The first start of Tyson Bagent’s NFL career is one he won’t ever forget.
The undrafted rookie out of Division II school Shepherd helped propel the Bears to a 30-12 victory over the Raiders on Sunday. Chicago improved to 2-5 on the regular season after their victory at Soldier Field, which also marked their first home win since Week 1 of the 2022 season against the 49ers.
Here are some of the key takeaways from the Bears’ win on Sunday:
The talk of the town in Chicago will be the play of backup quarterback Tyson Bagent.
In his first career NFL start, Bagent went 21-for-29 (72.4%) for 162 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions. He also ran three times for 24 yards, and he finished the afternoon with a 97.2 passer rating.
Bagent wasn’t asked to do too much — he had just one pass travel beyond 15 air yards — but he did was he was asked to do well. He was accurate and did a good job of getting the ball out quickly, having only been sacked once and hit three times. The Bears required him to serve as a pass-first point guard, distributing the ball and managing the offense. He did exactly that.
This effective short game, as well as their high-quality performance in the ground game, helped the Bears dominate the time of possession battle, especially later in the game. They had the ball for over 34 minutes to Las Vegas’ 25:56, and having scoring drives that went 8:16 and 6:34 helped Chicago milk the clock and put the pressure on the Raiders.
D’Onta Foreman dominated on Sunday, running for 89 yards and two touchdowns with a yards-per-carry average of 5.6. He also contributed three receptions for 31 yards and a touchdown, giving him his first scores of the 2023 season in an explosive bunch. He looked explosive shooting up the middle, and Chicago’s offensive line did a good job of clearing open lanes for him to run through. Darrynton Evans contributed a bit on the ground, too, rushing for 48 yards on 14 carries.
DJ Moore was targeted heavily in the short passing game, and he didn’t disappoint. The Bears’ WR1 caught 8 of the 9 passes thrown his way for 54 yards, and while 6.8 yards per catch isn’t the sexiest average by any means, his reliability when targeted helped Chicago slowly but surely move the ball down the field. Darnell Mooney finished with 4 receptions for 32 yards, while Tyler Scott contributed with four total touches for a combined 33 yards — two receptions and two rushes.
Chicago’s offense put together a nice outing that was a bit opposite of what they’ve showcased all year. There wasn’t really an explosive aspect to their play, but there was much more consistency, and that was enough to give them a nice margin of victory.
Any time you allow just 12 points and put points on the board with your defense, it’s a performance to be proud of.
That’s exactly what the Bears did on Sunday, shutting down Brian Hoyer in his stint as the Raiders’ starting quarterback with Jimmy Garoppolo out. Even when Aidan O’Connell stepped in later in the game, Chicago was able to limit Las Vegas from stringing together much in the way of explosive offensive plays.
Davante Adams was targeted heavily and finished the game with 7 receptions for 57 yards, though he could’ve had a much larger statline, having been targeted 12 times. Tyrique Stevenson had some rough patches early but generally held his own against Adams better than many likely expected going into the game, deflecting three passes in the process. Jaylon Johnson had the flashier outing with two interceptions and rightfully deserves praise for putting the game on ice, but Stevenson had a sneaky good performance, too.
Tremaine Edmunds contributed 8 tackles, a pass deflection and an interception, giving him a pretty well-rounded game at the second level. His play served as a catalyst for a strong Bears run defensive outing, as they limited defending champion rusher Josh Jacobs to 35 yards on 11 carries for a below-average 3.2 yards per carry average.
Chicago’s pass rush wasn’t all that great, as Justin Jones was the only Bears defender to tally a sack, and their defense had just three quarterback hits all game. It was a defensive outing that relied heavily on their coverage, and that coverage was rock-solid all afternoon. O’Connell found a bit more success in garbage time, but Hoyer completed just 53.1% of his 32 passing attempts. That consistency with a healthy secondary played a big role in how the Bears were able to control the game on defense.
Three and out
3. There is no quarterback controversy in Chicago right now.
When Justin Fields returns from injury, he will start at quarterback for the Bears. Matt Eberflus indicated as such, and given Fields’ injury seems to be relatively minor, his absence won’t be prolonged enough for Bagent to start a considerable amount of games to take over the starting role a la Brock Purdy. Could there be a serious battle later in the year? Maybe, especially if Fields returns and the offense stagnates. Bagent did display competencies that Fields has struggled in, as Jeremy Layton described well on Twitter. For now, though, Fields is the starter, and that won’t change once he returns.
2. Chicago’s defensive improvement over the last three weeks has been impressive to watch.
Granted, the offenses they’ve faced haven’t been all that great. However, the unit has looked much more aggressive and consistently sound, especially in coverage. Having allowed just 14.6 points per game in the last three games, they’ve played a big role in helping Chicago stay competitive and win two of their last three. Matt Eberflus deserves credit for how the defense has turned around with him as a play-caller.
I think the writing's already on the wall, but kudos to Matt Eberflus and how the #Bears defense has turned around the last 3 weeks.— Jacob Infante (@jacobinfante24) October 22, 2023
The defense has allowed just 14.6 PPG in their last 3 games. This is the "bend don't break" defensive style they wanted to implement.
1. One could argue Caleb Williams and Drake Maye have both seen their pure value fall a bit this year, especially Williams in his last few games. However, they are both the two best quarterbacks in this class, and by default, that means they’ll get drafted early in the 2024 class.
Neither are can’t-miss prospects who’ve earned that “generational” status, but both are still talented passers with the ability to grow into franchise players. I close off this article with this note since the Bears still currently have two top-3 picks in the 2024 NFL Draft. Even with the ups and downs, I have higher ratings on Williams and Maye than I did on the likes of Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud, and those quarterbacks both went one and two. The overall sum of their parts is greater than the recency bias, so as long as the league views the two in a high light, they’ll remain in conversation as targets for Chicago.