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Notes: Bears kick off preseason with entertaining win at home

The Bears get off to a 1-0 start with a nice win against the Titans.

Tennessee Titans v Chicago Bears Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images

Bears football is back, and it returned with a bang.

Chicago kicked off their 2023 preseason with a 23-17 win against the Titans, picking up the win at home in an entertaining matchup. An early offensive explosion, taking advantage of defensive turnovers and a shutout in the second half helped the Bears come away with the victory.

Here are some of the key takeaways from Saturday’s win.


They only played for two possessions, but it was the Bears’ starting offense that has people talking the most after their preseason win.

Justin Fields threw three passes, completing all of them for 129 yards and 2 touchdowns. His touchdowns both came on screen passes, with DJ Moore and Khalil Herbert being the recipients of the two throws. Both plays saw tremendous downfield blocking by the offensive linemen, as well as nice vision and burst for each ball-carrier to break away for a massive gain.

There isn’t much to properly evaluate Fields off of since his passes totaled -7 air yards, but it was encouraging to see a strong performance from his supporting cast for once.

With a preseason format, it can be tough for too many players to put together true standout performances due to a lack of significant playing time. That wasn’t the case for right guard Ja’Tyre Carter, who started the game and stayed in late with the second-string offense. He filled in incredibly well for Nate Davis and played a big role in both of the aforementioned screen touchdowns.

Roschon Johnson and Travis Homer saw a bulk of the touches on the ground. Johnson ran for 44 yards on 12 carries, while Homer had 25 yards on 6 attempts. Neither stat line lit the world on fire, but both backs showed some juice in between the tackles. Khalil Herbert had an 11-yard run but averaged just 1 yard per carry on his other three runs, while D’Onta Foreman and Trestan Ebner didn’t do much with their respective three carries each.

P.J. Walker ended up throwing the most passes of the four Bears quarterbacks to play — he threw eight passes — but his performance was statistically the worst of the bunch. He went 4-for-8 with 19 yards and an interception, giving him a passer rating of just 16.7. Nathan Peterman and Tyson Bagent both showed flashes, though; Peterman went 4-for-6 for 58 yards, while Bagent went 4-for-5 for 37 yards.

The Bears had 13 different players receive targets on Saturday, and only two players — Joe Reed and Roschon Johnson — caught multiple passes. Therefore, it was tougher for the pass-catchers to generate much in the way of separation from the rest of the pack. Both Velus Jones Jr. and Tyler Scott ended up giving the ball up on fumbles, however.

Fumbles aside, it was a decent offensive performance for the Bears that was carried heavily by fantastic home-run hitting ability in the first quarter. The rest of the three quarters weren’t much to call home about, but Chicago did just enough to move them down the field for Cairo Santos to extend their lead with three field goals.


If the Bears’ defense looks like how their backups performed against Tennessee’s backups in the second half, 2023 will be an insanely fun year.

Granted, that probably won’t happen, but it’s still fun to look back at how Chicago’s second- and third-string defense performed in the preseason opener. The Bears held the Titans to a shutout in the second half, giving them enough cushion to take the lead back from a 17-14 halftime deficit.

When the starters were out, the results were a bit mixed. Their first defensive drive resulted in a 12-play, 75-yard touchdown drive for Malik Willis and Company, but the following three defensive outings resulted in two punts and a Willis pass being intercepted by A.J. Thomas. Rookie running back Tyjae Spears ran the ball well against Chicago’s defensive front, and the middle of the field was occasionally an issue for them in coverage.

That’s not to say the starters performed poorly; they just didn’t play as well as the backups did (against admittedly inferior competition). Tyrique Stevenson led the team with 7 tackles and had a pass deflection, while Kyler Gordon had two massive hits that jarred the ball loose, though neither ended up as actual fumbles.

It wasn’t until the backups came in that the Bears’ defense truly dominated. As Tennessee rotated between Willis and rookie Will Levis at quarterback, Chicago was able to generate plenty of pressure up front. They ended the day with 8 total sacks as a team: four in each half.

The stars of the show for the Bears were Trevis Gipson and Terrell Lewis. Gipson finished with 5 tackles, a sack and 3 quarterback hits off the edge — he was borderline unblockable on Saturday. Lewis himself had 2 sacks and a forced fumble, providing some juice off the edge wearing the No. 52 jersey that Bears fans have been missing since Khalil Mack left. Undrafted rookie Jalen Harris also finished with 1.5 sacks and 3 QB hits; he deserves serious credit for stepping up as other edge rushers around him did, too.

Zacch Pickens, Micah Baskerville, Noah Sewell and Travis Bell all had at least half of a sack of their own, as well. Pickens in particular had a good outing after what’s been a quiet training camp for him thus far, and fellow rookie Gervon Dexter showed some flashes despite missing some time to injury.

Chicago’s defensive pressure stepped up like crazy down the stretch, as their front-seven did a great job of consistently putting Willis and Levis under duress. The coverage was a bit hit or miss, as the Bears did allow six gains of over 20 yards through the air. That said, the run defense improved as the game wore on, and the pass rush was good enough to mask occasional issues in coverage.

Ultimately, it was an interception from Levis to Bralen Trahan that helped the Bears seal the deal in their preseason victory. It was a fun way to kick off the new year, and it helped that they were able to make some big plays up front.

Three and out

3. Kudos belongs to Jaylon Jones for how he played on special teams.

The second-year cornerback had three special teams tackles in the first quarter, showcasing great pursuit abilities, physicality at the point of contact and plenty of effort in space. He found himself thrown into the fire as an undrafted rookie in 2022, but special teams will likely be his bread and butter in 2023 if he is to make the team. With some more stellar play like that, it would seem like a safe bet he’ll make the cut.

2. This isn’t meant to knock Velus Jones Jr. as a person, but the Bears should strongly consider moving on from him before the end of the preseason.

He still has two more preseason games to make a strong impression, but fumbling a punt return isn’t the best way to save your job after a disappointing rookie year. Ball security on special teams was an issue for him last year, and it proved to be a problem again in Week 1 of the preseason. With the upgrades the Bears made at receiver this offseason, Jones needs to prove his value on special teams, which was one of his calling cards coming out of college. So far, though, it hasn’t translated to the pros.

1. I’m just happy that Bears football is back.

It’s been a long summer, and after the buzz of an active free agency and an exciting draft, it seemed like the last few months just dragged on from a football perspective. There are still a few more weeks until regular season action comes back, but even having the preseason filled me up with excitement in a way few other forms of entertainment have this year. I hope you all were as happy to watch the game as I was.