If you were wondering how the 2019 Chicago Bears would respond to adversity, the answer is pretty darn well.
Things were starting to look grim just about an hour before kickoff last Sunday once it was found out that neither Akeem Hicks nor Roquan Smith would be suiting up for action against Minnesota. This was on top of already missing Bilal Nichols and key offensive contributors in Taylor Gabriel and Kyle Long due to injury.
The Monsters of the Midway knew that if they were to pull away with a victory versus the 2-1 Vikings, they’d need a full-fledged dominant team effort.
Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse, things quickly did.
On the very first offensive drive of the game, Bears starting quarterback Mitchell Trubisky was taken down awkwardly on his non-throwing shoulder trying to elude pressure, rolling it up underneath him and forcing him out the rest of the contest. Enter, Chase Daniel.
Coming into the game, 32-year-old Daniel had just four NFL starts under his belt (2-2 record) and held a career 4:3 TD:INT ratio. Chicago fans saw the Mizzou alum in action last season for two games when Trubisky went down with a shoulder bruise.
He saw mixed results in those matchups, pulling off an impressive win on Thanksgiving Day against the division-rival Lions before turning around and losing to a bottom-feeding Giants team the week after.
In this contest against the Vikings, the Bears didn’t need Daniel to be anything special, as they knew they could rally behind their top-ranked defense if he could just manage the offense effectively (something Trubisky has looked incapable of at times). He did just that, completing over 73 percent of his passes for 195 yards and a touchdown in the team’s 16-6 win.
Daniel looked extremely comfortable in Nagy’s scheme (ran a similar offense on the Chiefs), consistently going through his progressions and taking what the defense gave him. He didn’t try to do too much, and the result was the offense looking the best it has all season long.
Maybe even more impressively, he did this against a very good Minnesota defense.
In the clips below, you can see examples of how Daniel stayed calm in the pocket, delivering multiple big-time throws.
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) September 29, 2019
— NFL (@NFL) September 29, 2019
He isn’t the kind of guy that’s going to post Patrick Mahomes-like numbers, but that’s not what Chicago needs him to be. Many forget, Daniel was a Heisman Trophy finalist with the Missouri Tigers back in 2007. Although he never panned-out as a star in the NFL, he’s still got the ability to be one of the better backups in the league.
If nothing else, Daniel proved on Sunday that he can at least hold things down until Trubisky gets his shoulder right. There were rumblings through the Chicago media yesterday that their former No. 2 overall pick could be back as soon as Week 7 after the team’s bye, meaning Daniel would just need to make one more appearance against the Oakland Raiders, a team that’s surrendered the eighth-most passing yards in the league thus far.
For Daniel, it’s been so far, so good. He’ll have to prove he can be effective for more than just one game, but outperforming a quarterback that’s making $27.5 million this season is a good place to start.
You like that, Kirk Cousins?