Offensive line coach Harry Hiestand said that the team moved Cody Whitehair back to center in order to balance out the line.
The move ended a season-long experiment to switch Whitehair and James Daniels back to their college positions. According to Hiestand, the principal cause for the reversal was losing guard Kyle Long to injury. For the next three weeks, the Bears lined up the second-year Daniels next to Rashaad Coward, who switched over from defense last season.
"You have Kyle over there: veteran, steadying guy next to James between him and Bobby [Massie]," said Hiestand. "Now you have a guy that was a defensive lineman playing that spot, and with Cody in there, it's a steadying factor. The facts are James is a really good football player, but he's learning on the job as a -year-old guy playing in the NFL."
Young for his graduating high school class and entering the NFL after only three years, Daniels only turned 22 in September. Whitehair took over the center position as a 24-year-old rookie. Hiestand stressed that the move was not an indictment of Daniels at the position but based on team chemistry.
Hiestand is a fan of Daniels wherever he lines up.
"I just like him period," said Hiestand. "I just like him as a football player and as a person. He gives us everything he has every day. He's got a lot of ability, and over time, as he gets stronger and becomes more confident playing in this league and grows and matures, he's gonna be fun to watch."
Hiestand said that Daniels took the change in stride and didn't rule out a switch back to center in the future.
Wide receivers need short memories: Receivers coach Mike Furrey talked about dealing with frustration in his position group. He drew a comparison between some of his players and teaching his 12-year-old son the reality of sports.
"I hate to use this example," said Furrey, "but my son last night missed a layup in a basketball game, and all of a sudden, he wants to be frustrated because he's not scoring points. Michael Jordan missed baskets. I've never seen quarterbacks go 100 percent completion percentage in games. They're going to miss throws."
Furrey said that it was up to the receivers to make life easier on quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, singling out Taylor Gabriel as an example for better or worse.
"Like last night," said Furrey, "Turbo had the deep cross on the deep over, big third-down play in the beginning of the game. Dropped the ball. That's not Mitch's fault. That's our fault."
Furrey said that Gabriel had been an excellent example of putting his mistakes behind him, rectifying his earlier drop by catching a 24-yard touchdown in the third quarter on a similar route. Furrey said that Gabriel's precision on that play demonstrated how far the 28-year-old speedster has come as a route runner.
"You have to have just as short of a memory as DBs do when they get beat when you're not getting the football," said Furrey. "You better line back up and get ready to go because if you're sitting there pouting about not getting the football and the football comes to you, you're not being the player that we want you to be."
Braunecker adds a spark: Tight end Ben Braunecker stepped into a more prominent role against the Lions with Adam Shaheen being inactive. Braunecker made the most of the opportunity, scoring the first touchdown by a Bears tight end this season.
What does the four-year pro bring to the table?
"Speed," said tight end coach Kevin Gilbride. "He's got a lot of physical attributes to him, but speed is his number one."
Braunecker has spent most of the season third on the depth chart, but with Trey Burton dealing with nagging injuries, he may provide a spark filling in for either Burton or Shaheen.
"He's always had to know every role," said Gilbride. "He's got to know the inline 'Y' position. He's got to know the 'U' position. He needs to know everything, and he's thrown in, at times, at every role. We just felt that he was the best matchup for that particular route concept."