The Bears entered Sunday without five starters, an almost unheard of level of attrition in Week 4 for what’s been a charmed team under Matt Nagy, then quickly lost embattled QB Mitch Trubisky to a left shoulder injury on only the sixth play vs. the Minnesota Vikings.It appeared that the Bears might have met their match in the form of one too many costly injuries, if not their division rivals.
Instead, replacement Chase Daniel punctuated a 75-yard TD drive — the offense’s first on its opening possession in four games — with a 10-yard score to Tarik Cohen only eight plays later, giving Chicago a lead it’d never relinquish for its third consecutive victory over the rival Vikings and on the season, 16-6.
“That’s exactly why he’s here. So, we’ll prepare for both guys,” Nagy said, not commenting further on the injury to Trubisky, which is reportedly a dislocation that could sideline him for the Bears’ trip to face the Oakland Raiders in London Sunday. “Again, our game plan is not going to change a whole lot. If Chase is the guy, we’re going to do things that Chase does well. We’re going to try to do that. If it’s Mitch, then we’ll continue to keep doing things with him. I’ll never get to a point where I’m frozen because I don’t know what to do.”
Trubisky was injured on a violent strip-sack by the Vikings’ Danielle Hunter, when his body appeared to contort under the 6-foot-5, 250-pound edge terror. Although Nagy remained mum on any specifics regarding his quarterback’s status, WR Anthony Miller — who played most of his rookie season through a recurring shoulder dislocation and torn labrum — detailed what Trubisky is reportedly dealing with: a dislocation.
“When I find out he had that shoulder, I was thinking to myself, that’s such a nagging injury. He’s going to have to do a lot of rehab on it, keep it tight, just do a lot of things for it but I think he’ll be fine,” Miller said. It kind of feels like you’re playing … you’re not playing in a box but you’re being cautious of your movements so it doesn’t slip out, because that’s not a good feeling. So you’re really self-conscious about it, but I think he should be fine out there.”
Not super reassuring, obviously, but keep in mind that every injury is different and we should learn more about the severity of Trubisky’s within the next day or so. And of course it’s certainly a positive that it’s not his throwing shoulder.
Another positive: this isn’t Daniel’s first rodeo.
“Life of a backup quarterback, right? You never really know. That was a crazy situation, shortest week ever in NFL history, going from a Sunday night game to a Thursday like 11:00 a.m. start (Last Thanksgiving) and we’re traveling, so no reps at all, full reps with our receivers,” Daniel recalled of preparing for his first start with the Bears on a short week last season. “I got quite a bit of reps with our receivers during training camp. I felt good. It’s early in the year, it’s not late in the year like it was.”
Daniel said there was no any anxiety when his number was called. Playing behind what he called “one of the most dominant performances I’ve ever seen of any defense” surely helped, but it was clear that the offense had a different timing and rhythm led by the more experienced Daniel than Trubisky, who’d struggled immensely in the first two games prior to an improved effort Monday night in Washington.
After picking up a first down with his legs on fourth-and-inches, Daniel found Javon Wims for nine. He then hit Allen Robinson for 25 on a beautiful sideline hookup. Finally, he connected with Cohen on an option route for the versatile back’s first touchdown of 2019.
Granted, Daniel wouldn’t lead another TD drive and the offense lacked the same rhythm after halftime, but it was more than enough under the circumstances.
“My mindset is always just be ready, be ready,” he said. … So, I tried to just stay calm and cool, and I’ve been in this situation before. The two starts last year really helped me just with communication, especially with the offensive line. We’re doing a bunch of no-huddle stuff. So, it felt good.”
Daniel was also thrown into the fire last season on a short week vs. the Lions on Thanksgiving, less than 96 hours after Trubisky was injured against these Vikings. Like Sunday, he performed very well, ringing up a 106.8 rating without any turnovers en route to a victory.
“I’ve been in this offense for a long time, and Coach Nagy knows what I like, and we sort of got toward that and we sort of did some no-huddle, kept them off balance, off tempo, still ran the football even though it’s a really good run defense, and that was one of those games it’s rough, it’s tough, it’s raining, it’s a division game, you’re at home.”Added Nagy: “We’re very, very lucky to have Chase as our backup quarterback,” Nagy said.
And although it’s very, very unlucky, fair or not, Trubisky’s critics perhaps have even more fuel after Daniel’s pinch-hitting work. Sure, the offense only scored 16 points, but it was without their starting wide receiver (Taylor Gabriel), starting RG Kyle Long, at times his replacement (Ted Larsen), and against the best defense Chicago has seen this season.
“That part is frustrating because he had a really good week of practice, and every week he’s so excited to get back at it and really get this thing going,” Nagy said. “I want the kid to do really well. How many plays was it, six? I’m sure that part is frustrating. But again, he’s in there and very supportive of the guys, and we’ll just have to see exactly where he’s at.”
It’s unclear how soon Trubisky might be able to return. With the bye following the London trip Sunday, it’s probably a safe bet it’ll be Week 7 at the earliest. This much is clear: Daniel certainly has the unwavering support of the offense.
“He stepped in and played tremendous. Very smart guy. He did what he always do. We’re used to seeing Chase come in and fill the void,” said Javon Wims, who had a career-high 54 receiving yards on four catches, including the Bears’ longest play from scrimmage this season — a 37-yard sideline grab that led to Eddy Pineiro’s last of three field-goal conversions. “It’s a great luxury. We don’t skip a beat [with Chase]. Unfortunate, [Trubisky] go down, but we got a guy who can just step in and run the show.”