Bears backups make key statement in win over Chiefs

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It was a game in which the list of inactives was arguably bigger news than who was actually in uniform. Coach Matt Nagy’s choice to make inactive most of his starting offense and defense made halftime adjustments, getting reignited after halftime or whether the No. 1 offense has mastered the Nagy offense game all points bordering on moot on a day when the Bears evened their preseason record at 2-2 with a 27-20 win over the Kansas City Chiefs.

And while preseason results matter not in any scorekeeping, the fact is that at some point or points in the 2018 season, the quality of Bears depth will matter, so getting an extended look at the No. 2 units against Kansas City Chiefs starters for the better part of two quarters was not without value. Backup QB Chase Daniel directed touchdown drives on the Bears’ first three possessions on the way to generating 280 yards and 24 first-half points against varying degrees of the No. 1 Kansas City defense.

“We got some 2’s in there who got to play against starters,” Nagy said. “That’s invaluable. When you’re in a preseason game…the 2’s and the 3’s are playing against the 2’s and the 3’s. When you’re in the regular season and the 2’s come in, who’re they playing against? The 1’s.

“So that was great today for those guys to go out and play.”

Then again, the Chiefs needing just five plays to go 74 yards for an answering score, on a 19-yard late screen from Pat Mahomes to Kareem Hunt against a clear breakdown in coverage was something less than the statement the Bears wanted from their defensive reserves.

Thinking offense

Daniel, who struggled in the Bears’ first two preseason games, has rebounded in spectacular fashion. After completing 19 of 28 passes for 189 yards and 2 touchdowns at Denver, Daniel was 15 of 18 for 198 yards and another 2 TDs against Kansas City, for a combined unofficial passer rating of 125.9.

Wide receiver Kevin White started, while Allen Robinson and rookie Anthony Miller were held out, a situation that could be read as either White’s status in some question (unlikely) or that he was deemed needing the work after so much time lost to injuries his first three Bears seasons.

Playing into the second quarter, White collected his first NFL touchdown, preseason or regular season, on a 29-yard scoring pass from Daniel after White completely beat veteran cornerback Orlando Scandrick. White added a four-yard “possession” catch before finishing his day’s work.

“When you hear that the starters, or the majority of them, are not playing,” White said, “just go out and take it as an opportunity and do your job.”

The receiving star, however, was rookie Javon Wims, both in quantity and quality. Wims took a short crossing route in the second quarter and turned it into a 54-yard gainer with his run after the catch, then finished off the possession with a ballet-like catch for a seven-yard TD from Daniel in the second quarter. Wims caught a contested fourth-quarter heave from Bray for another 44 yards on a third-and-16 from the Chicago 11.

“There are some areas that I can improve on,” said Wims, leading the Bears with 15 receptions and 227 receiving yards this preseason. “I want to go out there and do everything I like to do.”

In front of Daniel and No. 3 Tyler Bray, the competition in the Bears interior offensive line was in full gallop, with Eric Kush starting at left guard, rookie James Daniels at center and Earl Watford at right guard. All three are effectively competing for the one position that is at any kind of issue, that of left guard, which Kush has handled since the start of the offseason but who has not established himself as a lock at the position. Daniels spent the past week at guard, with the Bears maintaining that the former Iowa center is in fact a guard, but replaced Hroniss Grasu in the middle after Grasu worked as the No. 2 center in practice.

Daniels had challenges early. He was pushed into the backfield by rookie Kansas City nose tackle Derrick Nnadi but stayed with the block effort and allowed running back Benny Cunningham to break away from Nnadi and bounce outside for an 11-yard touchdown run on the opening drive.

But Daniels was again overpowered by Nnadi later in the first quarter and drew a holding penalty trying to stop the Kansas City rookie. And he was stalemated on a fourth-down sneak by Daniel, with the failed conversion giving the ball over to the Chiefs.

In the third quarter, Grasu was at center, Daniels at left guard, and Will Perciak at right guard.

Shuffling the “D”

Jonathan Bullard and Roy Robertson-Harris started at the defensive ends in the base 3-4. Both are ostensibly competing for the third job on the No. 1 line with Eddie Goldman and Akiem Hicks, although the “competition” is effectively establishing both as key figures in the rotating system favored by coordinator Vic Fangio. Bullard was credited with one tackle and one quarterback hit while Robertson-Harris posted two tackles.

Nick Kwiatkoski started at inside linebacker while Danny Trevathan was held out, as was rookie Roquan Smith, the latter still coming off a hamstring strain. Nagy said that Smith could conceivably start preseason game No. 4 next Thursday against Buffalo.

As far starting at Green Bay, Kwiatkoski drew an illegal-contact flag trying to defend Chiefs All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce in the first quarter. But his third-down blitz of Pat Mahomes flushed the Chiefs quarterback and forced a throwaway.

Kansas City was held to 134 yards and one third-down conversion out of five in the first half under Mahomes, for whom the Chiefs traded up to No. 10 in last year’s draft to select.

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