LAKE FOREST – No matter how long a player in the National Football League stays on the field for consecutive years, there is always the chance an injury can derail a season. That’s life in a contact sport.
Sometimes the key to building a team is finding reliable people to fill in for these players should they be knocked out of the lineup. The quarterback position is one of those high-profile positions where a competent back-up can help to save a season rather than destroy it.
Examples are all around in the history of the NFL. Tom Brady backed up the injured Drew Bledsoe in 2001, and the rest is history. When Peyton Manning suffered with a neck injury in 2011, the Colts didn’t have their backup situation set and finished with two wins.
When Ryan Pace looked for a backup to his anointed starter Mitchell Trubisky in 2018, he chose Chase Daniel to play that role for the Bears. So far, it’s looking like a solid decision, with more evidence coming on Sunday.
After Mitchell Trubisky injured his shoulder on the first drive in the first quarter on Sunday, Daniel came in and immediately led a touchdown drive to put the Bears in the lead for good. He’d complete 22-of-30 passes for 195 yards, sporting a 101.4 quarterback rating, leading the team on two lengthy field goal drives in a 16-6 win over the Vikings at Soldier Field.
Yes, they couldn’t punch it in the endzone as much as they’d like, and one of the field goals came thanks to a Khalil Mack strip sack in the third quarter. But Daniel competently led the Bears down the field and prevented turnovers, showing his depth of knowledge of the offense by running it well to give the team a key division win.
“It just felt like a practice. It felt like I was on scout team playing. I’ve really worked a lot on my mindset over the past year or so, and I think — I still go back to last year, those two starts with our offensive linemen and getting in the huddle with those guys, that made me feel confident,” said Daniel on whether he felt any anxiety going in the game. “They made me feel confident, and I thought our offensive line played really well.”
Daniel is now 2-1 when the Bears have needed him the last two years when Trubisky went down with a shoulder injury. In those contests, he’s 75-for-106 for 710 yards with four touchdowns compared to two interceptions with a 93.7 quarterback rating.
“Chase and I, we go way back, and again, he’s like a coach out there, so he understands — hey, Mitch got hurt. There was zero — look, he was ready,” said head coach Matt Nagy of Daniel. “He prepares himself every single day, and it’s never different. It’s always the same. When this happens, to help his team out.
“So we’re very, very lucky to have Chase as our backup quarterback.”
This week, he joined a number of NFL reserve quarterbacks who came out on the winning end of their games in Week 4. Gardner Minshew of the Jaguars had 213 yards passing, two touchdowns, and led the game-winning field goal drive in their last-second 26-24 win at Denver. Filling in for the injured Drew Brees, Teddy Bridgewater was efficient enough to aid in the Saints’ low-scoring 12-10 win over the previously undefeated Cowboys.
Kyle Allen of the Panthers improved to 2-0 and has still yet to throw an interception after beating the Texans 16-10 on the road on Sunday as he continues to fill in for the injured Cam Newton. On Monday Night Football, Mason Rudolph of the Steelers might have been the most impressive, completing 24-of-28 passes for 229 yards and two touchdowns in a 27-3 win over the Bengals at home.
The Bears can put themselves in this category of having success this week thanks to their backup. Daniel’s likely going to be back behind center when they go to London to face the Raiders this week as Trubisky reportedly deals with a separated shoulder.
At least Nagy and the Bears know they can trust the guy filling in.