For the first time since 2013, the Chicago Bears find themselves in the win column in Week 1 after a thrilling 27-23 comeback victory against the Detroit Lions on Sunday afternoon. To make the victory even more sweet, the team finds themselves in a tie at the top of the division at (1-0) with just the Green Bay Packers, who had a dominant victory yesterday against the Vikings.
For the Bears, things aren’t usually overly pretty and the drama late in games feels almost unavoidable. In this case, it was all worth it though. They found themselves down 23-6 heading into the final 15 minutes of the game. In that time, quarterback Mitchell Trubisky went 8-10 with 89 yards, three touchdowns and a 143.3 rating. It took one of Trubisky’s best quarters of his NFL career to snatch a win, but they all look the same in the standings when you look at them the next morning.
A win is a win.
Before we jump into the game ball portion of this, it’s worth noting that because of Trubisky’s first three quarters (12-26 for 153 yards and a multitude of poor throws), he will not be getting a game ball for his overall performance. That’s not to take anything away from his fourth quarter heroics, but I find it more fair to give it to players that had more consistent performances, even if they didn’t catch as much of the headlines.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, who won this week’s game balls? Let’s find out.
WR Anthony Miller
Outside of Trubisky, was there one player that was more instrumental in the final few drives of the comeback than the third-year receiver out of Memphis? I would argue not, which is why he is the winner of this week’s offensive game ball.
On the game, Miller finished the game with four catches for 76 yards and the game winning touchdown. Catching a 27-yard game winning touchdown may have been enough on its own to win him this honor, but I’d like to highlight his last three catches and how big they were.
Catch One: This 18 yard catch came late in the third quarter on a third and 10, with the Bears needing some sort of life on offense. While the throw wasn’t a bad one from Trubisky, Miller found himself wide open and jumped to haul in one of Trubisky’s biggest completions of the game. This ultimately led to the Bears scoring their first of three touchdowns on this comeback run.
Catch Two: On a second and three with with 3:43 left in the game, the Bears found themselves down two scores. Miller ran an out-route that was thrown slightly wide by Trubisky. Miller tipped the ball with one hand and ultimately pulled the ball in, while dragging his feet on the sideline for an acrobatic catch. This was all set up by an excellent route in which he created enough separation as he came out of his break.
Catch Three: Finally, we have the game winning touchdown. There was nothing overly complicated about this play. It was simply a “go out, beat your man and make the catch”. It’s worth noting that Trubisky’s throw had to be damn-near perfect and it absolutely was. Even so, Miller had minimal separation, but used good arm extension and hauled in a relatively tough catch, while keeping his footing long enough to get into the end zone. From an overall play standpoint, this was absolutely the play of the game.
These are the three main reasons why Miller takes this week’s game ball on a very clutch performance from the third-year receiver.
CB Jaylon Johnson
As a whole, the defense didn’t have an overly impressive day. Things started out well, but from the final drive of the first half and most of the final 30 minutes, it was a performance that lacked a lot to be overly excited about. Namely because their front seven is still struggling to consistently get to the quarterback.
Even so, the second-round rookie was something to be optimistic about.
On the day, Johnson finished with six tackles, some tight coverage and more importantly, a pair of pass breakups. Johnson was pretty sticky in coverage most of the day including a play deep down the left sideline in the second quarter to prevent a big passing play to Marvin Hall. It’s also worth noting that he was stuck like glue to Marvin Jones Jr. on the play that Eddie Jackson broke the pass up and Kyle Fuller intercepted it.
Johnson’s biggest play came in the final play of the game as he batted down a last ditched effort pass from Stafford in the end zone to seal the game.
Johnson did get trucked earlier in the game by Jones but all in all, Johnson proved to be more than ready in his first NFL game with a very good performance and one that should only get better over time.
Honorable Mention: K Cairo Santos
Originally, Santos didn’t make the final roster. Of course, this was simply a procedural move from the team as they cut Santos and kept Eddy Pineiro until rosters were set, so they could place Pineiro on Injured Reserve and bring him back in three weeks (if he’s healthy).
Even so, there was plenty of skepticism with this move purely based on how inconsistent Santos has been since his career days in Kansas City with the Chiefs. Despite that, the Bears opted to go with familiarity and at least for the first game, it paid off.
Santos didn’t do anything extraordinary, but was perfect on the day (5-for-5) with a pair of field goals right down the middle. In a game with such a small margin for error (Matt Prater’s miss earlier in the game), Santos simply doing his job was a big boost for the Bears and one that hasn’t been nearly the given we saw with Robbie Gould over the years. For that, Santos gets the honorable mention in this week’s game ball session.