THE MORNING AFTER: The ‘Bryce’ is right for the Bears

CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 11: Chicago Bears cornerback Bryce Callahan (37) celebrates after an interception in the 2nd quarter during an NFL football game between the Detroit Lions and the Chicago Bears on November 11, 2018, at Soldier Field in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Daniel Bartel/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

CHICAGO – Did you miss the transaction?

Die-hard fans may not have, but some of you probably did.

Names like Burton, Gabriel, and Robinson caught everyone’s eye in March when they signed with the Bears. Those were players that fans along with the team figured would have a major impact on the team and the ultimate success of Matt Nagy’s offense.

Some might have questioned the Bears’ decision to let receiver Cameron Meredith leave for the Saints without matching his two-years, $10 million offer sheet.

The April 17th move might have gone under the radar a bit.

That’s when Bryce Callahan signed his one-year tender offer from the Bears worth $1.907 million. It wasn’t a major surprise one way or the other and didn’t produce the waves that some other moves did during this past Winter.

By signing the one-year deal, Callahan continued his rise with the Bears from an undrafted free agent in the Spring of 2015 to a regular contributor to a steadily growing Bears’ defense.

Now nine games into the regular season, it looks like the move made on April 17th was more significant than people might have thought.

Sunday proved to be another contest in which Callahan made critical contributions at much-needed times to aid the Bears in their sixth victory of the season. He did so with his tackling, his catching, along with his ability to break-up passes – a trio of success that aided the Bears’ 34-22 victory over Detroit.

He had a sack in the first quarter, an interception in the second, finishing with five total tackles along with two pass break-ups. It’s arguably Callahan’s best game of the year as he continues to fall into the unsung hero category for the 2018 Bears.

“It’s just a blast out there,” said Callahan of the defense so far this season.

Fans can see how much the fourth-year defender is enjoying himself – especially when it comes to making critical plays. He opened the season with a career-high eight tackles against the Packers. Two weeks later against the Cardinals, his interception in the final two minutes of the game helped to seal up a 16-14 win for the Bears in Glendale.

Callahan registered the Bears’ only sack in the win over the Jets, and he started off Sunday’s game with the Lions by getting to the quarterback for the first of six sacks on the afternoon. The defensive back then got the defense their first turnover of the day when he stepped in front of a Matthew Stafford pass, holding onto the ball as he fell to the ground.

Early in the second half, Callahan knocked down a pass on third down that forced Detroit into kicking a field goal rather than making it a game with a touchdown drive.

“I’ve been trying to have blinders and earmuffs, just staying focused,” said Callahan when asked about his recent strong play.

Perhaps he’s had that going all season, since his totals in most categories in 2018 have already exceeded career-highs. His 37 tackles are the most since joining the Bears in 2015 and Callahan has made a career-high with two sacks while tying his career-high with two interceptions.

That was in 2017 and that year he had six pass deflections in 12 games – which is his number through nine games this season. Yet it’s the timing of Callahan’s plays – whether against Arizona in Week 3 or the Lions this Sunday – that are contributing to this once undrafted player out of Rice.

“I’m watching a little bit more film this year,” said Callahan when asked about his preparation in 2018. “Kind of digging more into the opponent.”

Now fans are looking more into this defensive back who has a knack for making big plays at big times this season. It also makes that transaction on April 17th look a whole lot bigger.