The Bears hope to know more about Mitch Trubisky’s injured shoulder in the next 24-48 hours, coach Matt Nagy said after Sunday’s 16-6 win over the Minnesota Vikings. But while the Bears didn’t seem concerned Trubisky’s injury would end his season, it feels unlikely that he’ll be able to play against the Oakland Raiders at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium next weekend.
So that means the Bears will, in all likelihood, fly to London Thursday night with Chase Daniel as their starting quarterback. And Daniel showed on Sunday — as he did last year — that the Bears can win with him as their starting quarterback.
“That’s him being on top of everything he does, being that No. 1 quarterback,” running back Tarik Cohen said. “He’s like 1B. Mitch is 1A. Chase is like 1B.”
The Bears’ immense confidence in Daniel starts with Matt Nagy, who had the former Mizzou star in his quarterback room with the Kansas City Chiefs from 2013-2015. Nagy trusts Daniel to run the exact same offense called for Trubisky, allowing there to be a seamless transition for the other 10 guys on the field.
From there, the players around Daniel trust him, too. Running back David Montgomery called him a “guru.” Wide receiver Anthony Miller said he’s a “general.” Fellow wideout Allen Robinson said Daniel is “like a coach.”
It was easy to see why the Bears have that trust in Daniel, too, as he efficiently marched the offense into the end zone after Trubisky’s injury. A 14-play, 75-yard drive that took up nearly the first half of the first quarter was an encouraging result.
“Zero changed, nothing, and that's the beauty of having a guy like Chase,” Nagy said. “Chase and I, we go way back, and again, he's like a coach out there, so he understands, hey, Mitch got hurt. There was zero — look, he was ready. He prepares himself every single day, and it's never different. It's always the same. When this happens, to help his team out.
“So we're very, very lucky to have Chase as our backup quarterback.”
The Bears’ offense averaged 4.9 yards per play and converted half of its third downs in the first half (and was one of one on fourth down). Those aren't incredibly impressive numbers, especially the yards per play average. But the Bears' offense passed the eye test a little more than it passed the actual production test, for what it's worth.
Daniel’s command of the offense and ability to connect on intermediate throws were noticeable in the first half, especially given those two things haven’t always been there for Trubisky in 2019. With a defense playing like the league’s best, this offense might not need much more from Daniel. Command extended drives, flip field position and don’t turn the ball over.
That’s sustainable to a point. It’s probably good enough to beat an uneven Raiders team that surprisingly beat the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday. But eventually, in today’s NFL, you need your quarterback to make plays, not just manage game after game.
Daniel, to his credit, made a couple of nice plays Sunday against a good Vikings defense, including a well-executed pump-and-go 25-yard strike to Robinson and a 37-yard heave to Javon Wims. He’s very much capable of those throws, and it's not like it's easy to make those against a Vikings defense with nearly 600 starts of experience playing together.
Ultimately, though, all that matters when a backup quarterback has to play a couple games in the middle of a season is how many wins his team gets. The Bears are now 2-1 with Daniel as the team's primary quarterback since signing him. And that's reason enough to believe he can continue doing the things necessary to keep the Bears' season more than just afloat for however long the team needs him to play.
“Our game plan is not going to change a whole lot,” Nagy said. “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. We'll just keep growing.
“Again, we're still not anywhere close to where we want to be offensively, but the arrow is still up, we're getting slowly better, and I'm confident in our guys that we just keep growing in this thing.”