Before the Bears-Lions game even kicked off, quarterback Chase Daniel had a false start.
Surrounded by his team in the tunnel, ready to take the field, Daniel — making his first start since December 2014 — jumped the gun. The quarterback put his head down and started jogging onto the field. There was a problem though. Daniel was alone. The rest of the offense wasn't following him. Lucky for Daniel, he didn't get too far before offensive linemen Eric Kush and Charles Leno Jr. signaled him back.
"The guy said, 'Let's go Bears, you're running out of the tunnel.' "Daniel said in good spirits after the game. "So I turn around and I run three steps, and I look back and I'm like 'Oh my gosh,' … Not one of my proudest moments."
When he finally did take the field, though, and his first snap as a starter in 1,425 days, he proved that the wait was well worth it.
Daniel — who started in place of quarterback Mitchell Trubisky who suffered a right shoulder injury in the Bears win over the Vikings on Sunday — signed with the team in the offseason. The nine-year veteran has made a career out of being a viable backup quarterback option, and Thursday he proved his value leading the Bears to a 23-16 win in Detroit.
Daniel connected with Anthony Miller on his first play of the game, but missed receivers on second and third down as the Bears went three and out in their first series.
It wasn't the way Chicago's offense wanted to come out of the gate, but it was the beginning of Daniel finding his rhythm as the new man under center.
"At first we were a little off, whether it be timing or jitters for myself," Daniel said. "We just didn't play very well, and that all starts with me, that starts with the quarterback of this offense."
After three first-quarter drives that didn't produce points, Daniel and the offense started to find their groove in the second quarter. On their first drive of the quarter, Daniel hit receiver Taylor Gabriel on the right side of the field for a seven-yard pickup and then found tight end Trey Burton cutting across the middle for a gain of 13. Three plays later, Daniel had one of his best throws of the game, tossing a perfect arc to receiver Allen Robinson II down the right sideline.
The play set up a Bears field goal to give Chicago its first points.
"I think it was knocking off a little rust," Daniel said about the second-quarter adjustments. "Just taking a deep breathe in the pocket. You know, there were guys open all day."
After a quick three and out by the Lions offense, Daniel got the ball back with under two minutes in the half and led an efficient charge down the field. Daniel hit Miller on a second-and-three play in which Daniel threw a perfect lead ball to get 26 yards.
Fifty seconds later, Daniel found running back Taquan Mizzell Sr. wide open in the left corner of the end zone for his second career touchdown pass.
A two-point conversion attempt failed, but the five-play, five-completion drive sent the Bears into halftime up 9-7 and feeling good about Daniel leading the way.
In the third quarter, after two series that netted nothing, Daniel found a rhythm again, connecting to receiver Joshua Bellamy across the middle, then hitting Gabriel on the left for a first down.
Two plays later, the Bears got creative with the playcalling. Daniel threw the ball behind scrimmage to Miller and then ran out as a receiver and caught an eight-yard pass from Miller. It set the Bears up for their second touchdown of the day when Daniel connected with running back Tarik Cohen in the end zone, a near duplicate of a first-quarter play that Daniel had overthrown Cohen on.
In reflecting on his performance, in which he finished 27-37 with a career-high 230 passing yards, Daniel defined what he believes it means to be a backup at his position.
"The job of a backup quarterback is to get the starter ready and to be prepared when your opportunity comes," Daniel said. "And I felt like I did that pretty well."