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Bears QB Bagent ultra-efficient in first NFL start

Bears quarterback Tyson Bagent
Bears quarterback Tyson Bagent

Bears quarterback Tyson Bagent looked more like a seasoned pro Sunday at Soldier Field than an undrafted rookie making his first NFL start.

The 23-year-old completed 21 of 29 passes for 162 yards with one touchdown, no turnovers and a 97.2 passer rating in an impressive 30-12 win over the Raiders.

Not bad for someone whose last start came last Dec. 10 for Division II Shepherd University against the Colorado School of Mines. 

"There was poise, pocket presence," said coach Matt Eberflus. "He did get some pressure sometimes and he did evade the rush. He got the ball down the field, and I thought he did a nice job of distributing the ball [to] skill, and that was good to see to multiple receivers and all those things. That was good."

Making quick throws, Bagent completed passes to eight different teammates. He consistently moved the chains, helping the Bears convert a season-high 61.5 percent of their third-down opportunities (8 of 13).

One key factor in Bagent's success was avoiding negative plays. He dropped back to pass 33 times and only one of those snaps resulted in a loss of yardage—on a Maxx Crosby sack late in the first half.

Bagent scrambled three times for 24 yards and extended plays with his legs before completing passes of 6 yards to Tyler Scott and 15 yards to DJ Moore.

One of Bagent's best decisions resulted in an incompletion. On third-and-six from the Bears' 34 early in the second quarter, the Raiders snuffed out a screen pass. Rather than taking a sack or making a risky throw to running back Darrynton Evans, Bagent wisely fired the ball into the ground, and the Bears punted on the next play.

"I feel like that's a staple of how I've always tried to play quarterback," Bagent said, "just getting the ball out of your hands and just trying to combine that with making really good decisions. I think I got away with in college a lot of times getting the ball out of your hand but also forcing some things because I had that freedom to do so. At this level, we are trying to be plus-two [in turnover ratio], what coach Flus preaches to us every week. So I just kind of had that in the back of my head all week, like, 'Hey, if it's not there, play the next play. End every drive with a kick,' which we were able to do."

Bagent became the first Bears quarterback to win his first NFL start since Craig Krenzel Oct. 31, 2004, in a 23-13 victory over the 49ers. Bagent also joined Chase Daniel as the only quarterbacks to win their first starts with the Bears since 2005. Of the last 19 quarterbacks to open a game for the team, Bagent's 97.2 passer rating was the second highest in a first Bears start, trailing only Daniel's 106.8 in a 23-16 win over the Lions Nov. 22, 2018.

Bagent exuded poise and confidence Sunday, traits that he no doubt formed from spending so much time on task in high school and college. While inexperienced as a pro, Bagent was a three-year starter at Martinsburg High School in West Virginia and then played 53 games at Shepherd, where he set a record for most touchdown passes across all NCAA divisions with 159.

"I feel like I played a million games at quarterback," Bagent said. "I was able to win the job in high school my sophomore year, and then I started every game through my senior year of college. So that's seven years of starting, understanding what the week of preparation looks like, and going through pretty much every concept and run concept that there is. Repetition, mother of all learners, and I've been pleased to have a lot of repetition in my life." 

Bagent earned a game ball Sunday for his performance, which came in front of more than 50 relatives and friends. Asked how many tickets he had to purchase for the contest, he said: "A lot. My paycheck probably won't look the same this week." 

For Bagent, it was a relatively small amount to pay for a priceless experience.

Check out the best images—taken by Bears photographers—from Sunday's 30-12 victory over the Raiders at Soldier Field.