The Biggest Moment of Tyson Bagent’s Life Wasn’t Too Big For Him

| October 23rd, 2023

The buzz around UDFA QB Tyson Bagent in the week leading up to the Raiders-Bears game was electric.

Both the Chicago and NFL media world seemed ready to explode if Bagent was even modestly successful — Bagent had already captured Chicago’s eye during the preseason, but when you factor in his underdog background (former Division 2 QB at Shepherd University), his hilarious armwrestling father, and the potential impact he could have on a 1-5 team that needed a spark against a beatable opponent, it’s no surprise that Tyson quickly became one of the easiest players to root for in football.

But a great story is often just that — a story. The NFL builds up underdogs every year only to see them fall at the hands of Patrick Mahomes, Tom Brady, Kyle Shannahan, and the rigors of the NFL. It wasn’t long ago that Patriots QB Mac Jones was benched for 4th round QB Bailey Zappe in a 2022 game that Bears fans will never forget, but what most won’t remember about the rest of that game was Bailey Zappe’s three turnovers (two interceptions, one fumble lost) and an overall performance that pushed New England right back to Jones the next week. The NFL’s best storybook tales often end in defeat.

But that couldn’t be further from what happened on Sunday. Instead, Bagent beat the odds once more and played a mistake-free football game (which is remarkable for a rookie, by the way) behind a creative Bears rushing attack that simply needed him to stay on-schedule through the air, convert the occasional 3rd down, and let D’Onta Foreman and a ramshackle Chicago offensive line slowly take over the game. And as 173 yards on the ground, a 4.6 yards-per-carry figure, and 2 touchdowns suggest, that’s exactly what this running game did.

As the offense marched up and down the field, Bagent’s ability to avoid negative plays really stood out to me — the 2023 Chicago Bears’ offense has been defined at times by drive-killing negative plays (sacks, turnovers, defensive touchdowns against), but in 30 dropbacks against the Raiders the only sack that Bagent allowed came with 9 seconds left in the first half. Throughout the rest of the game, Bagent navigated pocket pressure cleanly, distributed the ball to checkdowns/outlets, and allowed teammates like Khari Blasingame to prove their NFL worth by fielding Bagent’s outlet passes and churning out 4-6 yards after the catch.

On nearly every play, the ball moved a little further down the field. The ball never fell into the opposition’s hands. And, despite three false starts and three holding penalties, the Bears churned out 23 1st downs within a balanced offense and scored 24 points in the process. Bagent wasn’t the star, but was instead the leader of an 11-man unit — on Sunday, that unit was more than good enough to churn out offense and put up points.

I’d say that’s about as good as you can ask of a UDFA rookie QB in his first start.

There may be another day for hand-wringing over whether or not Bagent can repeat this start against better defenses, how long Bagent can succeed without attempting a throw further than 15 yards downfield (chart pictured below), or what this means for the future of the Chicago Bears’ QB position, but that day is not today.

Today, focus on how Tyson Bagent out-dueled a 15-year NFL Veteran in what was no-doubt the biggest game of his life — Sunday’s moment wasn’t too big for him, and with 65 friends & family members cheering him on in the stands (along with thousands of other fans), Bagent delivered on offense for 4 quarters in the first home win of the Bears season. If you ask me, that rules.

We’ll do Good, Bad, and Ugly later in the week. I’ll Check the Tape and get back to you.

Postgame Podcast:

Nick and I recorded a podcast where we talked through the ups, the downs, the ins, and the outs of Chicago’s big win here:

Your Turn: How do you feel about yesterday’s game?

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Someone’s Era Is Over In Chicago, But Whose?

| October 16th, 2023

Having been a Bears fan for over a decade, I’ve seen Sunday’s game more times than I’d like to admit.

Chicago was given a myriad of circumstantial advantages heading into the weekend’s tilt against a listing 1-4 Minnesota Vikings team. These advantages included (but were not limited to):

  • A ‘Mini-Bye’ that afforded Chicago extra time to rest, scout, and prep for this game
  • A surprise Wednesday announcement that Vikings’ superstar Justin Jefferson would be placed on IR, undoubtedly causing the Minnesota to scramble while planning their offense
  • Plenty of tape on how the Vikings would handle Justin Fields defensively (thanks to Jalen Hurts providing a close comparison)
  • A parade of returning Chicago starters (Kyler Gordon, Jaylon Johnson, Teven Jenkins, and Eddie Jackson) that looked to boost both sides of the ball
  • All of the intrinsic momentum that winning your first game of the season provides

And yet, despite these advantages, Chicago lost the game and fell to 1-5 on the season. That may be the death knell for any playoff hopes the organization still had.

It’s a damn shame they managed to lose too. The Bears’ defense held the Vikings’ offense to 220 total yards and 12 offensive points, yet Chicago allowed its 4th defensive touchdown in 6 weeks and lost 19-13 all the same. The 2023 Bears always make one mistake too many — that’s a direct indictment on their coaching, if you ask me.

There are conversations to be had about Fields’ eyes against Brian Flores’ blitzes, how strange it was to see the Bears abandon the run while it was hot, Tyson Bagent’s overall performance & more, but now that Chicago’s starting Quarterback is likely to miss time with a dislocated thumb, the story of the season may change in a flash — next the Bears host a “Bad, But Not That Bad” Las Vegas Raiders team in a game that would’ve been winnable with Fields but has now become a battle of backup QBs.

If this team falls to 1-6, what keeps them competing?

What do Matt Eberflus’ season goals become?

Does a total reset of the organization become inevitable?

We’ll cross some of those bridges when we get to them, but I can’t help feeling like an era ended on Sunday. I’m just not sure whose era it was.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The Good:

  • Everyone on Defense chipped in. The 2023 Bears defense has received plenty of grief on this site this year, but with the season in the balance they played as good a game as you could ask yesterday. Jaylon Johnson broke up passes, Tyrique Stevenson stopped Jordan Addison on a key 3rd & long, Zacch Pickens added a TFL, and TJ Edwards powered past Alexander Mattison to get home on a blitz & tip a Kirk Cousins pass in the air & create a huge interception that Tremaine Edmunds was ready for.
    • It wasn’t the Vikings offense’s best game (I’m still not sure why they were so averse to spreading out their WRs and passing relentlessly), but that’s not important — the defense did what they had to do on Sunday by shutting out Minnesota in the 2nd half and offering their offense 6 opportunities to take the ball and score. Plenty of good from that unit.

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Somehow It Keeps Getting Worse

| October 2nd, 2023

According to ESPN Analytics, the Chicago Bears had a 98.1% chance of winning Sunday afternoon’s game with 4:11 remaining in the 4th quarter. Despite these odds, Chicago bravely managed to wrestle defeat from the jaws of victory and ruin a record-setting day for their Quarterback.

After finally cracking 300 yards passing for the first time in his career, after throwing 4 touchdowns in the first 3 quarters, and just before he watched all of that effort turn to ruin before his eyes, Fields and the offense finished out their a banner day with a crippling 4-drive sequence that, when combined with Head Coach Matt Eberflus’ defense, ultimately doomed the team:

  • 3 & out, Punt
  • Fumble returned for defensive Touchdown
  • Turnover on Downs (following 7 straight rushing plays)
  • Interception

In the span of just 20 football minutes, the Broncos turned two touchdown drives & a single deep pass to Marvin Mims into a 24-point rally that brought them back from a 7-28 deficit. Soldier Field & the Chicago Bears were stunned.

Reportedly, Chicago’s young signal caller did not take this well. How could he?

Is this rock bottom? With the Bears’ current losing streak now extended to 14 games, it’s getting hard to tell. But with the Commanders on the horizon of a short week, there’s no time to mourn what might have been — Justin Fields, DJ Moore, and the rest of the offense will be needed against a Commanders team that’s consistently scoring points. And if there’s any hope of turning the season around, it’ll have to be on Thursday Night.

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Something Has To Change in Chicago, But What?

| September 25th, 2023

Eventually, we may point back at September 24th, 2023 and see the day the Chicago Bears’ fortunes changed for the better.

On that day, the Houston Texans and Arizona Cardinals willed their way to surprise victories over better opponents while veteran quarterback Andy Dalton failed to push the Carolina Panthers over the Seattle Seahawks in a tight game on the road.

Thus, as the Chicago Bears fell to the Kansas City Chiefs, the Bears began to separate themselves in the most important football race that nobody wants to win — the race to the top of the 2024 NFL Draft, where Chicago would own the #1 & #4 overall picks if the season ended today.

For an organization in desperate need of talent at all positions (including quarterback), picks like these could be a godsend.

They could be the Bears’ ticket to a generational quarterback (Caleb Williams/Drake Maye) and a generational receiver (Marvin Harrison Jr.) or left tackle (Olumuyiwa Fashanu).

They could be the fuel behind a near-instantaneous Cincinnati-like turnaround, with Williams and his draft-classmate forming the bedrock of an offense that will define Chicago as they push to compete within a few years’ time.

It’s possible that eventually we may see things that way. But today is not that day.

Because what we saw yesterday was, in a word, unacceptable. And it has to change.

Weighing Chicago’s Options

In a game where Chicago managed to fall behind 34-0 at halftime, three things became clear:

(1) The Chicago Bears have a Defensive Head Coach that currently leads one of the NFL’s worst defenses. Details are sloppy, there’s no plan in place to supplement poor pass-rushers, and through three 2023 games we’ve yet to see an opposing QB look bothered in the pocket. Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid only needed one set of adjustments to pick this scheme apart on Sunday and once their offense started rolling they never stopped.

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Notes from Packers @ Bears:

| September 11th, 2023

That was one way to start the season, wasn’t it?

The Chicago Bears, after months of build-up and roster additions, came out flat from the first whistle against Green Bay and got blown out of their own building before the 3rd quarter had ended. It was a day that could’ve heralded a new chapter within the storybook Bears-Packers rivalry, but instead it was… well, I’ll let Jeff say it for me.

After a game like that, I felt the need to sleep on my thoughts. I’ll have more posted later this afternoon, but I want to wait until I can watch the tape before really diving in on this game — I have a bad feeling that the tape may give us uncomfortable answers to questions we didn’t want to ask on both offense & defense.

It’s only Week 1, but that was as bad of a Week 1 game as I could’ve imagined. Chicago will need to turn things around in a hurry too — a loss to the Buccaneers (who just beat Minnesota on the road) will create legitimate stakes as the Bears take on the Chiefs in Arrowhead Stadium. Only six NFL teams since 1979 have ever started 0-3 and still made the playoffs.

The 2023 Bears don’t have outrageous expectations, but I’d think the organization had their sights set on a 7th seed playoff spot & major development from the roster’s young players. That may yet be achieved, but with tough matchups littered throughout the early weeks of Chicago’s schedule, the road to a playoff season got much harder last night.

Postgame Podcast:

Your Turn: Do you feel any better about yesterday’s game today?

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Reviewing Titans @ Bears: Defense

| August 14th, 2023

Editor’s Note: In the future, we’ll make have a GameDay post and a Postgame post of some sort — it’s preseason for all of us, and those two articles totally slipped my mind. Thank you for bearing with us as we transition!

It’s official: The 2023 Chicago Bears are undefeated!

Joking aside, the Bears got their first taste of 2023 football as they took on the Tennessee Titans last Saturday and plenty of players showed out for Chicago as they did. The Bears’ offensive starters scored easily on their only two drives (which somehow still set Twitter aflame) and the defense recovered from giving up the opening touchdown to muster 8 sacks, 4 takeaways, and a pesky performance overall.

To break down everything that happened in one article would create an illegible beast, so in an effort to keep things clean we’re going to split the analysis across Monday and Tuesday — we’ll start today with the Defense and continue with the Offense tomorrow.

Editor’s Note: Check back with this article throughout the day — as I produce more All-22 cutups, I’ll update this article to include more analysis 

Saturday’s Standouts:

  • Rookie CB Tyrique Stevenson had as impressive a debut as a rookie could have, especially given that the Bears played so much vanilla Cover 2 and Cover 3 that any outside CB would’ve struggled to shine. Last week on DBB we dove deep into Stevenson’s toolkit, and you could already see a notable improvement in his tackling form on Saturday — despite often needing to charge downhill and make tackles underneath, he completed every tackle he attempted, which is saying something when you end the day with 7 solo tackles!
    • Stevenson received a warm welcome to the NFL in only his first play, but I loved the resiliency he displayed throughout the rest of the half. He set the edge in the run game, he played sticky in limited man coverage reps, and gave Bears fans plenty to get excited about in his debut action. I love this kid & can’t wait to watch his growth.

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