Well, the Chicago Bears have done what originally felt damn-near impossible. They’ve won three divisional games in the course 12 days, despite being without Mitchell Trubisky on a four-day turnaround. Their latest win (a 23-16 victory at Ford Field) on Turkey day may have been the most impressive, even after a big win against the Minnesota Vikings just under a week ago.
At this point, I’m not sure enough can be said about what head coach Matt Nagy and his staff has been able to do with this team. This time last year, the Bears were being blown out against the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles. Now, they are a (2-3) record away from doubling their 2017 win total.
Not only that but because of Thursday’s win, their playoff odds via Football Outsiders have jumped to (96.9%). Needless to say, its been an exciting year and incredible turnaround for this Bears team, but Thursday’s win may have just put them in a prime position to steal the NFC North in the coming weeks.
For more on Week 12’s game balls, let’s dive in on a job well done.
QB Chase Daniel
After the surprising news of starting quarterback Trubisky’s right shoulder injury emerged on Monday, the focus quickly turned to Daniel on a short week.
Back in March, the Bears beat out the Kansas City Chiefs for Daniel’s service with a two-year, $10 million deal and $7 million guaranteed. Some wondered why they would guarantee that type of money to a nine-year veteran with two career starts, but familiarity with a brand new offense scheme was a big value. That value was not only in a spot start situation like Thursday, but also his ability to mentor a second-year quarterback like Trubisky.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s never ideal to lose your starting quarterback, especially on a short week. Even so, Daniel stepped up in a big way setting multiple career highs along the way.
He finished the game 27/37 (73%) for 230 passing yards and a pair of touchdowns. The amount of passing attempts may have surprised some, but Nagy didn’t stray away from throwing the ball, especially with a run game that continues to struggle. Daniel wasn’t perfect by any means, but he made many more throws than he missed and led the Bears back from two different deficits and most importantly didn’t turn the ball over.
On a short week without much of any sort of connection with his receivers, Daniel did a very good job of spreading the ball around and staying out of big trouble. All in all, he did more than enough to win the game and that’s all you can ask for out of a quarterback that hasn’t made an NFL start since 2014, especially when he didn’t actually have a practice on a short week.
Even for as big of a start as this way for him, it was easy to see how much value Trubisky’s athleticism and big arm brings this offense. The good news? He’s expected back for Week 13 against the New York Giants, at least according to reports before the game.
S Eddie Jackson
Jackson’s pick-six was not only the deciding play of the game, but it was exactly the type of game-changing play that was needed to win a game, considering the circumstances.
Thursday’s game winner was Jackson’s fifth touchdown since entering the league last year. That leads all defensive players in the time span, which is beyond impressive. The second-year safety’s ballhawking ability is something this team has not seen since the days of Mike Brown.
On Thursday, Jackson had three tackles, two defended passes and his pick-six. Yes, he did have an bad miss on an open field tackle, but in a game where the defense was gassed and the secondary was starting to give up big plays, his play earned him this week’s honor.
Jackson is also now second on the team in interceptions and tied for 3rd in the league with (4) interceptions. This has been the sophomore break out that many (including myself) had predicted at the start of the year.
Honorable Mention: LB Roquan Smith
In a game where Jackson’s performance stood out as the best on the defensive unit, there was another young player that made a sizable impact.
Smith finished the game with 11 tackles, a sack, tackle-for-loss and another quarterback hit that helped cause the Jackson pick-six. Over his last four games, the No. 8 overall pick has really picked up his game with 40 tackles and is now tied for second on the team with four sacks. On top of that, he leads the team with 81 total tackles, which also ranks 11th in the NFL.
To say that Smith’s play is improving rapidly would be an accurate depiction, but one could argue that he’s quickly becoming one of the team’s most valuable defenders. Which is exactly what general manager Ryan Pace had in mind when he took him in the top 10 back in late April.
It may be too late to compete with Darius Leonard for the Defensive Rookie of the Year honor, but his play over the last five or so games has been very encouraging. After showing a few signs of slow development after missing all of the preseason and his rookie training camp due to a contract holdout, he’s come on like the player the Bears expected him to be.