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Bears vs. Broncos: Notes from a close 24-23 preseason victory

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The Bears cut down a 13-point deficit to win their first preseason game of the year.

NFL: Chicago Bears at Denver Broncos
Trey Burton stood out for the Bears in their first preseason win of the year.
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Bears picked up their first win of the preseason last night, defeating the Denver Broncos at Broncos Stadium at Mile High in Denver, Colorado in a 24-23 battle. After entering the fourth quarter down by 13 points, the Bears managed to score two touchdowns - both within the final five minutes of the game - to pick up the win.

After losing their first two preseason matchups of the year, Chicago was finally able to turn themselves around and sneak away with a one in the win column. Here are my notes from Saturday’s game:

  • Even though the Bears played against Denver yesterday, I couldn’t help but reminisce on how beautiful of a state Colorado is. Big mountains guy right here.
  • I get that it’s good to give your starters some playing time, but I honestly don’t get why the Bears even played Jordan Howard or Tarik Cohen yesterday. They already know what they have in those two backs, so, considering recent injuries to notable players in the preseason, it might be safer to just sit them.
  • Mitchell Trubisky’s first pass of the game was a completion on a screen to Trey Burton, who showed off his agility to pick up eight yards. His athleticism is going to make him a versatile piece in Chicago’s offense.
  • Burton also caught a nice post for a first down a few plays after his screen. Trubisky caught notice of the blitz and quickly found Burton open, hitting him with a well-timed bullet.
  • As of this writing, the severity of the injury that Adam Shaheen suffered is unknown. Although the injury seems to be pretty bad, one can only hope that he isn’t affected too greatly by the setback. He’s currently projected to hold a pretty valuable role in the Bears’ offense, so it would be a sizable blow to the team if he were to miss a significant amount of time.
  • And then Burton caught a pass an out route a few plays later! A tight end who runs routes like a wide receiver, the Philly Special quarterback is really going to be a threat this year.
  • Overreacting about Cody Parkey’s two missed field goals in the preseason isn’t the most responsible thing to do, but it is slightly worrying. The two field goals that he missed were beyond 50 yards, so they weren’t chip shots by any means, but you don’t want to see a kicker you give a four-year, $16 million contract to missing field goals in any situation.
  • Sam Acho was able to get solid pressure on Case Keenum on Denver’s attempted flea flicker. He is currently the favorite to start at edge rusher alongside Leonard Floyd, given Aaron Lynch’s inability to stay healthy.
  • A three-and-out on the first defensive drive is a good start for Chicago’s defense. They were able to pressure Keenum well on the opening drive, which is encouraging.
  • Von Miller against Bobby Massie: not exactly the most even of matchups.
  • Surprisingly, a snap that went past Trubisky wasn’t Cody Whitehair’s fault. Although the center has had issues with snaps throughout training camp and preseason, Trubisky simply bobbled the snap and failed to make a grab that was probably catchable. Nevertheless, the Broncos got on the board first with a safety.
  • Jeff Heuerman completely ran right through Eddie Jackson on a first down catch. Jackson suffered with tackling at Alabama, so it’s not encouraging to see him failing to even stop the Broncos tight end.
  • This new helmet-leading penalty suuuuuuucks.
  • Knile Davis didn’t look incredibly speedy on his kick returns, but he did managed to pick up a 33-yard return, even if it was called off due to offsetting penalties. His special teams value could bode well for his chances of making the 53-man roster, no matter how slim they may be. Neither Taquan Mizzell nor Ryan Nall have much special teams value, so Davis may provide some additional upside if the Bears choose to hold a fourth running back on the roster.
  • Trubisky threw a total dime on the run to Anthony Miller on a first down play, and the Memphis rookie made a fantastic grab in double coverage near the sideline, showcasing his ability to high point the ball and make grabs on 50/50 passes. The Trubisky-to-Miller connection could be a dangerous one for years to come.
  • Jordan Howard had a very nice 17-yard fun to put the Bears into a first-and-goal situation. On the run, he showed off the ball-carrier vision and ability to accelerate that he has demonstrated through the first two seasons of his NFL career.
  • Trubisky hit Burton on a flat route for the first touchdown of the game. Burton went in motion to the backside and threw off the defense, allowing him to get a wide open lane to the end zone. I mentioned this earlier, but his versatility will see a lot of targets come his way.
  • Roy Robertson-Harris picked up the first sack of the game for the Bears, his third of the preseason. He displayed great lower-body strength to drive through Ronald Leary and put his long arms to use to swallow up Keenum. He has had a very good preseason so far, which will certainly play in his favor when the time comes for the Bears to decide whether to start him or Jonathan Bullard.
  • Doran Grant allowed the Broncos to advance 45 yards on a pass interference penalty on Courtland Sutton in the second quarter. He didn’t have his head turned towards the ball when it was approaching Sutton, which is a bad trait for a cornerback to have.
  • Howard is truly one of the best downhill runners in the league. His patience, strength and ability to squeeze into small holes - despite being six feet tall and 224 pounds - combine to make him a force on inside handoffs.
  • Kevin White’s first catch of the game displayed good elusiveness in space on the short hitch route.
  • Justin Simmons managed to jump a Tarik Cohen route for Trubisky’s first interception of the game. Trubisky did stare down his target and didn’t make the best of throws, but Cohen’s route wasn’t great by any means. He hasn’t had to make catches in tight windows much in his short career so far, but improving at doing so could help his versatility as a receiver.
  • Royce Freeman is a very strong back. If you try to arm tackle him, he will run right over you. I had him projected best as a short-yardage back coming out of Oregon, but he has a legitimate chance to become a full-time starter in Denver.
  • Courtland Sutton is also a stud. Chad Kelly delivered a nice throw on a quick touchdown pass to the second-round pick, who beat Bears undrafted rookie Kevin Toliver, to put the Broncos by two scores. Much like Freeman, he could be a contributor for Denver for years to come.
  • Chase Daniel made a fantastic pass under pressure to Marlon Brown, who has been fairly quiet so far in the preseason. Daniel’s spot on the roster is secure, but Brown would be the beneficiary of some more plays like the 30-yard snag that he made. He did a great job of tracking down the deep ball and making the over-the-shoulder snag.
  • Phillip Lindsay, a running back of whom I was very fond coming out of Colorado this year, started the second half off with a 15-yard run up the middle. He is very good at squeezing through small holes, and he’s an elusive runner with great lateral quickness. He can be a long-term third-down back for the Broncos, assuming he makes their 53-man roster.
  • Kevin Toliver did not have a good day yesterday. That bad day continued when he allowed a 27-yard catch. Like Grant earlier in the game, Toliver failed to turn his head around to try and make a play on the ball. Although Grant made a pass interference penalty and Toliver allowed a catch, the overall chances that you make a play on the call with your back turned to it are very low.
  • The fact that neither Javon Wims nor Ryan Nall saw action in the first half is confusing. Those two both needs snaps: especially the latter, considering the fact that his spot on the roster aren’t exactly safe.
  • Deiondre’ Hall got called for unnecessary roughness when he hit Isaiah McKenzie, who had called for a fair catch. The 2016 fourth-round pick has been lackluster on the field thus far in his career, and hasn’t done much of note other than cause issues off the field. His job security may not be very strong when the preseason ends.
  • I know that I’ve praised the Broncos quite a bit in these notes, but Chad Kelly was electric last night. He has fantastic arm talent, and his decision making and accuracy have improved since his college days. He threw several passes into tight windows and was able to give his receivers catchable balls. The Ole Miss alumnus has indubitably surpassed Paxton Lynch on the depth chart, and could possibly be a potential starter in a few years after Keenum has his time in the lineup.
  • James Daniels looked solid overall last night while playing center with the second-team offense. Strength was never his strong suit in college - no pun intended - but he showed off the athleticism, technique and instincts that had him so highly touted in the draft this year.
  • Kasim Edebali has quietly had a solid preseason, and he continued it with a sack this week. He displayed the ability to get underneath the offensive tackle and show great bend off the edge. Although he seems to be a long shot to make the team, his being released may not be a guaranteed scenario anymore.
  • Daniels had a good game, but Rashaad Coward also had a good performance on the offensive line. His raw athleticism and strength appear to have translated fairly well to the offensive line, as he doesn’t look like a player playing on the offensive line for the first time in his career.
  • Bilal Nichols looked good on the defensive line last night. He ended the game with 1.5 sacks, and he displayed that combination of strength and speed that he showcased at Delaware.
  • Taquan Mizzell didn’t have a good outing on the ground against Denver, but he did get a receiving touchdown on a flat route late in the fourth quarter, and he caught seven passes, even if they only went for 29 yards.
  • Marlon Brown had an impressive special teams tackle in space on Isaiah McKenzie on a kickoff in the fourth quarter. A veteran whose odds of making the roster aren’t incredibly high, Brown had a solid performance last night in multiple phases.
  • The Bears had two penalties late in the fourth quarter when they were in field goal range, causing them to be in a first-and-25 situation. When you’re a team looking to get a late touchdown to pick up a close win, you can’t afford making dumb mistakes that cost you field position.
  • Chase Daniel had a decent game, but his best plays may have been his evasion of a potential Joe Jones sack to find Taquan Mizzell on a five-yard gain. He’s not Michael Vick or Lamar Jackson, but he’s a fairly underrated athlete in his own right.
  • Ben Braunecker scored a touchdown on a fantastic late drive that saw a great combination of creative play calling and great clock management. Nagy was able to spread the field and scheme his receivers open while advancing down the field and winding down the clock. If he can carry that style of cerebral game planning into the regular season, then the Bears could be in really good shape on offense this year.
  • The Bears had a third-and-long situation on defense, but that quickly turned into a first-and-ten and a flipping of the field when Kevin Toliver was called for a personal foul for leading with his helmet. The penalty was actually a solid call, but it’s just terrible timing.
  • Just as the Broncos enter potential field goal range, Cre’Von LeBlanc stripped the ball out of Isaiah McKenzie’s hands and Isaiah Irving recovered the fumble, securing a Bears victory! Props to Nick Orr, who managed to keep McKenzie from advancing up the field, leaving LeBlanc with a great chance to punch the ball out.
  • Interesting development: Tyler Bray did not see the field at all this week. He has experience working under Matt Nagy, but he could realistically miss out on the 53-man roster if the Bears decide to seek more depth at other positions.
  • Overall, Chicago’s defensive line looked deep and managed to put some pressure on Denver’s quarterbacks. Anthony Miller and Trey Burton stood out on offense, but none of the Bears’ backup weapons really stood out. Most of the team’s edge rushers, as well as most of their defensive backs, also failed to make much of an impact.

The Bears return next Saturday at noon CT, when will Coach Nagy get the chance to square off against his old team, the Kansas City Chiefs. The game will take place at Soldier Field, marking the Bears’ first home game of 2018.

Jacob Infante is a Chicago Bears writer at SB Nation’s Windy City Gridiron. He is also an NFL Draft writer at USA Today SMG’s Draft Wire. He can be reached through Twitter @jacobinfante24 or emailed at jacobinfante1208@gmail.com.