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3 young Bears produced impact plays vs. Bills

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A strip/sack that resulted in a takeaway. An impressive touchdown run. And a long field goal.

Three young Bears players produced impact plays in the fourth quarter of Saturday's preseason loss to the Bills that show how they're capable of performing at the sport's highest level. Here are the three that excelled:

Trevis Gipson, outside linebacker

The 2020 fifth-round pick from Tulsa raced around Bills right tackle Jordan Devey, chased down quarterback Davis Webb and swatted the ball out of Webb's left arm as he brought him to the ground. Linebacker Caleb Johnson recovered the fumble at the Bills' 33. 

"It's very rewarding," Gipson said of creating a takeaway with an impressive strip/sack. "Being around the guys that are in my room—Khalil Mack, Robert Quinn—those guys set a high standard. The standard is set, so I have to [live] up to it and show that the hard work is paying off."

With the Bears placing a major emphasis on generating takeaways, Gipson's play no doubt will enhance his chances of earning more playing time. 

"Our defensive coordinator (Sean Desai) preaches, 'Just punch the ball out, keep your eyes on the ball wherever the ball is,' so I just kept my eyes on it and chased it down and gave my best attempt to punch it out," Gipson said.

After playing defensive end at Tulsa, Gipson was converted to outside linebacker last year as a Bears rookie. With all offseason practices and preseason games cancelled due to COVID-19, it wasn't an easy transition. But after a year of experience, he's clearly more comfortable on the field. 

Gipson was pleased with the play he made against the Bills but hopes it's just the first of many.

"I know there are more out there to be made, and that's my goal, to try to get a strip/sack every chance I get," Gipson said. "It was a nice one, but I want to get more."

Khalil Herbert, running back

The rookie sixth-round pick from Virginia Tech scored the Bears' second and final touchdown of the game on an impressive 13-yard run up the middle. A trap block by left guard Arlington Hambright opened a hole, and the four other linemen—left tackle Larry Borom, center Adam Redmond, right guard Dieter Eiselen and right tackle Lachavious Simmons all delivered blocks as well. 

"It's a blessing," Herbert said after scoring his first NFL touchdown. "I really just followed my keys and the line did a good job, the receivers blocked downfield and I just kind of walked in there."

Herbert's teammates certainly executed their assignments very well, but the rookie running back also did his part, breaking tackle attempts at the 6- and 4-yard lines en route to the end zone. 

"It's definitely something we work on a lot, not letting the first person tackle us," Herbert said. "[Running backs coach Michael Pitre] does a great job of doing drills and we just practice it all week. We pride ourselves on making the first guy miss."

Herbert's TD run came one play after rookie quarterback Justin Fields was drilled by linebacker Andre Smith with an illegal helmet-to-helmet hit that drew a 15-yard penalty. Herbert revealed that the vicious blow fired up Fields' teammates. 

"Everybody was kind of ready to go," Herbert said. "We try not to let the quarterback get hit. We've got to go back to the drawing board and fix some things. But after that, everybody was a little pissed off, so we definitely wanted to punch it in."

Brian Johnson, kicker

After arguably the best season by a kicker in Bears history, Cairo Santos is entrenched in the position. But Johnson, an undrafted rookie from Virginia Tech—where he teamed with Herbert—booted a 54-yard field goal with 5:29 remaining in Saturday's game.

Johnson made his only other a field-goal attempt of the preseason—a 44-yarder in the opener against the Dolphins—and is showing the Bears that he could be a quality backup option should Santos suffer an injury.  

"He's been doing really, really well, and he has a big leg," special teams coordinator Chris Tabor said of Johnson last week. "I've been really proud of him. The other guys have really embraced him. He's followed their routine. He's figured out that these guys know what they're doing with regards to off-the-field stuff; how they take care of their bodies and their legs—those types of things—and he has a routine. I know he's a rookie, but he's not really a normal rookie. That's what I like about the kid. He's playing well and fits in the room well.

"We're fortunate to have a really good kicker [in Santos] and we're also fortunate we have a really good young kicker [in Johnson]. I think sometimes teams—I hate to use the [term]—have 'camp legs.' Our guy is not a camp leg. He's a real live kicker."

See the game unfold through the lenses of our sideline photographers as the Bears face off against the Bills in Chicago during the second preseason match.

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