The Chicago Bears hosted the Tennessee Titans on Saturday at Soldier Field and they came out with a 23 to 17 victory. While these scrimmages have very little impact on regular-season team performance, on an individual level, they extend training camp into NFL game settings.
Safety Jaquan Brisker, Receiver Chase Claypool, and linebacker Tremaine Edmunds were inactive today, among others. Brisker, entering his second season, is comfortably entrenched as the starting safety opposite Eddie Jackson. Claypool came to Chicago via trade last season and is looking to build rapport with Justin Fields, but was hurt earlier this week. Edmunds was signed in free agency and spent the first five years of this career with the Buffalo Bills.
Jim Miller and Adam Amin were on the call. Miller quarterbacked the Bears from 1998-2002 when they went 13-3, tied for their most wins since 1986.
Summary of the drives:
Two *almost* fumbles, including Kyler Gordon with a beautiful hit.
Gordon, battling for a starting role on this team, came from behind after a good completion. Malik Willis had found a wide open Chris Moore, which led to yards-after-catch, but Gordon closed from behind and tackled the ball instead of the player. Moore was ruled down by contact, however. After crossing into Bears’ territory, rookie Tyjae Spears took a pitch into the red zone. The Bears' defense took advantage of a short field and timed a hit on Moore again, forcing another loose ball recovered by TJ Edwards, however it was ruled an incomplete pass and resulted in a failed challenge by the Bears. A few plays later Malik Willis pulled an RPO down and ran left into the endzone. 7-0 Titans.
QB1 to DJ2
Fields, expected to play 1-2 drives in this rehearsal, dropped back and threw a beautiful short ball to Khari Blasingame for plenty of YAC. Two plays later, Fields connected with new Bears receiver DJ Moore behind the line of scrimmage, who turned upfield with blockers and found daylight. 62 yards later, 7-7 ball game. That’s 73 yards passing for Justin Fields, 73 Yards After Catch. It’s great to see the Fields to Moore connection so soon.
Pickens with the 3rd down sack
Rookie defensive lineman Zacch Pickens brought third-string quarterback Will Levis down to force a short Titans drive, and the Bears take over after a punt. Still 7-7.
More Yards After Catch, and QB1 is perfect
Khalil Herbert, who is pegged to average the most carries on a running-back-by-committee position, took a carry for a first down, then a few plays later QB1 scrambled to the left and found Herbert for another huge YAC touchdown. 56 yards for Herbert, 14-7 Bears. That’s the type of play that 2022 Justin Fields would have run for a huge gain. The Bears need him to throw that ball this year, and he did exactly that. Great job by the downfield receivers blocking, too, and Herbert broke a tackle to ensure it was a touchdown play. That will put Justin Fields’ QBR at 158.3, which is the highest possible score.
Great Defensive stand wraps up the 1st quarter
A penalty put Tennessee up against their own goal line, and the defense held up their end of the bargain. A beautiful pass breakup Michael Ojemudia forced third-and-9, where Malik Willis dumped a ball off well short of the sticks. That should be the end of the day for most of the starters for both sides. 14-7 Bears end of 1Q.
Velus Jones is still struggling with catching punts, fumbled this one
Many have put Velus Jones on lists of potential surprise cuts the Bears could make this year, after a rookie campaign where he was a liability and struggled to hold on to the start PR spot. He needed that one, but the fumble puts the Titans in Bears’ territory to start the quarter. 14-7 Bears.
AJ Thomas with the interception on the first play
Malik Willis threw a good ball on the first play, a bit high but catchable, but it went off the receiver’s hands and flew another 7 ish yards into the hands of Thomas. The second year undrafted defensive back is pushing for a roster spot and was in the right place at the right time. Still 14-7 Bears.
AJ Thomas with the interception after the muffed punt by Velus Jones Jr!— Ball Brief (@BallBrief_) August 12, 2023
PJ Walker makes it three straight plays with a turnover
Walker, a veteran quarterback out of Temple, comes to the Bears after a few years with the Colts and Panthers. His career also included a fantastic 2020 season in the XFL. With Fields’ tendency to run and put himself in harm’s way, the backup QB spot is going to be very interesting to watch. The Bears also have Nathan Peterman and Tyson Bagent to consider at that spot, and they have first dibs on the waiver wire. The interception was a poor decision and overthrown to boot. Still 14-7 Bears.
Will Levis is winning this QB battle for the Titans
After Malik Willis threw the pick on the first play of the last drive, Levis came in The Titans then pushed down to the Bears’ 1 yard line, and running back Hassan Haskins went over the pile for the short touchdown. The Titans still have Ryan Tannehill, but the winner of the battle between Levis vs. Willis could take over in 2024. 14-14 game.
Tyler Scott returning the kick. Can he return punts in the NFL too?
Not to pile onto Velus, but Scott looks faaaaaaast. A penalty makes it a forgettable return, but the rookie fourth-round pick out of Cincinnati could make this receiver room very interesting beyond Moore-Mooney-Claypool. For the drive, D’Onta Foreman, looking very large for an NFL running back, had a couple short runs and PJ Walker connected with Velus Jones for a first down pass on the sideline. On 3rd-and-6 the Bears failed to get enough yardage on an out route and punted. Trenton Gill with a beautitful 60 yard boot and the Titans take over. 14-14.
Tyrique Stevenson blows up a screen pass for a TFL, and the Bears later force a fumble.
The rookie cornerback was drafted in the second round and could earn a starting spot on this team opposite Jaylon Johnson. A couple plays later and the Titans connected on a 21 yard pass from Levis to Racey McMath, touched down by AJ Thomas, very wise to remember this isn’t college rules. Another well-timed hit forced a fumble after a catch, with Adrian Colbert popping the ball straight down out of Titans’ receiver Josh Whyle. Four turnovers, plus the first Titans drive with two almost-fumbles, makes this a typical preseason game: very sloppy. 14-14.
Bears go nowhere, but Trenton Gill with another excellent punt
Starting just short of mid-field, the Bears brought running back Treston Ebner in to the game, and he immediately saw two short carries. One was called back for holding, then on 2nd-and-14 the Bears threw incomplete to Velus Jones Jr which drew a defensive pass interference call on the Titans. PJ Walker’s next pass was knocked down at the line, then Ebner ran short again and was helped off the field. On third-and-7 the Bears threw a conservative throw around the line of scrimmage, bringing up fourth down where Trenton Gill punted a beautiful ball which bounced backwards around the 5 yard line and came back and out of bounds at the 11 yard line. There is no competition for Bears punter. 14-14 two-minute warning.
Bears’ Lewis with a strip sack
Two Bears, including Noah Sewell, swarmed Malik Willis as he scrambled to the right and it went down as a sack. A couple plays later, Tyrique Stevenson was called for unnecessary roughness, a very questionable call but perhaps the refs thought they saw helmet-to-helmet. The broadcast booth didn’t like the call, and neither did most Bears fans watching. A few plays later, Terrell Lewis came from behind and stripped the ball out as Malik Willis was cocking back to throw. Lewis is fighting for a rotational role on this team after spending his first two years with the Rams. 14-14 Bears with a chance to steal some points before halftime. 14-14 score.
Bears’ Tyler Scott with a tough cough-up
Scott caught a ball and fought for some yards with a defender seemingly on his back, and the ball came loose. That made it 6 turnovers in one half between the two teams, and the broadcast booth agreed that this is a preseason game and these guys need to clean this up. It looked at first like another Bears receiver was going to recover the ball, but it bounced around some more and the Titans recovered. 14-14 speeding toward halftime.
The Titans drive quickly and get a field goal before half. They stole the points instead.
Malik Willis connected on first-down passes to McMath, Reggie Roberson, and Tre’Shaun Harrison to surgically cut into scoring territory. Gervon Dexter came off the field injured, which is not a good sign for the second-round pick competing for a starting spot on the defensive line. The Titans got down to about the 22 yard line and spiked the ball, setting up a 41-yard field goal as time expired. 17-14 Titans at the half.
Titans kickoff went out of bounds, and the Bears started in great position, then it was the Roschon Johnson show.
After PJ Walker saw the entirety of the second quarter, Nathan Peterman checked in. Rookie running back Roschon Johnson stole the show on this drive, though. First with a 24 yard run up the left, then 5 yards up the right. The Bears then targeted him on a pass play, but good defense led to an incompletion. On the next play, Nathan Peterman did a great job climbing the pocket away from edge pressure and found Nsimba Webster for a first-down and the Bears got into the red zone. Roschon Johnson got another carry and picked up 6 yards, then another Johnson run was blown up for -2 yards. After Peterman threw the ball to Casper, Cairo Santos kicked a 28-yard field goal through the uprights and the Bears tied it up at 17. Roschon Johnson was all over that drive. 17-17.
Bears defense forces a three-and-out
Gervon Dexter came back in to share a tackle with Trevis Gipson, so it’s great to see both of them in the action. Gipson needs a huge preseason after the recent unofficial depth chart had him buried at fourth-string DE. Bears’ safety Macon Clark took advantage of the opportunity to wrap up Titans’ Justin Rigg before he could get the first down, and Tennessee punted. Tyler Scott with the 9-yard return. 17-17.
Don’t overreact, but Peterman is having a better day than Walker
Travis Homer, listed as the fourth-string running back, came in the game and the Titans narrowly avoided another big Bears play by getting a shoestring tackle. Peterman then made up for it by connecting with receiver Isaiah Ford down the sideline for 37 yards. After a couple more carries by Homer, Roschon Johnson checked back in and the Bears immediately targeted him with a short run and then a short pass. On 3rd-and-3, though, Peterman climbed the pocket again but couldn’t find a downfield receiver and took a sack. Santos came in to kick a 29-yard field goal, and the Bears took the lead 20-17. Peterman saw action in three regular-season games this past season, totaling 14 of 25 for 139 yards, 1 TD 1 INT.
Trevis Gipson earning his
Will Levis found Kearis Jackson for a first down pass, then on the next play danced around the pocket too much and Gipson put him down. Gipson had a good day, and that depth chart might just change here pretty soon. Titans’ Julius Chestnut then ripped off a good run into Bears territory, then Terrell Lewis picked up a sack of his own on the drive, wearing #52 and looking like Khalil Mack on that specific play. Levis is holding onto the ball too long for the NFL, and the Bears took advantage of the rookie’s mental clock. With the Titans in scoring position, Zacch Pickens came up big on third down, tackling Julius Chestnut short of the first down marker. 20-17 Bears end of 3Q with Titans about to attempt a field goal.
After the Titans missed the field goal, Tyson Bagent checks in with good field position
Another Roschon Johnson run, then the UDFA rookie quarterback out of Shepherd University found receiver Joe Reed for a first down. The Titans forced short plays into a fourth down, but the Bears had already crossed midfield and threw a deep pass to test the defense. That gamble paid off as Daurice Fountain caught a beautiful ball by Bagent on the sideline for 25 yards and a first down in the red zone. Roschon Johnson’s outside pitch run was blown up for a loss, and on 3rd-and-17 the Bears took a sack to make the field goal tougher. Cairo Santos, known more for his accuracy than his distance, split the uprights on a 49-yard attempt to make it 23-17 Bears. Good job by the Bears using over 5 minutes on that drive with a lead in the fourth quarter. 23-17 Bears.
Bears force a punt after good open field tackling and two sacks
Bears’ Jalen Harris, a UDFA out of Arizona, came up with a sack on Malik Willis, before back-to-back penalties stalled the game as DJ Moore interviewed with the broadcast booth. On 2nd-and-15, Kindle Vildor made a great open-field tackle to prevent YAC on a short throw. Vildor is another name that jumps off the page on the unofficial depth chart, listed as fourth-string at cornerback despite being a spot-starter for the Bears in each of the past three seasons. The Bears came up with a gang sack to force a punt, where Nsimba Webster ran 15 yards to put the Bears starting at their own 29 yard line. 23-17 Bears.
Bears go 3 and out, but Bears punter Gill continues to shine
After a penalty and short running plays, the Bears threw out of bounds on 3rd-and-13 and punted. Trenton Gill with another gigantic punt, this one 54 yards and great hangtime, and the Titans took over at their own 29 yard line. Gill has a great day, hopefully the Bears punt less in 2023, but when they do punt, it’s nice to be able to see they can flip the field. 23-17 Bears.
Bears defense comes up big on fourth down in the red zone
The Bears third/fourth-string defense gave up chunks on their final drive, with the Titans getting positive plays seemingly at will. A pair of runs were followed by a great YAC lay by Titans’ Kearis Jackson into Bears territory, followed by a pass to Titans’ Gavin Holmes, both tackles made by Bears’ defensive back Bralen Trahan. Titans’ Tre’Shaun Harrison came up with another big catch to put Tennessee at the Chicago 12 yard line at the two-minute warning, threatening to take the lead back. That’s when the Bears finally clamped down, and on fourth-down defensive back Barrington Wade forced an incompletion and the Bears took over on downs, up 23-17 inside the two-minute warning.
Bears run the clock down
Roschon Johnson checked in and did a great job getting a cheek down to run the clock, this was after the Titans ran out of timeouts, and the Bears were able to get the clock down to 0:31 after the punt. The Titans take over down 17-23.
Bears’ Bralen Trahan grabs the interception to win the game
Trahan had a good second half, and he’s a name to watch next week.
Similar to a single day of training camp, you never want to put too much stock into what happens in a single preseason game. These serve as great tape for the staff to make their decision when it’s time to make cuts, and a game script serve as a good test of composure for young players.
All the Bears quarterbacks looked good except PJ Walker, but he’s had a good camp so far, and this is just one page in the book. He should see more time next week. Roschon Johnson was the talk of the second half, with 44 yards rushing to lead the Bears.
Terrell Lewis made the most of his minutes, with two sacks and one forced fumble making a huge difference in a one-score game. If Trevis Gipson doesn’t make this roster, the tape Lewis put on in this game is a big reason.
Velus Jones Jr and Tyler Scott are battling for reps at wide receiver depth/return specialist. Both of them fumbled in this one, and wherever the battle was at leading into this game, the needle hasn’t moved much. I still have to guess Tyler Scott has an inch here.