It was bound to happen.
With Justin Fields on the sideline recovering from a dislocated thumb, undrafted rookie quarterback Tyson Bagent led the Bears offense to a convincing, 30-12 victory over the visiting Las Vegas Raiders at Soldier Field on Sunday.
Oh boy. Let Bagent Mania commence.
Look, I like the kid. I rooted for him to succeed mostly because I’m a Bears fan and he was the starting quarterback against the Raiders. Only part of me rooted for him because of his underdog story, and virtually none of me rooted for him because of any ill will toward Fields.
There were probably three types of reactions to Sunday’s performance. Most Bears fans fell into one of three camps.
Camp 1: There should be no quarterback controversy; Bagent proved he’s capable of running an NFL offense and he executed what the coaching staff called for him. He should be the starting quarterback, period.
Camp 2: Good for Bagent, he succeeded in fill-in duty, but he was an undrafted player for a reason. He does not have the skill set of a premier starting quarterback and Fields should and will be the starter upon his healthy return to the field.
Camp 3: Let the games begin! This is a full-on quarterback controversy and if Bagent can replicate this performance in future starts (if Fields is still not healthy enough to return to the field) then the Bears will have a tough decision on their hands and might have to ride the hot hand.
For the record, I’m firmly in Camp 2. Fields is clearly the better player and offers the higher ceiling. I’m proud of Bagent and hope he continues to play well. But let’s be clear: if Fields is not the answer to the Bears’ quarterback problems, then it’ll most likely be a rookie from next year’s draft instead. It will not be Bagent.
I’ve been wrong before and will be wrong again, but I’m very confident in this position at the very least.
Against the Raiders, the Bears won the coin toss and elected to receive because head coach Matt Eberflus wanted to settle the nerves of his young signal caller right away. He didn’t want him anxiously waiting through a Raiders offensive drive. As it turned out, Bagent might have settled the nerves, but the Bears went three-and-out to open the game.
A quick screen pass to D.J. Moore — one of those confidence-building throws — was the first play call of the game. That gained four yards. Then Darrynton Evans got blown up on second down on a poorly-blocked run play and D’Onta Foreman took his eyes off a pass from Bagent on third down.
After the Bears defense allowed the Raiders to move the ball on their opening serires, Daniel Carlson missed a 41-yard field goal attempt and the game remained tied.
That’s when Bagent got to work. He led a 12-play, 69-yard drive that was capped off by a Foreman 2-yard touchdown plunge, the first of three scores for the backup running back. For the official record so as not to mislead, Bagent completed all four of his pass attempts on that drive for 22 yards. He nearly had a touchdown pass to D.J. Moore, but the receiver stepped out of bounds short of the end zone.
Two drives later, following a Tremaine Edmunds interception, Foreman scored the second of his three touchdowns from three yards out after Bagent and the run game drove 34 yards on 6 plays to take a 14-0 lead.
Little did we know at that time, but that would be enough points for the entire game. The Bears defense played a very strong game, allowing just 235 total yards and 12 points while recording three interceptions.
The run defense, which has been playing surprisingly well this year, held Raiders running back Josh Jacobs to just 35 yards on 11 carries for a paltry 3.2 yards per carry.
In the second half, the offense did not take its foot off the pedal as it kept bullying the Raiders’ defensive front.
On their first drive of the half, Foreman got all lathered up and broke off runs of 14 and 9 yards while also catching passes for 17, 9 and 5 yards, the last of which resulted in the running back’s third score of the game.
After that 15-play drive that covered 88 yards and chewed up more than 8 minutes of game clock, the team went right back to work on their very next series.
The Bears again let their ground game do the punishing work as Foreman, Evans, and even Travis Homer all joined the fun. Bagent only completed one of two passes on that 12-play drive that ended with a Cairo Santos field goal.
Now holding a 24-6 lead with a little under half a quarter left to play, it appeared the Bears were well within striking range of their first home victory since early last season.
That’s when cornerback Jaylon Johnson put his stamp on the game, jumping a route and running back a 39-yard pick six to give the team a 30-6 lead. As the Raiders offense went right back out on the field, Johnson again recorded an interception for good measure.
The Raiders would eventually score a meaningless touchdown on their next offensive possession, but the Bears had essentially completed a thorough butt-kicking by that point.
To recap: Bagent played a very efficient game, completing 21 of 29 passes for 162 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions, with a 97.2 passer rating. That was a good outing, but clearly the Bears relied on the run game to power their offense against the Raiders.
Now, is it entirely possible that the offensive coaching staff gives Bagent a little more leeway next week on Sunday Night Football against the Chargers (considering Fields is very likely to miss that game, if not a few more after it)? You bet it’s possible. And if the kid is worth his salt, he’ll make incremental gains in his ability to throw downfield and make plays beyond 20 yards.
But for now, let’s give the kid his due credit, acknowledge that the game plan was heavily designed to limit the amount of throws he needed to make beyond the sticks, and understand that Fields is still the QB1 on this ball club.
But what a fun win that was for the rook!