Eddie Royal brought the ball to his chest, secured possession and looked up-field; suddenly, his eyes got big with the sight in front of him. With nothing but green grass between him and the end zone, the Bears' veteran wide receiver cut and just took off running. Royal had already hauled in one touchdown in Sunday's Week 4 contest against the Lions. The only thing that separated him from six more points was 55 yards of Soldier Field sod and his sprinting endurance.
Turned out Royal's eyes saw further down the field than his feet could manage. The receiver was eventually pushed out of bounds at the Detroit 12-yard line, but not until he'd picked up a huge chunk of yards on the play midway through the third quarter and put the Bears in position to score once again. Three plays after the 64-yard gain, quarterback Brian Hoyer hit tight end Zach Miller for a 6-yard touchdown, a key score in Chicago's 17-14 victory.
Eddie Royal finished with seven catches and a team-high 111 yards.
"I got outside leverage and it was a 2-high look by the safety so the middle was wide open," Royal said. "So we got the perfect look that we wanted, and Brian made a great throw. Next time I'll try not to get caught."
Even though he couldn't score on that play, Royal made a huge contribution to the first Bears victory of the season. Just as he has all year long, the veteran helped keep the offense moving, making big plays every time the ball was thrown his way. Hoyer targeted Royal seven times and the wideout made all seven catches, finishing with a team-high 111 yards.
The 64-yard gain was the longest play from scrimmage for the Bears this season; the longest play overall was Royal's 65-yard punt return touchdown in Week 1 against Houston.
"[Eddie] does it all and he's a smart guy who's played on a few teams and he's done it at a high level everywhere," right guard Kyle Long said. "He's a smart guy, and he knows where to be, when to be and how to be there, and you saw that [Sunday]."
In the first quarter, Royal showed his veteran savvy on the game's first touchdown. Chicago lined up with a trips set from the Detroit 4-yard line, with Royal, Alshon Jeffery and Cameron Meredith all lined up to right side of the formation. Royal's route called for him to run two yards and curl, while Jeffery ran across the middle of the field and Meredith sprinted to the corner of the end zone. However nobody was open initially, forcing Hoyer to scramble. Receivers are taught to keep moving when a play breaks down and look for an opening in the defense. Royal did exactly that, going to the goal line and then leaping over Detroit cornerback Nevin Lawson for the touchdown.
The Bears practice that scramble drill regularly, according to Royal, so that made both the receivers and quarterback comfortable in the pressure situation. Royal is listed at 5-foot-10, which is on the smaller size for NFL wide receivers. But Hoyer showed faith in the veteran by putting the in the air where the Bears receiver could make the play.
"I showed I could jump a little bit still," Royal said with a smile.
Hoyer was making just his second start with the Bears, but he and Royal formed a bond working together over the summer during OTA's and training. That work helped the pair's chemistry on Sunday, when Royal led the team in both catches and yards.
The quarterback said that Royal, "can kind of do it all," highlighting the 30-year old's ability to play either outside or in the slot. The Bears line him up all over the place, and the versatility has been an asset for the Chicago offense and special teams all season long. He may not have the breakaway speed he did when he was younger, but on Sunday, Royal showed he can still do plenty to help the team succeed.