With starting quarterback Justin Fields sidelined, the Bears lost a preseason matchup 24-17 against the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
The coaches elected to keep Fields out of the game in order to rest. The Bears had just finished two days of joint practices with the Colts earlier this week. Head coach Matt Eberflus said Fields put in a lot of good work during the week.
So it was backup quarterback PJ Walker who earned the start with Fields sidelined, but it was undrafted rookie Tyson Bagent who stole the show. More on that later. Here’s what stood out Saturday.
Starters take a rest
In addition to Fields, the vast majority of starters sat out Saturday’s game. On offense, receivers Equanimeous St. Brown and Dante Pettis were the only regular contributors who started the game. Running back D’Onta Foreman did play, too.
Defensively, linebacker Jack Sanborn started for the Bears. Rookie cornerbacks Tyrique Stevenson and Terell Smith, who are battling for a starting spot, were the only expected starters who played Saturday.
Otherwise, the starters sat this one out. The Colts followed suit, sitting starting quarterback Anthony Richardson, the No. 4 overall draft pick. Richardson dressed for the game but did not play.
Bagent’s got game
Undrafted rookie quarterback Tyson Bagent stole the show in the second quarter. Bagent led the Bears’ offense on a 92-yard touchdown drive that was capped off by Bagent diving into the end zone himself for the score.
Bagent went 7-for-8 passing on the drive for 61 yards. For the game, he finished 9 for 10 for 76 yards with one sack.
He entered the game early in the second quarter, relieving Walker from his starting duties. Walker went 1 for 4 for 6 yards during his time on the field. Nathan Peterman was the third quarterback to enter the game, playing throughout the second half.
The Bears signed Bagent as an undrafted rookie out of Division II Shepherd in West Virginia. He was a two-time All-American at the D-II level and won the 2021 Harlon Hill Trophy, which is the D-II version of the Heisman Trophy.
The fact that the Bears trotted out Bagent before Peterman seems notable. Peterman served as the No. 3 quarterback last season, but it was Bagent who took the field with the third-team offense Saturday.
Tyrique Stevenson draws attention
Stevenson, the rookie corner, once again was in the middle of the action. He drew a penalty for a late hit in the first quarter. Penalty aside, he kept finding himself near the football. Stevenson had three total tackles in his brief time on the field.
He nearly had an interception in the first quarter when Colts quarterback Gardner Minshew scrambled in the pocket and zipped a pass toward the back of the end zone. Stevenson leaped for the ball, but it seemed to go right through his hands and into the arms of Colts receiver Juwann Winfree.
A week ago, Stevenson had seven tackles, one tackle for loss and a pass defended. The second-round draft pick appears to be on his way to a starting job with the Bears’ defense.
Roschon Johnson looks good
Rookie Roschon Johnson once again looked like a strong, physical option at running back. Starting running back Khalil Herbert had the day off. Veteran back D’Onta Foreman saw some action, rushing for 12 yards on three carries.
But then Johnson took over and took advantage of a couple of big holes by the reserve offensive line. Johnson totaled 32 yards on seven carries, with a long of 14 yards. This came a week after Johnson rushed for 44 yards on 12 carries in the preseason opener.
The rookie, while still behind Herbert and Foreman on the depth chart, looks more and more like he will be a serious contender for snaps during the regular season.
Late comeback falls short
Not that the score really mattered, but the Bears reserves blew a 10-point lead. After a 35-yard touchdown pass from Peterman to Daurice Fountain, the Bears held a 17-7 lead. The Colts scored back-to-back touchdowns to take the lead back.
With the clock ticking under four minutes, Peterman attempted to lead the offense down field for a game-winning touchdown. That’s when he handed the ball off to rookie running back Robert Burns.
Burns had been having a good night. The undrafted rookie from UConn finished with 40 rushing yards on eight carries. But on a late fourth-quarter run, he broke free for a 12-yard gain, then had the ball knocked free at the tail end of the run. The Colts pounced on the fumble.
The Bears did have one more shot and Peterman led the offense into positive territory. He took one shot at the end zone, which fell incomplete, then was sacked to end the game.