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘They didn’t do that. I’m starting to learn as a head coach who we are, and it’s special. It really is. I like where we’re at.’’
They’re in Funville. Nothing bothers the Bears. They take lemons and turn them into a Thanksgiving feast. Daniel’s preparation for the game featured no reps with the starters, just two walkthroughs, and no throws to receivers running at full speed.