5 Takeaways: Tyson Bagent savors victorious Sunday as Bears’ starting quarterback
CHICAGO — After celebrating his second interception of a victorious day for the Bears, cornerback Jaylon Johnson jogged alongside the southwest corner of Soldier Field and shared in the moment with fans.
“Trying to give the city, give the fans something to enjoy,” Johnson said. “To look back on and know we’re not just playing for ourselves; we’re playing for the city as well.”
Sundays like this one have been fleeting for Johnson and the Bears, who made sure to savor in the victory.
The Bears earned a complete victory in a 30-12 win over the Raiders on Sunday at Soldier Field. Here are the five takeaways from this emphatic win.
1. Bagent leads the way to victory
All throughout this week of his first NFL start, Bears rookie quarterback Tyson Bagent felt nerves.
Bagent started three years at Martinsburg High School in West Virginia, then five years at Division-II Shepherd University. He has played in countless football games before this one Sunday, but never quite on such a stage.
Those nerves went away as Bagent stepped under center for the first snap of the game. Suddenly, he was calm and confident. This felt like just another game for him.
“Repetition, mother of all learners,” Bagent said. “And I’ve been pleased to have a lot of repetition in my life.”
The 23-year-old Bagent was effective in stepping in for starter Justin Fields, leading the Bears with poise and comfort. He finished 21-of-29 for 162 yards, one touchdown pass and no turnovers. Bagent guided the Bears through sustained drives and control of the game clock. He connected on his first touchdown pass to veteran running back D’Onta Foreman, who plowed into the end zone from five yards out.
The Bears trusted Bagent with a game plan that focused on precise decisions and quick releases. He managed this contest effectively, minimized the impact of the Raiders’ defense and star pass rusher Maxx Crosby, and avoided a costly mistake to swing the game.
Bagent played winning football and led the Bears to a victory.
“He was just himself,” Foreman said. “Nothing any different than we’ve seen through the preseason up until now. I think we all expected him to be that guy, come out there and do what he did today. No surprises from us at all.”
After throwing for a Division-II record 17,034 passing yards and 159 touchdowns at Shepherd, Bagent was overlooked as an NFL prospect and went undrafted. He reached a deal with the Bears at the conclusion of the seventh round of the draft in late April and landed in Chicago ready to prove himself.
Bagent began the offseason as the Bears’ fourth quarterback on the depth chart. He began to prove himself and ascend on the depth chart. Chicago released veteran PJ Walker prior to the regular season, clearing open a spot for Bagent on the active roster. In late September, he was shifted into the backup spot ahead of veteran Nathan Peterman.
Fields suffered a dislocated right thumb early in the third quarter of last Sunday’s 19-13 loss to the Vikings at Soldier Field. That left Bagent to enter as the Bears’ new quarterback and make his NFL debut.
It was the culmination of an unlikely journey to this point for Bagent. This week, he was preparing for the first time as an NFL starting quarterback. That meant working with offensive coordinator Luke Getsy to form a game plan, enhancing chemistry with his teammates and even handling a large volume of ticket requests.
“A lot,” Bagent said. “My paycheck won’t look the same this week.”
After handing out a game ball to Bagent in the locker room postgame, head coach Matt Eberflus revealed that Fields will return to his role as the Bears’ starter once he’s cleared to return.
Fields will not require surgery for his injured right thumb and the Bears believe he could return soon – perhaps as early as next week ahead of primetime meeting with the Chargers (3-3) on Sunday night at SoFi Stadium.
Eberflus and the Bears made it known that there is no quarterback controversy. But Bagent certainly proved that he can handle being an NFL starting quarterback.
“Not a lot of people get to say they started an NFL game,” Bagent said. “Let alone win an NFL game.
“Just everybody rallying around me and making me feel good, I always appreciate that.”
2. Jaylon’s money Sunday
After running through to the north end zone of Soldier Field, Jaylon Johnson found a camera and struck a pose.
Johnson counted money in the air, a reminder to the Bears that he still hopes to land a lucrative long-term contract extension and stay in Chicago.
“I’ve been wanting to get to the table,” Johnson said. “I know who I am. I know I can play this game at a high level, and I feel like I deserve to get paid like that.”
Shortly afterward, Johnson hauled in his second interception of the day. He entered Sunday with just one career pick in 43 games over parts of four seasons with the Bears. It has seemed to be a matter of poor fortunes for Johnson, who rarely receives targets in coverage.
Johnson made a statement on Sunday with a pair of picks that reminded how good he can be for the Bears. |
One year ago, the Bears traded veteran pass rusher Robert Quinn and star linebacker Roquan Smith in a pair of deals that signaled the intentions of rebuilding and roster development. Chicago saw its season spiral with 10 straight losses and bottomed out with the worst record in the NFL at 3-14 overall.
Johnson has recognized that he too could be traded by the Bears prior to the NFL’s Oct. 31 trade deadline. He is playing through the final year of his rookie contract and not been able to strike an extension with this team.
Johnson showcased what he means to a defense, whether that’s with the Bears’ long-term plans or playing elsewhere.
“Anything,” Johnson said. “I mean, the value is going up for sure.”
3. D’Onta’s day
Last season, D’Onta Foreman stepped in as the Panthers’ lead running back following their October trade of Christian McCaffrey. He shined with that opportunity, carrying for 913 yards and five touchdowns. Carolina surprised with a 6-6 finish despite a depleted roster.
Even for what he proved last year, Foreman fell out of favor in the Bears’ plans at running back. Khalil Herbert began this season as the top man on the depth chart while rookie Roschon Johnson essentially claimed the role Foreman would’ve found as a rushing complement.
Foreman had six carries in the season opener. He was then made a healthy inactive for the following four games. As the Bears made their plans on offense, Foreman was seemingly forgotten.
After injuries to Herbert (high ankle sprain) and Johnson (concussion) during the Bears’ early October win at Washington, Foreman was counted upon as the new leading back for this offense. On Sunday, he carried 16 times for 89 yards and two touchdowns, then found the end zone a third time on a receiving score.
Foreman has made the most of those opportunities, carrying for 154 yards on 31 carries (4.97 yards per rushing attempt).
“This wasn’t anything different than what I’ve been through,” Foreman said. “I just want to continue to build on it and show people what they said I couldn’t do or what I wouldn’t be or whatever the case may be, I want to prove them all wrong. I think I’m in the process of doing that right now.”
The Bears have gained an appreciation for the 27-year-old Foreman, who has carried himself with grace despite being cast aside in the team’s plans on offense.
Foreman has maintained a positive mindset through it all and earned the respect of the Bears. On Sunday, he reminded of what he can offer from the backfield.
“We believed in him,” Jaylon Johnson said. “We felt he should’ve been getting the ball from the jump.
“There was no doubt for us.”
4. Defense dictates the game
After an ugly loss to the Broncos marked an 0-4 start, the Bears had accomplished yet another infamous feat.
The Bears had allowed 25 points or more in 14 straight games, the most ever during a losing streak in NFL history. During Sunday’s victory over the Raiders, the defense shined again and marked three consecutive games of 20 or fewer points surrendered.
The Bears held the Raiders to just 235 yards of offense and forced three turnovers in a winning performance.
“I think our confidence is high,” Jaylon Johnson said. “It’s just about us being what we know we can be.
“We know we can play this game at a high level.”
The Bears frustrated Raiders quarterbacks Brian Hoyer and Aidan O’Connell, who combined to finish 27-of-45 for 204 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. Star wide receiver Davante Adams was held in check with just seven receptions for 57 yards and no touchdowns.
Raiders running back Josh Jacobs, who led the NFL in rushing last season, carried for just 35 yards against the Bears.
Coach Matt Eberflus has served as the Bears’ de facto defensive coordinator since the sudden resignation of Alan Williams in September. He sees progress from this unit.
“I think it’s just continuity,” Eberflus said. “They have got me calling it, and continuity is there. I think it’s important. And then we’re aggressive. Not only aggressive with the calls but aggressive with techniques when you want to play that aggressive style. But it takes all of us, right. It takes all of us and it’s important that we play together and play with good fundamentals and good technique, and that’s the players. They are doing a really good job of improving every single week with the fundamentals.”
5. Maxx challenge
Rookie tackle Darnell Wright suffered an injury to his left shoulder during the week of practice, which put another challenge on his plate. He had to manage his own health in addition to preparing for a meeting with Pro Bowl pass rusher Maxx Crosby.
Wright was able to play through the injury and held Crosby in check. He finished with just one sack on a play in which Bagent was forced to scramble from the pocket. It proved to be a strong performance from the first-year right tackle Wright, who faced his toughest challenge in the NFL.
Wright downplayed the impact of the injury, saying he felt fine throughout the game.
“Just trying to play well for the team,” Wright said.
“It always feels good to get a win.”