Back in Week 5 as the Bears were prepping to head to Minnesota, cornerback Kyler Gordon switched up his routine. The Bears' first pick of the 2022 draft felt the rookie growing pains through his first few NFL games.
Gordon endured struggles in a Week 2 matchup in Green Bay as veteran quarterback Aaron Rodgers targeted the rookie 13 times, which led to 10 completions for 163 yards. Then in Week 4 against the Giants, Gordon improved in coverage but faced difficulties against the run and gave up a 40-yard pass interference penalty.
So, the following week, Gordon leaned on his coaches and experienced teammates to help restructure his daily approach, particularly when it came to film study. He started watching more film and changed the way he viewed it by "creating a filter for me to see things easier and recognize stuff" that was tailored to his play style. That next game against the Vikings, Gordon felt recharged and calmer than he'd been all season.
"Coming into this, everyone said you're going to learn so much and experience this and that and go through rough parts," Gordon said. "In my head, I know what I can be and what I can do, so once I got acclimated and comfortable and understood and got even just a little bit of experience to know where I am and my whereabouts and just be aware of everything, I knew I was gonna be cool and chillin'. Once everything clicked, it was just simple."
Since that Minnesota game, Gordon has retained that calm demeanor. While he's still experienced typical ups and downs like any rookie, he's experienced substantial growth "in all aspects of my game whether it's mentally, physically, technically."
However, Gordon suffered a concussion against the Falcons on Nov. 20, missing the following two games and pausing some of that progress. Because of the Bears' late bye, Gordon was unable to compete for three straight weeks. While he stayed engaged mentally as much as possible, nothing could replicate the on-field experience as rookie.
Gordon was cleared following the bye week ahead of the Bears' matchup with Philadelphia which boasts the NFL's top scoring offense, led by Pro Bowl quarterback Jalen Hurts. The cornerback, who was "twice as hyped" and felt "a surge of energy" when taking the field last Sunday, created an instant impact for the Bears defense, intercepting Hurts on the Eagles' opening possession.
"Just being out for those two, three weeks, I was just itching to play the entire time so just really wanted to touch the football and do something," Gordon said. "But being able to be out there and make those plays, it's energizing, it's fun and exciting and just something I want to keep repeating over and over again."
The Bears spent a chilly Wednesday afternoon on the practice fields at Halas Hall getting ready for their Christmas Eve matchup with the Buffalo Bills.
The rookie added another takeaway later in the game, recovering a fumble by running back Miles Sanders that tackle Mike Pennel Jr. forced, and finished the contest with four tackles and one pass breakup.
"I thought it was good," coach Matt Eberflus said of Gordon's performance. "I thought it showed good maturity for him to take that time off and then be able to stay focused and have that energy that he had. I thought he tackled solidly. He was good there."
In the first year of his NFL career, Gordon has been tasked with competing against multiple elite quarterbacks like Rodgers, Hurts and the Bills' Josh Allen, who comes to town Saturday.
While Gordon hoped to face Rodgers again this season, he missed the second matchup while in concussion protocol. Against Hurts, Gordon flashed his continued growth, accounting for one of just five interceptions the Eagles QB has thrown this season. Now with the upcoming challenge of playing Allen, Gordon believes facing some of the league's best as a rookie is invaluable experience.
"I wouldn't want it any other way," Gordon said. "I wouldn't want to build up and go from the bottom of the charts to the top. I want to play the best and I feel like that's what makes you the best. Iron sharpens iron, like everyone says and it just gives you an opportunity to really show that you can compete and battle with those dudes. Yeah, I love it really."