LAKE FOREST – Bears cornerback Kyler Gordon prepped all week to play nickel corner.
When the team puts five defensive backs on the field, Gordon is the one who guards the slot receiver. With that comes added responsibilities in run defense. The nickel also has to know what his teammates’ assignments are behind him because he can’t see them at the snap.
He spent the entire week prepping for the Bills from the slot. Then, in a surprise move, the Bears added top cornerback Jaylon Johnson to injured reserve due to rib and finger injuries on Friday. Suddenly, Gordon was the top corner on the team. It would be his job to move outside and slow Buffalo Bills star Stefon Diggs.
“I was really focusing on the nickel game and what problems I’ve got there,” Gordon said. “I watched enough film to know what was going on on the outside. Just switching out to the outside wasn’t a problem.”
Gordon helped the defense hold Diggs to 26 yards on two catches for the game, even though the Bills beat the Bears on Saturday, 35-13.
Gordon had his second interception in as many games. He picked off Josh Allen a week after intercepting Eagles’ QB Jalen Hurts. He also recovered a fumble a week ago against the Eagles.
Takeaways on takeaways on takeaways 🔥 pic.twitter.com/ixA3yGvpbZ— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) December 20, 2022
Gordon has come a long way this season. He was the team’s top draft pick last spring, 39th overall. He was the first of two second-round picks for the Bears, who also took safety Jaquan Brisker nine picks later at 48th overall. The Bears made a strong commitment to the secondary in the draft, and that unit is one of the few bright spots for Matt Eberflus’ defense this season.
Gordon, who played the slot in college, never backed away from the challenge, even after Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers ate him up in Week 2.
“Honestly, [it’s] having all that [playing] time and the little mistakes here and there that I keep building up and saving in my memory bank,” Gordon said. “Taking all my experience and putting it out there. I feel it in myself, too. I just feel confident in everything I do. I’m growing and growing and growing.”
Gordon was playing at a high level on Nov. 20 in Atlanta when he left the game due to a concussion. He missed two more games and had three total weeks to recover thanks to the Bears’ bye week.
Even with three weeks off, he didn’t appear to miss a beat when he took the field against Philadelphia.
“I thought it showed good maturity for him to take that time off and then be able to stay focused and have that energy that he had,” Eberflus said. “I thought he tackled solidly. He was good there.”
Gordon’s game has improved with experience. With 12 starts under his belt, he’s at a point where the NFL game isn’t new to him anymore. Prior to Sunday’s game, Gordon said he wanted to use the last four games of the season to show how he has grown.
Three takeaways in the last two weeks is a great way to start.
“Comfortability just comes with being relaxed, being calm and being poised,” Gordon said. “With that, just being calm and being able to see a lot of things on the field as far as formations, cuts, splits in your mental game that I’m trying to show and give off.”
Gordon will have to be the team’s top cornerback during each of the last two games of the season. Johnson will be out for the rest of the season.
He feels much more ready for that task now than he did at the beginning of the season.
“The first couple games, me going back and forth and stuff and having a lot of stuff thrown at me,” Gordon said. “I’m just trying to be a perfectionist and do everything right. I just know once I got settled in and comfortable everything clicked.”