Get Brad Biggs’ 10 thoughts from Week 16 – The Denver Post


10 thoughts after the Chicago Bears battled the Buffalo Bills close for a half on a bone-chilling Saturday afternoon at Soldier Field before being blown out 35-13, their eighth consecutive loss.

1. All of a sudden, the Bears are in play for the No. 1 pick in the 2023 draft.

That’s because the suddenly competitive Houston Texans scored an upset Saturday in Nashville, Tenn., downing the Titans 19-14 after Davis Mills threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Brandin Cooks with 2 minutes, 52 seconds remaining.

The Texans are 2-12-1 and have been fighting and kicking recently. They went to overtime last week before losing to the Kansas City Chiefs 30-24. In Week 14, they led the Dallas Cowboys 23-17 entering the fourth quarter only to lose in the final minute.

With questions surrounding the future of coach Lovie Smith, the Texans have battled some good teams in December, and on Saturday they took advantage of the Titans being without quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

The Texans are a half-game ahead of the Bears for the No. 1 pick. The Bears are in the No. 2 slot at 3-12, and a trio of four-win teams — the Arizona Cardinals, Denver Broncos and Los Angeles Rams — play Sunday.

The Texans were at 87.4% to earn the No. 1 pick entering this week, according to ESPN, and the Bears had a 10.4% chance. Those odds obviously have shifted.

If the Texans win one more game and the Bears lose out, the teams will trade places in the draft order. The Texans host the surging Jacksonville Jaguars on Jan. 1. The Texans won the first meeting 13-6 on Oct. 9 in Jacksonville, Fla. They close the season in Indianapolis against the Colts (4-9-1), who have lost four in a row and seven of eight. The Colts will start former Bears quarterback Nick Foles on Monday night against the Los Angeles Chargers.

The Bears have not had the No. 1 pick since the advent of the common draft in 1967. The last time they picked at the top of the draft was 1947, when they selected Bob Fenimore, a halfback out of Oklahoma A&M. He appeared in only 10 games for the organization as a rookie and was quickly out of the league.

The loss to the Bills was the Bears’ eighth in a row, tying the franchise record for the longest losing streak in a season. Think about that for a second. The Bears are in their 103rd season and never have lost more than eight consecutive games. They lost eight straight in 2002 and 1978. That’s it for eight-game skids.

To have the best shot at the No. 1 pick, the Bears would have to finish 3-14, which would set a mark for futility. The Bears lost 13 games in 2016, when they wound up with the third pick and traded up to No. 2, and in 1969, when they were 1-13.

Yes, the Bears were much better in 2018 just two years after a 3-13 disaster. They had some core defensive players on that 2016 team, including defensive linemen Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman, linebackers Danny Trevathan and Leonard Floyd and safety Adrian Amos. Much of the offensive line already was in place.

With the right moves, could the Bears see a similar turnaround? Anything is possible, but the core right now is pretty thin. What the team put together in 2018 didn’t have staying power either. The team was short on offensive playmakers (sound familiar?), and the defense slowly unraveled.

After the 1969 season, the Bears lost a coin flip with the Pittsburgh Steelers for the No. 1 pick. The Steelers landed quarterback Terry Bradshaw, and the Bears didn’t have a winning season until 1977.

The Bears meet familiar divisional foes to close the season. They play at Detroit’s Ford Field on Jan. 1. The Lions, in the mix for a playoff spot, were humiliated by the Carolina Panthers on Saturday. The Panthers ran for a franchise-record 320 yards. Think the Bears can go to Detroit and have similar success?

The season concludes Jan. 8 with a home game against the Minnesota Vikings. I have wondered if that game would be meaningless for the Vikings. The Vikings are 12-3 and one game better than the San Francisco 49ers (11-4) for the No. 2 seed in the NFC. The 49ers likely would win a tiebreaker between the teams, so if the Vikings are one game up on the Niners entering Week 18, they might be motivated to win.

What’s certain is general manager Ryan Poles will have a very high pick to begin trying to build the Bears roster back up. Little that he has added to this point looks like part of the master plan for two or three years from now.

2. Don’t spend a ton of time hashing out what went wrong in this game.

The Bills are one of the best teams in the AFC. In less-than-ideal conditions for both teams, the Bears hung around until they had their doors blown off and even prompted the Bills to score a garbage-time touchdown by burning timeouts late in the game.

Most bothersome, I think, is that the offense couldn’t do a darn thing after a nice game-opening drive. Justin Fields, on a little sprint out, hit Byron Pringle for a 20-yard gain, and David Montgomery busted off a 28-yard run on the next snap to the Bills 1-yard line. Fields found Dante Pettis in the end zone for a 6-yard touchdown pass and an early lead.

The offense had four first downs on the possession but that was about it. After that scoring drive, the Bears had five more first downs before No. 2 quarterback Nathan Peterman took over with 62 seconds remaining. There were more possessions — six — without a first down.

In terms of big plays, rookie Velus Jones Jr. made a nice sliding catch for a 44-yard gain on a play fake. The Bears had 13 personnel in the game — one running back, one wide receiver and three tight ends. It was heavy play action, and Fields did the right thing by giving Jones a chance to make the play.

“That’s a training camp play,” Fields said. “Velus is fast and I’m glad he finally got to use his speed. So of course you saw that safety attach and the corner try to follow up. Put it outside and he did a great job going to get that ball. It was a great catch.”

Other than that, the offense didn’t have a play longer than 10 yards until Peterman had a 14-yard completion to Pringle. Fields was limited to 11 rushing yards on seven carries. Montgomery had 62 yards on 16 attempts. Khalil Herbert’s return from a hip injury didn’t accomplish much. He rushed six times for 7 yards.

The passing game didn’t get a lot done, either, as Fields was 15 of 23 for 119 yards and the TD pass to Pettis. It’s the fifth time this season Fields has been held under 125 yards. He has topped 200 yards twice.

This isn’t to point out Fields needs to get better as a passer. Everyone knows that. The Bears, who were missing starting guards Cody Whitehair and Teven Jenkins, have to get so much better on offense around the quarterback to close the gap when it comes to opponents such as the Bills. It’s going to be a real project for Poles, a minimum two-year job (not counting 2022) and maybe three years.

The Bills showed if a defense can prevent Fields from running the ball, the Bears can’t get anything done offensively. That’s sort of what we saw at the start of the season too.

“Once we stopped them in their tracks after the first drive, it was kind of easy to play football,” Bills defensive tackle Tim Settle said. “Keeping Justin thinking fast and just keeping him off the spot. That was our game plan. We know he’s a mobile guy, active guy, and we knew we had to contain him and get after him. I feel like we did just that.”

Added Bills safety Jordan Poyer: “Shut down the run and put their quarterback into situations he doesn’t want to be in. Those third-and-long, second-and-long situations. We had to get a feel for what they were trying to do to us early. We probably expected more zone-read, quarterback keep, quarterback power runs.

“But they kept coming back to the same runs and — after that first drive — we were able to settle down and make some plays on the run game and force him into situations they don’t want to be in.”

The Bears have been terrific on third down most of the season but converted only 2 of 12, which contributed to the problems. Soon, the coaches and players will turn their attention to the Lions, and even the short-handed Bears should look better against them.

3. I called the offensive woes more troublesome because after a nice little stretch of scoring, things haven’t been so explosive of late.

The Bears have averaged 19 points in Fields’ last four starts. The defense has been bad more consistently. The Bears were horrendous in this spot, allowing an offense that usually leans heavily on quarterback Josh Allen to run the ball to feature others. Devin Singletary carried 12 times for 106 yards — tied for the second-biggest game of his career — and scored on a 33-yard run. Rookie James Cook had a season-high 99 yards on 11 carries and scored on a 27-yard play.

These are smaller, change-of-pace backs who just gutted the Bears as the Bills rolled up a season-high 254 rushing yards with Allen getting 41 yards on six carries. It’s the fourth time this season an opponent has rushed for more than 200 yards. The Bears gave up four 200-yard games in 2013 and 1951, and the team record is five in 1955. This was just a trampling.

“There were some big holes,” Singletary said. “The big guys up front were moving people — I mean moving people. Guys on the outside were holding their blocks and most of the time all we had to do was beat one person.”

That’s because the Bears were playing primarily with a single-high safety and we saw another display of consistently poor gap discipline. When it gets really bad — like this — different players take turns and it turns into a total mess.

“We have to get to the ball,” said strong-side linebacker Matt Adams, who came up with one of three takeaways with a nice swipe with his left arm that dislodged the ball from wide receiver Gabe Davis. “We have to swarm to the ball. I think they kind of did catch us by surprise. They did a great job. In between the tackles, they are very strong.”

Said defensive tackle Mike Pennel: “I would say they weren’t doing anything outside the scheme of what we’d seen during the week. Discipline in the gaps on a few plays. QB run was killing us. Everything we’d seen, they gave it to us. There were some discipline issues today that were uncharacteristic of us on all three levels. You just have to take your hats off to them today. They played a complete game.”

The Bears need to totally overhaul the front seven in the offseason. I don’t know what a realistic number of new starters is. Four? Five? They can’t swap out the entire group, but, boy, they have to take a real swing at this because when you cannot stop the run and cannot rush the passer, well, you end up in the conversation for the top pick in the draft.

4. Barring something dramatic, the Bears will finish a 17-game season without a wide receiver reaching 500 yards.

That hasn’t happened since 1989, when there were only 16 games and Ron Morris had a team-high 486 yards.

Darnell Mooney’s season ended in injury last month against the New York Jets with 493 yards. The Baltimore Ravens and Tennessee Titans are the only other teams without a 500-yard wideout. Demarcus Robinson (425 yards) has a shot to reach that figure with the Ravens, and Robert Woods of the Titans is at 448. What do the Ravens and Titans have in common? They each traded wide receivers for first-round draft picks during the offseason.

The Bears do have a shot to have a 500-yard receiver. Tight end Cole Kmet has 460 yards, so he’s a pretty good bet to reach that modest plateau. But Equanimeous St. Brown, who was held out Sunday with a concussion, is at 300 yards, so he’s a long shot.

It reinforces the critical need general manager Ryan Poles has at the position, even after trading what will be one of the top picks of Round 2 for Chase Claypool, who missed a second straight game with a knee injury. Mooney, had he remained healthy, was on pace for 698 yards, not the kind of stuff No. 1 receivers are made of. Claypool isn’t a No. 1 target either, so until a move is made, the Bears are shuffling players into roles they’re not going to adequately fill while everyone is left to imagine how the addition of an elite wideout would enhance Justin Fields’ game.

Josh Allen made big strides in his second season in 2019, when his completion percentage rose to 58.8% after he was at 52.8% as a rookie. He went from throwing 10 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in his first season to 20 and nine, respectively, in 2019. It wasn’t until his third season, when the Bills traded for wide receiver Stefon Diggs, that his statistics spiked. Allen completed 69.2% of his passes in 2020, throwing for 4,544 yards with 37 scores and 10 picks.

“There’s always been that elite receiver on the outside that has impacted the game,” Bears coach Matt Eberflus said. “These guys are fresh new guys that we have now. They come in all different sizes, all different shapes, all different skill sets. But it’s something that you need to have because they change the game.”

A week after facing the Philadelphia Eagles’ A.J. Brown, who went off for 181 yards on nine receptions, the Bears had to defend Diggs with two of their top three cornerbacks — Jaylon Johnson and Kindle Vildor — on injured reserve. That wasn’t a problem for the defense, and it almost seemed as if the Bills were resting Diggs at times. He was targeted twice and had two receptions for 26 yards.

There’s a simple question for offensive coordinator Luke Getsy, who previously coached Davante Adams with the Green Bay Packers: Does the presence of an elite receiver have a significant effect on the other players on offense (not just the quarterback)?

“It’s not I would say when you have any type of weapon to that type of degree like those two guys,” Getsy said. “You affect the way a defensive coordinator calls the game. And I think Justin affects the way defensive coordinators call the game. So the more players you have on the field that are like that, that makes it really challenging.

“You take what those guys did last week, right? You have two receivers (Brown and DeVonta Smith, who had 125 yards) going for all those yards for Philly and a quarterback (Jalen Hurts) that ran for a bunch of yards too. When you have dynamic people, it makes it really hard for a defensive coordinator to dial in on anything. So having that upper-echelon receiver obviously creates more opportunities for everybody, not just the other receivers.”

It’s easy to identify the challenge for Poles here. It’s a lot more difficult to find a clear solution. The trade market has been one way teams have gone lately. Brown was traded from the Tennessee Titans during the past offseason. Think the Titans don’t miss him? The Miami Dolphins traded to acquire Tyreek Hill. The Arizona Cardinals flipped a first-round pick to the Ravens for Marquise Brown.

Consider two challenges when wondering if Poles can follow suit in the offseason. For starters, I don’t see the Bears trading their first-round pick for a player. If it is moved, it would be for a bounty of draft picks, and they almost would need two first-round picks in this draft to then trade one of them for a wide receiver. The second challenge: Who is the elite receiver profiling as a legtimate No. 1 who would be available in trade?

I got some mailbag questions last week about the Bears trading for Tee Higgins. Could be a super move for the Bears. I find it difficult to believe the Cincinnati Bengals would be interested in trading Higgins, who is under contract through 2023.

The Bengals are pretty conservative and they’re going to be chasing a Lombardi Trophy again next year. They reached the Super Bowl last season and already have qualified for this postseason. Wouldn’t it make more sense for the Bengals to extend Higgins than trade him? Yes, the Bengals have to plan for second contracts for quarterback Joe Burrow and wide receiver J’Marr Chase, but they usually are not big players in free agency and sign their own players.

Others have wondered whether DeAndre Hopkins will be available. He turns 31 in June and served a suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs at the start of this season. He has been productive since returning to the Cardinals — 63 receptions for 713 yards in eight games. An aging Hopkins might be a stopgap measure more than a guy you would be building with.

There’s no easy solution here, and the best way out of the jam might be trying to nail it with a draft pick. Elite receivers don’t have to come in Round 1. A.J. Brown and Higgins were second-round picks, as were Adams, DK Metcalf, Deebo Samuel and Michael Thomas. Later rounds have provided dynamic wide receivers such as Diggs (fifth round), Hill, Cooper Kupp, Keenan Allen, Terry McLaurin and Chris Godwin, among others.

Finding a superstar for the position with a Day 2 or 3 pick won’t be easy. Ultimately it would be the preferred way out of the predicament.

5. Packers offensive lineman Elgton Jenkins got a heck of an early Christmas gift.

The Packers on Friday morning signed Jenkins to a four-year, $68 million extension that includes a $24 million signing bonus. A supremely versatile lineman, Jenkins would have been one of the prizes in free agency in March had he reached the open market.

The Cleveland Browns followed suit, extending right tackle Jack Conklin on Friday with a four-year, $60 million deal with $31 million guaranteed. He would have been handsomely paid as a free agent at a position that is a need for the Bears.

That is what happens this time of year when teams make moves to keep their better players from exiting via free agency. That process continues into February and the beginning of March when the franchise tag is in play. I detailed last week (see No. 5) how the Washington Commanders could use the franchise tag on defensive tackle Daron Payne, who has had a breakout season as a pass rusher and had a sack in a loss against the San Francisco 49ers on Saturday to extend his team-leading total to 9½.

Defensive tackle is a key position to keep an eye on this offseason. Some have suggested that weak-side linebacker is the signature position in Eberflus’ defense. Not in my opinion. It all starts with the three-technique defensive tackle, which is why the Bears tried to make the signing of defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi the signature move of free agency in March before pulling the plug on the deal because of concerns about his foot injury.

“We had DeForest (Bucker) at that last place (Indianapolis),” Eberflus said earlier this week. “Obviously some of the most famous guys are Aaron Donald, Warren Sapp, those guys are elite players at that position. We call it the engine that makes everything go because in the running game, you can’t run at the three and you can’t run away from him, so it’s hard to really dictate where you’re going to run the ball, No. 1, and it creates a lot of free lanes for your linebackers to run through in the run game.

“In the pass game, a lot of times when you have two of them, you have a three-technique and you have a defensive end opposite of him, it’s hard to move your line that way. He creates a lot of one-on-ones, and he’s typically overmatched on a guard. Typically your best offensive linemen are on the outside and if you have your best (defensive lineman) on the inside, that’s certainly an advantage.”

That is it is why it’s fun wonder about the availability of Payne, who has the skills to play in any role on the interior. Another intriguing defensive lineman is the Denver Broncos’ Dre’Mont Jones, who is on injured reserve with a hip issue. Jones, who turns 26 on Jan. 2, is in the final year of his contract. He had 5½ sacks through seven games but didn’t finish as often after the Broncos traded pass rusher Bradley Chubb to the Miami Dolphins. Jones’ season ended with 6½ sacks, matching his previous career high from 2020.

“I like him a lot,” said one AFC personnel man who scouted the Broncos this season. “He’s really good. He’s their best defensive linemen. I like the way he is playing. He’s going to cash in.”

Said another scout earlier this month: “Jones has a big, long body and he can play as a three or one technique. He’s best as a three and he’s a big-time athlete. He’s disruptive. At times he plays a little high. He was a little inconsistent coming out of Ohio State, but there is still a lot of upside there. He is big and he can move and he might fly under the radar a little.”

Maybe Jones is moving under the radar in some circles, but those in the know believe he’s an emerging talent. The issue here? The Broncos could move to keep him. General manager George Paton called him a “core player” at the trade deadline when he shipped out Chubb for a first-round draft pick, and it seems the Broncos are going to attempt to keep him in place with the franchise tag being a possibility.

Jones is another talented option to keep in mind, but a list of potential free agents in late December and early January can looked significantly different in mid-March when the new league year begins. Teams are in the business of keeping their better young players in the building.

6. The Bears rolled out their eighth combination of starters on the offensive line Saturday.

Larry Borom slotted at left guard in place of Cody Whitehair (knee), and Michael Schofield replaced Teven Jenkins (neck) at right guard. Borom was the fourth starter at left guard (Whitehair, Lucas Patrick, Schofield).

It has been plug-and-play nearly all season, and the Bears have had the same lineup on the field for only three consecutive games — Braxton Jones (from left to right), Whitehair, Sam Mustipher, Jenkins and Riley Reiff. That is the most common lineup, too, as it has been used in four games.

“I don’t know the answer to that off the top of my head,” offensive line coach Chris Morgan said when asked if he ever experienced this much turnover in a season. “It happens all the time all over the place.”

The last time the Bears had all five linemen start every game was in 2013, and while that goal is difficult to attain, they’ve had unusually high turnover. Whitehair is on injured reserve for the second time. Patrick was sidelined at the start of the season after having surgery on his right thumb and is on IR following toe surgery. Jenkins is sidelined with his second injury — he missed two games with a hip issue.

Some of the change has been motivated with the goal of looking at multiple players. The team rotated Jenkins and Patrick at right guard at the start of the season. Alex Leatherwood was swapped in for Reiff in the last two games, but that plan was scrapped against the Bills after he struggled in 17 snaps the week before against the Philadelphia Eagles.

What has been impressive is no matter what lineup the offense has rolled out up front, the running game has remained dominant, although the 80-yard effort against the Bills was the second-lowest total of the season (78 yards at Minnesota on Oct. 9).

Part of that, of course, is thanks to the high-level escapability of Fields, who has been able to turn something (often bad) into a huge play, such as the 38-yard run against the Eagles when he ducked a sack by Haason Reddick and motored into the red zone. The Bills, as detailed above, did a much better job of pinning him in the pocket.

The scheme and play calling by offensive coordinator Luke Getsy deserves credit, too, as the Bears are able to challenge opposing defenses in so many ways on the ground. But Morgan and his players deserve credit as well. They have excelled at run blocking.

Some thought Borom would profile best as a guard when he was drafted in 2021, but when he showed up in much better shape than he played at in college, he was lined up at tackle. When the Bears hit the practice field Wednesday, it was the first time Borom had played guard since his redshirt sophomore season at Missouri in 2019.

“It’s a little different,” Borom said. “But I think I am finding myself a little bit.”

Borom sought out Jenkins, who transitioned to guard early this season, for tips on playing on the interior.

“Trying to get pointers, finding ways that I can take what I know from playing tackle and implement it inside,” Borom said.

Borom was just excited to get back on the field after suffering a knee injury on the second-to-final snap of the loss to the New York Jets on Nov. 27. Earlier in the season, a concussion sidelined him.

“I don’t care where it’s at,” Borom said. “Just somewhere get an opportunity. I just want to get out there and just prove what I can do. Get some momentum going in the right way for myself and the team. I want to be able to help.”

We’ll see if there are more moving parts in the next two weeks. Whitehair is out for the season, but you’d think Jenkins will do what he can to get back on the field.

7. Justin Fields said last week that after reaching 1,000 yards, he ‘might as well go for the record.’

The Ravens’ Lamar Jackson set the single-season quarterback mark in 2019 when he rushed for 1,206 yards. Fields’ bid to catch Jackson took a hit Saturday with only 11 rushing yards, leaving him 195 back.

I’m here to say it’s possible Fields will get there. The Bears’ next opponent, the Lions, was last seen being flattened in Carolina. The Panthers ran for 320 yards on 43 attempts Saturday. The Lions are last in the NFL in defending quarterback runs, allowing an average of 37.2 rushing yards per game by QBs, a number inflated by Fields’ 147-yard effort in Week 10 at Soldier Field.

The Eagles’ Jalen Hurts ran for 90 yards against the Lions in the opener. Geno Smith of the Seattle Seahawks had 49 yards in Week 4, and Allen ran for 78 yards on 10 attempts in Week 12. The Lions need help at linebacker and safety, so they are the perfect defense to face as Fields continues his run at the record book.

Looking ahead to Week 18, the Vikings entered Week 16 ranked 21st against quarterback runs, allowing 21.6 yards per game. Allen carried six times for 84 yards against the Vikings in Week 10, Hurts had 57 yards against them in Week 2 and Fields hit the Vikings for 47 yards on eight rushes in Week 5 before the Bears really turned him loose as a runner. The Vikings did limit Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray to 36 yards on six rushes in Week 8.

It will take consecutive big weeks, but the record isn’t out of reach for Fields.

8. It’s not at the top of the list for the offseason, but there’s no question cornerback is a need for Ryan Poles and not a want.

Losing Jaylon Johnson and Kindle Vildor to injured reserve last week was maybe a reminder of the issues at the position. Johnson will be entering the final year of his contract in 2023 unless the Bears sign him to an extension, and Vildor was sort of a placeholder when the season began.

Rookie Kyler Gordon has had ups and downs — he intercepted a pass Saturday for the second consecutive game — and the hope is he will be more polished and productive in his second season. Undrafted rookie Jaylon Jones has been feisty and I think he can provide depth, but it’s hard to play defense without more frontline talent at the position.

Just on defense, the Bears have to find a three-technique tackle (probably another tackle too) and add one pass rusher (preferably two) as well as a weak-side linebacker. Add a cornerback to that mix — and keep in mind we haven’t even looked at the list of needs for the offense.

How do you order the needs on defense? I’d start with either a tackle or an edge rusher because the roster is so barren, but keep in mind this process is fluid. It’s not as simple as saying, “Fill these needs in this order.” Poles and his staff have to be nimble and make moves based on the strength and skills of the players available in free agency and then the draft. You can’t sign a stud pass rusher in free agency if one isn’t available.

If you’re making a list, don’t forget a cornerback.

9. It was a better day for Cairo Santos, who made field goals from 37 and 35 yards and hit the only extra point he tried.

Winds were at 26 mph at kickoff, so it was a notable performance for the kicker, who had been in a funk recently, especially on extra points.

Bills kicker Tyler Bass, who is a second alternate for the Pro Bowl, missed an extra-point attempt and was wide right from 38 yards on a field-goal try.

“It was tough because you’re kicking one way and you feel the wind in your face a little bit, but when you kick it, it was actually carrying the ball,” Bass said. “I’m not going to lie, it was tricky. Playing in Buffalo is tough. Today was real tough. A lot of credit to Santos for what he did. Really impressive what he did. Exceptional.”

The Bears caught some heat last week when they chose to punt instead of attempting a 48-yard field goal. Bass said the lines he had for this game were between the 22- and 25-yard lines, meaning that unless it was an end-of-half or game-winning situation, the Bills were not going to attempt anything beyond 40 to 43 yards.

Asked about Bass’ misses, Bills coach Sean McDermott said: “I’m not going to put too much in it. Those were tough conditions.”

10. Pretty cool day for undrafted rookie tight end Chase Allen, who has spent the entire season on the practice squad.

Allen walked into a special teams meeting Tuesday at Halas Hall and got his biggest surprise of the season — his name was on the depth chart on special teams, meaning unless something wild happened, he was going to make his debut.

The Bears elevated Allen from the practice squad Friday, and he was on the field for the kickoff return to open the game. He got only two snaps on offense — he was on the field for a 3-yard run by David Montgomery on the second series and was part of the three-tight-end package on the deep pass to Velus Jones Jr.

Just before the national anthem, Allen found his family — wife Emma, father Terry, mother Lynn, brother Alex and sister Angie — in the stands behind the Bears bench, delivering some enthusiastic waves.

“They were planning on coming out (from Iowa) for Christmas anyway,” Allen said. “It just so happened I found out this week I was going live, told them, ‘It’s a Christmas miracle.’ Saw my name on the depth chart and was like, ‘All right, ready to roll.’ We’re down (Trevon) Wesco. Hopefully he should be coming back soon. Ready for my opportunity and very blessed to get one. A lot of guys never get one.”

Players get two complimentary tickets to each game, and with the terrible weather, Allen had no problem getting extra tickets from teammates for something he never will forget. The Bears used Jake Tonges, another undrafted rookie, in the third tight end role last week with Wesco dealing with a calf injury. Allen got his shot, and who knows if another one will come in the final two weeks.

“You get a chance to put something on tape late in the year, make sure it is something you are proud of,” he said.

10a. Ryan Bates, whom the Bears signed to an offer sheet as a restricted free agent in March, moved from right guard to center to fill-in for injured Mitch Morse. I asked him about the process back in the spring when he visited the Bears, Minnesota Vikings and New England Patriots and figured he would be working out of Halas Hall.

“I had full expectation I would be a Bear,” said Bates, who got a four-year, $17 million offer sheet from the Bears with $8.8 million guaranteed. “I am so fortunate for (GM) Brandon Beane and (coach) Sean McDermott to give me the opportunity to come back here. I wanted to be a Bill. I’m very fortunate to be where I am. Ryan Poles, they trusted me to come and do the job and they offered me a starter’s contract. I was fortunate that the Bills matched it.”

Bates confirmed what was thought at the time — the Bears were attempting to sign him to become their starting right guard.

10b. Jaquan Brisker’s sack of Josh Allen gave him a team-high four and put him two ahead of Justin Jones and Trevis Gipson. As I have written, it’s great that Brisker has the ability to pressure and get home. It’s a very bad thing when a safety leads a defense in sacks. That’s the pass-rushing equivalent of a running back leading an team in receptions.

10c. On the look-ahead line Tuesday at Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas, the Lions opened as a 7-point favorite over the Bears for next Sunday’s game at Ford Field.

10d. Happy holidays. Thanks for reading.



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