If the magnitude of the moment ever hit Tyson Bagent — a small-town kid from West Virginia making his first NFL start for the Chicago Bears — the 23-year-old quarterback seemed far more appreciative than overwhelmed on Sunday.
That was true leading up to the game. It was true during the Bears’ impressive 30-12 trouncing of the Las Vegas Raiders at Soldier Field. And it was true for 11 minutes afterward when the undrafted rookie from Division II Shepherd University came to his postgame news conference and attempted to describe the entire experience.
“Uh, yeah,” Bagent confirmed. “Yeah.”
Until he wasn’t.
“I feel like I settled in after the first snap. But really, I feel like I feel really nervous the entire week until we get on the field pregame. And then it usually goes away.”
That’s when Bagent’s confidence typically kicks in, an infectious quality embedded in his DNA.
“I feel like I’ve played like a million games at quarterback,” he said. “I was able to win the job in high school my sophomore year. And then I started every game through my senior year in college. So that’s seven years of starting, of understanding what a week of preparation looks like and going through pretty much every (pass) concept and run concept there is.
“Repetition is the mother of all learners. And I’ve been blessed to have a lot of repetition in my life.”
Yep, there was Bagent after Sunday’s win looking every bit like a young dude fresh out of college just trying to make his way in the professional world. He wore a pair of ripped jeans, a plain white NOBULL T-shirt and a navy beanie. And his best estimate for how many friends and family members came to watch him play was “a lot.”
“My paycheck probably won’t look the same this week,” he said. “Yeah. I had a lot of people here.”
Whoever it was and wherever they sat, they were among the 62,199 fans who watched the Bears put together arguably their most complete performance all season.
Running back D’Onta Foreman scored all three of the Bears’ offensive touchdowns, totaling 120 yards from scrimmage after being a healthy scratch in Weeks 2-5.
Cornerback Jaylon Johnson had two interceptions in a span of 74 seconds, the first resulting in a 39-yard touchdown return.
The defense was locked in once again, contributing three takeaways, allowing only 39 rushing yards and stymieing the Raiders on third down (2-for-9).
The offensive line — utilizing its sixth different starting combination in seven games — controlled the line of scrimmage all day with the Bears piling up 173 rushing yards.
And Bagent? Well, Bagent handled the whole “game management” responsibility well as the Bears never trailed and held a lead of at least 11 points for the final two-and-a-half-quarters.
Bagent didn’t turn the ball over, was sacked just once and helped propel touchdown drives of 69, 34 and 88 yards.
The last was a third-quarter submission hold by the Bears, a 15-play march that ate up 8 minutes and 18 seconds and provided a 21-3 lead. That series ended with Bagent’s first career touchdown pass — 5 yards to Foreman on third-and-goal on a quick and decisive check-down with Darnell Mooney, Cole Kmet and Foreman all in pattern to the quarterback’s right.
“Really I could have probably thrown it to either (D’Onta) or Mooney,” Bagent said. “But there was enough space. And the focal point this week was ‘Get the ball out of your hands.’ So it was easy. Especially with how he was playing today. Get it to him, let him break a tackle.”
Indeed, Foreman’s presence was an energizing force for Bagent and the offense all afternoon. He found space. He ran hard. He was productive.
“D’Onta played out of his mind today,” Bagent said.
Foreman did all that with the ideal mindset after contributing just 81 total yards through the season’s first six games but keeping himself ready for when he was needed.
“My faith has always been high in God,” Foreman said. “He has always been there for me and helped me overcome a lot of things I have been through. I’m just trying to continue to be the best that I can be and to continue to grow as a football player and as a person and continue to dominate when I get my opportunities.”
Even Johnson took note of how Foreman’s gritty production enlivened the Bears.
“To me and for us, we believe in him and we felt like he should have been getting the ball from jump,” Johnson said. “He was (almost) a 1,000-yard rusher last year. And we know he can play this game at a high level.”
As compliments were shared all around an excited and satisfied Bears locker room, Foreman made sure to laud Bagent’s command and calm, even if the rookie quarterback’s passing stat line (21-for-29, 162 yards) was far from spectacular.
“He was himself,” Foreman said. “It wasn’t anything different from what we have seen through preseason up until now. We expected him to be that guy who did what he did today.”
There will be an obvious temptation to draw grand conclusions from Bagent’s first start and to begin debating how the rookie’s strengths and weaknesses as a quarterback match up to the teammate he filled in for Sunday, Justin Fields.
Those conversations promise to amplify and will, quite frankly, become pretty outlandish across Chicago as the Bears march toward a Week 8 road trip to play the Los Angeles Chargers.
It’s still possible Fields’ dislocated right thumb will heal fast enough for him to start the next game. But even if he does — or if he doesn’t — it shouldn’t cloud what happened Sunday for Bagent, who labeled the experience as “amazing.”
“Soldier Field was off the chain today,” he said.
Finding a moment or two to soak everything in proved intoxicating.
“Where I come from,” Bagent said, “I have a bunch of friends, a bunch of family who understand and who understood how big this was really just in life. Not a lot of people get to say they started an NFL game let alone win an NFL game. So I definitely had a lot of those conversations today.
“I think the (coaching) staff understood it too and the players. That’s why everybody rallied behind me as well as they did.”
DJ Moore, who caught a team-high eight passes for 54 yards, appreciated the efficiency of his rookie quarterback.
“He stayed within himself,” Moore said. “He didn’t try to do the extraordinary. He just stayed calm, cool and collected and did what he had to do.”
Added guard Teven Jenkins: “You could tell he was very comfortable out there. The way he was moving around the pocket, moving away from pressure, he looked really good.”
With a veteran’s focus, Bagent soaked in Sunday’s triumph while also vocalizing a directive for the entire team. “Let’s get back on the horse.”
Then, in a grounded and thankful tone, Bagent added a little more introspection as he processed his storybook day.
“Football,” he said, “gives me the ability to let loose. I don’t know how loud I would be in my life if I didn’t have football. It kind of gives me that alleyway to scream and shout. It helps me out. And I hope that infiltrates the minds of the people around me and kind of gives them that same feeling.”
For one feel-good fall afternoon, everything seemed to be fun and vibrant for the Bears.
“Whenever you can just be excited and be happy that you’re able to play football and everybody plays like it, you get kind of what happened today,” Bagent said.