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How the Chicago Bears’ top two 2021 draft picks fared against the Green Bay Packers.
The Chicago Bears were trailing by one point in the third quarter Sunday night at Lambeau Field when Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Preston Smith came up with a game-changing play.
As Bears rookie quarterback Justin Fields dropped back to pass, Smith moved past tight end Jimmy Graham and then ran around rookie left tackle Teven Jenkins to get to Fields. Smith pulled down Fields from behind, jarring the football loose in the process, and teammate Rashan Gary recovered.
One play later, the Packers had an eight-point lead on Aaron Rodgers’ 23-yard touchdown pass to Aaron Jones.
That’s a tough spot for Tev,” Fields said. “I know he wanted to play great today. The sack he gave up, I just told him, ‘Look, it’s your first game. Prime time, Sunday night. You’re a rookie, first-ever playing time right now. Of course you’re going to make mistakes. You have to go in there knowing you’re going to make mistakes and just learn from them and make sure they don’t happen again.’
“He was pretty bummed about it, but I just told him don’t worry about and just move on to the next play, next drive.”
Jenkins’ appearance on offense was unplanned and after the Bears drafted him with the 39th pick out of Oklahoma State, he missed the first 11 games because he had back surgery in August. He returned to practice in November and saw his first game action last week, playing two snaps on extra points.
The Bears said they wanted Jenkins to learn behind nine-time Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters, but Jenkins was pushed into action Sunday when Peters went down with an ankle injury on the Bears’ second drive.
Three plays after Jenkins entered, he committed a false-start penalty that pushed the Bears on second down from the Packers 3-yard line to the 8. The Bears didn’t get in the end zone and settled for a 23-yard Cairo Santos field goal.
It was one of four times Jenkins was flagged. He was called for false starts twice and holding twice, one of which was declined because it was on the strip-sack.
“It’s never easy coming into this league as a rookie at tackle,” Bears coach Matt Nagy said. “I love Teven. I think he’s going to have a really, really good career. His future is very, very bright, and you learn from these moments. So he’ll be just fine, and he’s going to rally and he’s going to do everything he can to get better.”
But Fields also helped drive the Bears’ 27-21 halftime lead, including responding to the pick-six by hitting Damiere Byrd with a nice pass up the middle that Byrd turned into a 54-yard touchdown on the next drive.
“He’s so mentally tough,” Nagy said. “In this moment, in this stage, when you throw a pick-six, that’s not easy. A lot of guys hang on to that. Not Justin. It actually juices him up a little bit and he gets fired up.”
Depending on the extent of Peters’ injury — and Fields’ health — the Bears have four more games this season to assess how their top two draft picks are developing.
While making clear the Bears knew they needed to put up more points in the second half to keep up with the Packers — the Bears went three-and-out on three second-half drives — Fields said he will focus on the positives from the game.
“That’s one of the hardest things when you are losing,” he said. “There are so many people saying you suck, this and that. But you have to look at the positives and build on that and just know this isn’t going to change overnight. You have to keep building.”