THE MORNING AFTER: Dream a little QB dream
CHICAGO – Admit it, you looked on with a twinge of jealousy.
You stared at the player in the No. 8 white jersey at Soldier Field. The one taking snaps for the opponents on Sunday afternoon at Soldier Field for the opposing team.
He confidently led the offense. He ran when he had to run and was effective. He started off a game fast and led his team to a sixth win of the season.
Marcus Mariota is a young quarterback. The Titan has the look of a franchise signal caller. He’s improved in his second year from his rookie year and has his team in playoff contention as November becomes December.
Jealous, Bears fans? You should be. He’s everything the team hasn’t had for a couple of decades in the most important position on the field.
But maybe he could? Dare to dream a little dream about a QB?
“We’re just trying to make our teams better, find ways to win games and hopefully we’ll continue that throughout our careers,” said Mariota of his day – his fourth with a quarterback rating over 100 and his 7th of the season.
It’s enough to make all Bears fans a bit jealous considering the team was putting out its third starting quarterback of the season who was making his first career start. Mariota added to that angst when he calmly led Tennessee to a commanding lead in the first 30 minutes of the game.
He hit his first seven passes of the game and missed just four in 14 first half attempts. He spread the ball around to five different receivers and hit two of them for touchdowns. The first to Delanie Walker and the second went to Rishard Matthews whose dive towards a spiral in the endzone led to a memorable catch and a 21-7 Tennessee lead.
Mariota slowed a bit in the second half as the offense was held to just a pair of field goals in the final 30 minutes, but the damage was done. His 15-of-23 passing for 226 yards and the pair of scores without a turnover along with 46 rushing yards on four carries were enough to send the Bears to another defeat.
Oh, and those two touchdown passes make it eight-straight games with at least a pair of scoring thrown which is the longest in the NFL since Tom Brady had nine last year. Now he can go for the record for consecutive games of multiple touchdown throws in a row for a first or second year quarterback, which is ten set by Dan Marino in 1984.
“That’s first time I’ve heard it. It is cool,” said Mariota when informed about the records. “As a kid, you kind of grow up wishing to be mentioned with some of those guys. To me, it’s a honor but a lot of the credit goes to the guys in the locker room. None of that would have been possible without the five guys up front blocking and the guys getting open and finding ways to come down with the ball.
“They deserve a lot of credit for what’s going on. I’m just there giving them the opportunity to make those plays.”
Sunday he made them in front of a fan base desperate to have someone like him. Matt Barkley did what he could on Sunday, overcoming two bad interceptions that led to a fourth quarter rally which came a few slippery hands from producing the Bears’ third win of the season.
Instead the Bears have just two, but just dream a little dream with me.
Did you like what you saw out of Mariota – a successful young quarterback whom the franchise took with a top pick and is now making good on that faith with fundamentally sound performances? This could actually happen for the Bears this year should their losing ways continue.
A Top 5 draft pick allows the Bears a shot to take a quarterback whom the rebuilding of the franchise could be centered around. It would be a daring move for the team based on their history of selecting top signalcallers, taking only one of them (Jim McMahon, 1982) with a Top 5 pick since 1952.
Could a Deshaun Watson of Clemson – who like Mariota led his team to a National Championship Game in college – be that guy Bears fans have been waiting for? Could it be a DeShone Kizer of Notre Dame or a Lamar Jackson of Louisville that will have Chicago’s quarterback generate the envy of fans on the other sidelines.
Frankly, there is no guarantee. But on another dreary Sunday full of defeat, dream a little dream that the Bears could have their own No. 8 be great under center someday.