When Jakeem Grant finds open space, he can fly.
The Bears knew this already, but the nation saw it first-hand on Sunday Night Football when Grant ran a punt return 97 yards for a touchdown. Grant touched a top speed of 21.33 miles per hour, according to NFL Next Gen Stats.
It marked the fastest run of Week 14 in the NFL and currently ranks as the 19th-fastest run of the season by a ball carrier. Nobody in the NFL had returned a punt for a touchdown this season until Grant.
The 97-yard punt return registered as the longest in Bears history. Johnny Bailey previous set the mark at 95 yards on Dec. 29, 1990, against the Kansas City Chiefs.
The last Bears punt return touchdown of any length was Bryce Callahan’s 59-yard punt return touchdown on Dec. 31, 2017, against Minnesota.
Grant also scored on a 46-yard touchdown reception after a short pass from quarterback Justin Fields. He became the first Bears player to return a punt for a touchdown and catch a touchdown pass in the same game since Devin Hester did so on Dec. 20, 2010, in a win over Minnesota.
Hester returned 14 punts for touchdowns during his illustrious NFL career (13 came with the Bears). His career-long punt return touchdown went for 89 yards.
For Grant, the score marked the fourth punt return touchdown in his career. He also has two kick return touchdowns.
Here’s what other stats and figures stood out in Week 14.
Scoring barrage: The Bears scored 24 points in the second quarter. Up to that point, the team had scored 24 points in only two games. The Bears and Packers combined for 45 points in the second quarter, which was the most in any quarter of the Bears-Packers rivalry since 1955, when they combined for 42 points in the fourth quarter. The Bears won that game 52-31 on Nov. 6, 1955, at Wrigley Field.
The last time the Bears scored 24 points in a single quarter came in a Nov. 4, 2018, win over the Buffalo Bills, 41-9, at Soldier Field. The Bears scored 28 points in the second quarter of that game.
They came close last year, scoring 23 points in the second quarter of a December win over the Houston Texans.
Sunday also marked the first time since at least 1925 (which is as far back as reliable scoring data exists), that there were five touchdowns of 35 yards or more in a single quarter of NFL action, per NFL Research.
Rookie records: Justin Fields has now thrown the third-most passing yards by a Bears rookie quarterback ever. With 1,585 passing yards on the season, Fields has surpassed Jim McMahon (1,501 in 1982) for third. He trails only Kyle Orton (1,869 in 2005) and Mitchell Trubisky (2,193 in 2017). With four games remaining, he has a shot to catch Trubisky’s rookie record.
Fields’ 133 completions is also third, trailing only Orton (190) and Trubisky (196) in their rookie seasons. His six touchdown passes still trails several former Bears rookies. Orton’s and McMahon’s nine rookie touchdown passes top that list. Fields’ 10 interceptions are also closing in on the top three. Zeke Bratkowski threw 17 picks as a rookie in 1954. Orton threw 13 in 2005 and Bob Avellini threw 11 in 1975.
Under pressure: The Packers pressured Fields on 19 of his 35 dropbacks, according to Next Gen Stats. It marked the Packers’ highest pressure rate in a game since 2019.
Fields completed 8-of-17 passes under pressure for 122 yards. That was the most passing yards by a rookie under pressure in the NFL this season. Fields also scrambled seven times for 71 yards and four first downs.
Fields’ 93 “rushing yards over expected” for the season is third among NFL quarterbacks behind only Buffalo’s Josh Allen (110) and Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson (152).
Quinn continues: Robert Quinn added two more sacks, moving his season total to 14. As I explained a couple weeks ago, Quinn is on pace for one of the best seasons by a Bears pass rusher ever. Only Jim Osborne’s 15 sacks in 1976 (before sacks were an official stat) and Richard Dent’s 17 sacks in 1985 and 17.5 sacks in 1984 are ahead of Quinn.
With two more sacks Sunday, Quinn has surpassed Khalil Mack’s 12.5 sacks in 2018. It’s Quinn’s second-highest total ever, trailing only his All-Pro season with the Rams in 2013 when he had 19 sacks.
Quinn’s 14 sacks are tied for third in the NFL behind T.J. Watt’s 16 and Myles Garrett’s 15. Nick Bosa also has 14 sacks.
Johnson vs. Adams: Cornerback Jaylon Johnson guarded Packers receiver Davante Adams throughout much of the first quarter Sunday. Johnson stayed with Adams when he was lined up on the outside of the formation. Adams lined up wide on all six of his routes in the first quarter, per Next Gen Stats. The Packers moved him inside on nearly half of his routes the rest of the game.
Although Adams finished his day with 10 catches for 121 yards and two touchdowns, Johnson actually performed well against him. Adams caught just two of five targets for 19 yards when Johnson was the nearest defender, although one was a touchdown in the second half. Adams caught all eight of his targets against other defenders, totaling 102 yards.
On the touchdown against Johnson, Adams faked like he was running a fade route to the corner of the end zone, then cut inside for a 3-yard touchdown catch.
Johnson acknowledged after the game that he needs to improve his knowledge of the slot position in order to follow a receiver inside like Adams everywhere. Playing the slot cornerback spot involves a different understanding of zone coverages and the run game.
Snap observations: In his return from a hamstring injury, Bears receiver Allen Robinson played 48 snaps (77% of offensive snaps), yet caught only two passes for 14 yards. Darnell Mooney played 57 snaps (92%), the most of any Bears skill position players.
One week after his season-low snap count, defensive tackle Eddie Goldman played 27 snaps (42% of defensive snaps). Interestingly, veteran pass rusher Bruce Irvin out-snapped second-year outside linebacker Trevis Gipson (39 snaps for Irvin, 32 for Gipson). Irvin started the game ahead of Gipson. It was his first start of the season.
Defensive back DeAndre Houston-Carson played 26 defensive snaps before fracturing his forearm. The injury will end his 2021 season. Houston-Carson has been the Swiss army knife of the Bears defensive back corp. He filled in at safety when Eddie Jackson missed time with a hamstring injury, and he has played the slot corner during stretches too. It seems likely that rookie Thomas Graham could be pulled up from the practice squad.