Bears grades: Chase Daniel aces his pop quiz, while Matt Nagy’s work shines

QUARTERBACKS: A

It’s a positive any time a team gets the kind of production out of a backup quarterback the Bears got from Chase Daniel (27/37, 230 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs, 106.8 passer rating). But consider the circumstances under which Daniel put up those numbers: On a short week in which the Bears offense didn’t have any full-speed work during walkthrough practices, and nearly four years since he last started a regular season game.

Daniel not only took care of the football — the Bears’ only turnover came when Trey Burton lost a fumble — but he made a number of important throws. After the Bears fell behind 7-0 following that Burton fumble, Daniel hit Allen Robinson for a 29-yard gain on third and 13, and was a slight overthrow of Tarik Cohen away from getting a touchdown on that drive. Then, with the ball a little before the two-minute warning, Daniel marched the Bears 65 yards on five plays for a go-ahead touchdown just before halftime.

And immediately after Detroit re-took the lead late in the third quarter, Daniel again led a scoring drive, this time gouging the Lions for 82 yards on eight plays (Daniel even caught a pass from Anthony Miller on it). His 14-yard toss to Cohen put the Bears ahead.

Daniel’s 106.8 passer rating is the fourth-best by a Bears quarterback this year. For a sparingly-used backup on short rest, what Daniel did was nothing short of impressive.

RUNNING BACKS: B

Cohen and Mizzell both caught touchdowns, and Cohen should’ve had two had Daniel been able to connect with him in the end zone late in the first half. But Jordan Howard wasn’t able to do much (seven carries, 13 yards) while half of this unit’s 34 rushing yards (on 11 attempts) came on a 10-yard carry by Cohen and a seven-yard one by Mizzell. Cohen’s 10-yard carry on third down sealed the Bears’ win.

WIDE RECEIVERS: A

Four of Taylor Gabriel’s seven receptions went for a first down, including a critical eight-yard reception on third-and-three near midfield early in the fourth quarter (the Bears turned that conversion, later, into a touchdown). Robinson’s 29-yard grab, on which he did well to beat cornerback Darius Slay, was another critical third down conversion. And Anthony MIller’s 26-yard reception came two plays before Daniel hit Mizzell for a touchdown. Full credit goes to this group for largely being on time with Daniel and making things easy for a backup quarterback.

TIGHT ENDS: D

Burton lost a fumble, dropped a pass and committed a holding penalty, with that fumble turning into a Lions touchdown and the other two mistakes resulting in the Bears having to punt. Burton did catch four of seven targets for 28 yards, while Ben Braunecker and Daniel Brown played some but didn’t make an impact.

OFFENSIVE LINE: B+

This group didn’t generate much in terms of a consistent run push, but was outstanding in protecting Daniel. While he was sacked four times, Daniel took responsibility for those after the game, though, and the work of Charles Leno Jr. and Bobby Massie was particularly impressive (and, it should be said — has been all year). James Daniels had a solid game, too, and he almost literally carried the Bears across the finish line with his effort to get Cohen a first down that allowed the Bears to kneel to end the game.

DEFENSIVE LINE: B

Eddie Goldman and Akiem Hicks played well, though LeGarrete Blount did have one of the better games a running back has had against the Bears’ defense this year (19 carries, 88 yards, two touchdowns). Goldman and Roy Robertson-Harris were the only two defensive linemen to record a pressure, too, with one each per Pro Football Focus.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS: B

Leonard Floyd played well against the run and had four pressures, while Khalil Mack did well in the run game but had a quiet pass rushing afternoon. This group probably missed Aaron Lynch, who was out with a concussion, as Kylie Fitts and Isaiah Irving only combined to play 10 snaps, requiring Mack and Floyd to be on the field quite a bit.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS: A

Roquan Smith had a spectacular game, totaling a team-high 11 tackles while chipping in with a sack and a pressure that forced a throwaway and led to a punt. His continued ascension has been an important aspect of building the Bears into the best defense in the NFL. Danny Trevathan had a strong game, too — his unlucky deflection of a Matthew Stafford pass did lead to a fourth-down conversion and a Lions score, but there wasn’t much else he could’ve done on the play. He blew up a screen for a loss of six that forced a punt in the third quarter, too.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: A

Eddie Jackson’s pick-six and Kyle Fuller’s end zone interception were two knockout blows, the kind of plays a fatigued Bears defense needed to finish off a win in their second game in 88 hours. This group did have some early mistakes — Jackson whiffed on a tackle on a screen pass to Theo Riddick in the first quarter, and Adrian Amos wasn’t able to bring Blount down on his first touchdown. But Prince Amukamara played well throughout the game, and Deon Bush hit home on a sack when Vic Fangio brought him on a blitz on Detroit’s Hail Mary attempt to end the first half.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B

Pat O’Donnell started with a number of good punts, which coupled with good tackles by Joel Iyiegbuniwe and Sherrick McManis helped the Bears keep the upper hand in the field position battle in the first half. O’Donnell’s second half wasn’t as strong — he downed a punt inside the 20, but it only went 22 yards to the 18-yard line, and he boomed a punt into the end zone after that. Cody Parkey hit his only field goal attempt, good from 40 yards, and made both his extra points too. In the return game, Cohen had a nice 17-yard scamper on a punt, while Mizzell only managed 17 yards on a kickoff return in the fourth quarter.

COACHING: A+

Quibble with Matt Nagy’s call to go for two, or his unwillingness to commit to the run. But winning this game was a massive accomplishment for Nagy and his coaching staff — and, it should be said, the Bears’ training staff, too. No team had ever played two games in as short a timespan as the Bears did from Sunday night to Thursday afternoon. And Nagy had to win the back end of that stretch with a backup quarterback who barely had time to prepare for the game. This was a total team effort to win on Thursday, but it started with Nagy and the tone he set in the immediate aftermath of Sunday’s win over the Minnesota Vikings.

“I think it just really shows how strong we are mentally and it starts with the coach,” Amukamara said. That a defensive player said that, too, is notable.

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