DETROIT — One of Chase Daniel’s biggest mistakes in his first start in four years involved taking off and running a little too quickly.
That it happened before the game even started speaks to how well the Bears’ backup quarterback played in their 23-16 win over the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving at Ford Field.
When you get in line for dinner, but everyone still waiting on the stuffing to be done 🤷♂️🦃 pic.twitter.com/JfWT3frghG— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) November 22, 2018
“The guy said ‘Let’s go, Bears, you’re running out of the tunnel.’ So I’m always at the front, so I turn around and I run three steps, and I look back and I’m like oh my gosh. And just like put my head down and go back,” Daniel laughed. “Listen, it wasn’t nerves or anything like that. I’m sure it’s all over the Internet. Not one of my proudest moments. I thought some guys would’ve at least run out but we were waiting on the other teammates, so it is what it is.”
Daniel, starting his first game since December 2014, completed 27 of 37 passes for 230 yards with two touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer rating of 106.8. With starter Mitch Trubisky out with a shoulder injury, the Bears needed a guy who only threw 78 passes in his entire NFL career before Thursday to deliver. And that’s exactly what Daniel did.
It wasn’t just that Daniel pulled off the game he did, either. He did it without a proper week of practice — the truncated Thanksgiving game week meant Daniel only had a couple of walkthrough practices with which to work with his teammates before playing the Lions.
“That’s why we have Chase,” coach Matt Nagy said. “I have a great relationship with him, that’s why he’s here. You have no idea — especially when you don’t have any reps with these guys and two days of walkthrough practices — how it’s going to go. No matter how much experience he has in this offense, you really, truly don’t know how it’s going to go. So for him to be able to come out here and do what he did, protect the football and be a leader when he needed to be a leader, I thought he did a great job.”
The Bears were able to run the same offense they did with Trubisky as the quarterback, albeit with some different wrinkles, thanks to Daniel’s extensive knowledge of it. But it wasn’t just that Daniel operated the offense well — his only truly poor pass landing barely out of the reach of an open Tarik Cohen in the end zone. He made throws when he needed to and found Taquan Mizzell and Cohen for his two touchdowns.
“I know that as a quarterback, I’m a distributor of the football,” Daniel said. “Use my legs a little bit, almost got out of a couple tackles, took a couple big hits and that can’t happen moving forward — you’re the quarterback, you gotta stay healthy. But it’s a fun time, and it’s a fun time to play quarterback in this offense, especially for this team right now.”
The expectation is that Daniel will return to his backup role when the Bears prep to face the New York Giants next week. The Bears will know more when they get Trubisky back into Halas Hall next week. (“We feel like right now, it’s a day-to-day thing with him,” Nagy said.)
If this indeed is Daniel’s only start of 2018, it had to be personally gratifying for the 32-year-old. The money Daniel’s made in his career as a sparingly-used backup has become somewhat of a punchline around NFL-centric social media.
But Daniel, on Thursday, proved to be worth every penny for the Bears.
“It means a lot,” Daniel said. “You don’t know when these opportunities will come and you just have to make the most of them.”