GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Bears believed in Jakeem Grant, and that’s all he needed.
After the Miami Dolphins gave up on Grant as an offensive player, all but relegating him to a special teams ace, Grant believed he simply needed a chance. He found one in Chicago.
The Bears traded a 2023 sixth-round draft pick to Miami in October in exchange for Grant. Make no mistake, he is still primarily a special teams weapon, but the last two weeks showed that he can do a lot more than return kicks.
Grant’s versatility was apparent in Sunday’s 45-30 loss to the Packers. Grant scored two touchdowns, one on a 46-yard reception and another on a 97-yard punt return.
“They, honestly, trusted me right off the bat and they just told me that we got to get you in [on offense], we got to get you to learn the plays,” Grant said. “That’s all I needed from any coaches or any offense, to be able to trust me.”
A week earlier, Grant had what was – up to that point – his best game as a member of the Bears, catching five passes for 62 yards and one touchdown. But Sunday’s performance was on another level.
His touchdown reception came on a quick toss from quarterback Justin Fields. Grant caught a shovel pass behind the line of scrimmage and hit another gear as he ran up the left sideline. He managed to reach the pylon before being knocked out of bounds.
Later in the first half, Grant fielded a punt inside the 5-yard line, and looked to be going nowhere. He had nothing but Packers tacklers ahead of him, so he changed directions, juked his way to the left and found open space.
Grant returned the punt 97 yards for a touchdown. It was the longest punt return in Bears history and tied for the 10th-longest punt return in NFL history, according to ESPN Stats and Info.
In total, Grant ended the day with 182 yards accounted for.
The Bears entered the game believing they could win the special teams battle. They felt like they played well against Green Bay’s special teams units when they met in Week 6, and they knew they could do it again.
Khalil Herbert averaged 25.6 yards per kick return on five returns, with two returns of 40 yards or more. Grant totaled 131 yards on his three punt returns. Even the most optimistic of game plans doesn’t really expect to see a 97-yard punt return.
Last week against Arizona, Grant let one punt drop inside the 10-yard line. That play ate at him this week. He didn’t want to leave his offense with its back against the wall again.
“That was the biggest thing on my mind this week,” Grant said. “Honestly, I had no plan at all [on the return]. I caught the ball and was like, you could see, I kind of sat there for a second and then I went to the right and I was like, ‘Oh, wait, that’s too many people.’”
He looked for running back Damien Williams, who helped spring Grant open with a well-timed block along the sideline.