DENVER – The Bears rallied in dramatic fashion to beat the Broncos 24-23 in Saturday night's preseason game in Denver, erasing a 23-10 deficit with two late touchdowns.
Backup quarterback Chase Daniel threw TD passes of 2 yards to running back Taquan Mizzell with 4:38 remaining and 12 yards to tight end Ben Braunecker with 1:53 to play, lifting the Bears to their first preseason win in three games.
Needing only a field goal to retake the lead, the Broncos reached the Bears' 38. But nickel back Cre'Von LeBlanc stripped the ball from receiver Isaiah McKenzie after a 1-yard reception and Isaiah Irving recovered the fumble with :57 left to clinch the victory.
"That was an exciting win for our team," said coach Matt Nagy. "I was happy with their resilience of staying into the game there. We had so many different types of situations that we as a staff and players can learn from. I think it's really going to help us in the future here as we go."
Long before the comeback, the Bears' No. 1 offense experienced mixed results in its most expanded preseason action. Playing four series, the starting unit produced one touchdown, 129 yards and 11 first downs on 26 plays before exiting late in the first half.
Mitchell Trubisky completed 9 of 14 passes for 90 yards and a 76.5 passer rating. Trubisky and tight end Trey Burton connected on four passes for 45 yards, including a 7-yard touchdown. But the Bears starting quarterback also threw an interception and fumbled in the end zone, resulting in a safety.
"As far as the beginning of the game with the starters, it was good," Nagy said. "If you asked me the other day what the goal was coming out of this, it was to get some rhythm, get some first downs, not get three-and-outs, and protect the football. For the most part, I thought that Mitch and those guys did a pretty good job."
The Bears had an opportunity to take the lead on the game's opening possession, but Cody Parkey's 52-yard field goal attempt sailed wide left. Trubisky completed 4 of 7 passes for 43 yards on the drive, including three passes for 38 yards to Burton.
After the Broncos went three-and-out, the Bears took over at their own 5. On third-and-13 from the 2, what looked like an accurate shotgun snap from center Cody Whitehair squirted through Trubisky's hands. The Bears quarterback recovered the ball in the end zone but was tackled immediately by linebacker Bradley Chubb, resulting in a safety that gave the Broncos a 2-0 lead.
The Broncos widened the margin to 5-0 on Brandon McManus' 26-yard field goal.
But the Bears responded, taking a 7-5 lead on Trubisky's 7-yard touchdown pass to Burton on the first play of the second quarter. The TD capped a five-play, 75-yard drive that was sustained by a 37-yard defensive pass interference penalty on third-and-15.
Trubisky faked a handoff to Jordan Howard to the left and rolled to his right, flipping a pass to the wide-open Burton, who waltzed into the end zone.
The Broncos answered immediately as Royce Freeman's 4-yard touchdown run coupled with Case Keenum's two-point conversion pass to tight end Jeff Heuerman put Denver ahead 13-7. The TD came one play after cornerback Doran Grant drew a 45-yard pass interference penalty.
Trubisky was then intercepted by safety Justin Simmons, who cut inside Tarik Cohen to pick off the pass over the middle and return it 20 yards to the Bears' 44.
"[Cohen], he's a really good route runner from the backfield and does a lot of good things," Nagy said. "On that one in particular, if you looked at it, he was going to cut inside and then for whatever reason he felt a defender cut in front of him and he stopped, and I think he learned that you can't do that. [But] they'll be fine. They'll fix it and you learn from it."
The Broncos converted the interception into Chad Kelly's 16-yard touchdown pass to rookie receiver Courtland Sutton, increasing their lead to 20-7 with 2:26 left in the half.
Parkey's 43-yard field goal drew the Bears to within 20-10 with :32 remaining in the half. The kick was set up by Daniel's 30-yard pass to receiver Marlon Brown. Daniel completed 19 of 28 passes for 189 yards and a 110.6 passer rating in the game.
The Broncos increased their lead to 23-10 on McManus' 35-yard field goal midway through the third quarter before Daniel and the Bears staged their late rally.
"In the end, we got the win," Nagy said. "It feels good. The guys are happy and [we're] onto Soldier Field and have a home game next week finally."
Follow the game from a different point of view as the Bears take on the Broncos at Mile High Stadium in Denver, Colorado.