Eddy Pineiro nailed a 58-yard field goal, and the Bears picked up their first win of the preseason. Yet, the on-field events of Saturday’s action paled in comparison to what happened off of it.
Andrew Luck, the Colts’ four-time Pro Bowl quarterback, shockingly retired at age 29. The news broke in the second half of the game, instantly sending the crowd at Lucas Oil Stadium abuzz and shaking the NFL world to its core.
Where Indianapolis goes from here remains to be seen, but Luck’s retirement undoubtedly changes the landscape of not only their long-term plans, but the landscape of the AFC as we know it.
Though the shocking development stole the spotlight once delivered by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, there were still a few interesting—albeit less important—takeaways from how the Bears’ backups played.
Tyler Bray faces long odds to make the Bears’ 53-man roster, but he certainly helped his chances in what was his best preseason game to date.
The veteran finished the game 11-for-16 with 136 yards, one touchdown, and one interception, the lone pick coming on a last-ditch heave to the end zone on 4th and 17. He looked more accurate than he has at any point this year, preseason or training camp.
Bray threw a dime in the back corner of the end zone to undrafted rookie Jesper Horsted, to whom he delivered accurate passes throughout the game, as well as the likes of Ian Bunting and Jordan Williams-Lambert. Bray is still practice squad eligible, so his role within the organization is likely safe. However, as far as an effort to make the active roster goes, he did a very good job.
Chicago’s ground game was relatively unimpressive, save for a 69-yard run by Ryan Nall which saw him shoot right up the middle and break a tackle for a huge gain. Outside of that run, though, the team tallied just 32 yards on 19 carries. The offensive line had a rough game, but Josh Caldwell and Kerrith Whyte Jr. both struggled on the ground, the latter of whom still putting up a rock solid 77 yards on three kick returns.
The Bears’ defensive performance on Saturday finally lived up to their lofty expectations.
Granted, the team hasn’t played their starters and has had minimal run-ins with starting-caliber offensive talent. However, they shut the Colts out completely in the second half, finished with six sacks, and scored two defensive touchdowns.
Roy Robertson-Harris and Deon Bush both figure to receive significant playing time compared to their second-string companions, and their play this week showed why. Robertson-Harris had two tackles for a loss in limited playing time and was a constant force in the backfield whenever he played. Bush finished with three tackles and a pass deflection, but his splash play was stripping the ball from Indianapolis tight end Hale Hentges and recovering the fumble for a 91-yard touchdown. Both players are in line for sizable roles in sub packages this year.
Two other backups who impressed were Joel Iyiegbuniwe and James Vaughters. Iyiegbuniwe started the first half off on a sour note, but he looked much more instinctive and tenacious in the second half. He finished the game with five tackles, a sack, a quarterback hit, and a 22-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown. That fumble was caused by Vaughters, who used a rip move to turn the corner and record his second strip sack of the preseason. Big games were beneficial for both players, as Iyiegbuniwe fights to prove himself worthy of a bigger role going forward and Vaughters fights to make it onto the 53-man roster.
Nick Kwiatkoski, Josh Woods, Nick Williams, and Abdullah Anderson also ended up with sacks against the Colts’ backup offensive line. Though pressure on the edge has been a rarity in the preseason thus far, the Bears’ ability to get pass-rushing production from interior defensive linemen and off-ball linebackers could serve as a good sign for their schematic versatility in the regular season.
In his first week as the sole kicker on the Bears’ roster, Eddy Pineiro made a statement.
The former Florida Gator delivered the biggest kick of his young career—both figuratively and literally—when he nailed a 58-yard field goal right down the middle. Though the kick was made in the preseason, Pineiro tied Robbie Gould’s 2013 field goal against the Bengals for the longest kick ever made in franchise history. He also hit a 21-yard chip shot and three extra points.
With Elliott Fry having been released this week, Pineiro had the spotlight all to himself on field goals, extra point attempts, and kickoffs, and he excelled. Granted, the performance took place in a controlled, indoor environment, but that should not knock how well he kicked on Saturday.
Even after Fry’s release, rumors speculated that the Bears were still looking for another kicker to add to the roster. With his performance this week, though, Pineiro made a strong case for them to abandon that strategy.