Jesper Horsted hauls in three touchdowns as Bears top Titans
|Saturday, August 28, 2021, 11:00 PM- -|
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Jesper Horsted definitely came to play in Saturday's preseason finale between the Chicago Bears (2-1) and Tennessee Titans (2-1), with the tight end snagging three touchdown passes for the Bears and leading all pass catchers with five receptions and 104 receiving yards. Horsted stole the show at Nissan Stadium with a remarkable one-handed catch that resulted in a go-ahead 54-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. The Bears went on to defeat the Titans 27-24.
With neither Andy Dalton or Ryan Tannehill playing in the exhibition, Matt Barkley and Justin Fields started under center. Dalton will enter the regular season as the Bears' starter, so Fields received substantial playing time for what might have been the last time in quite a while, manning the offense for the entire first half before Nick Foles took over. Fields was sacked by Ola Adeniyi on the Bears' opening series, but it proved to be the only sack allowed by the Bears on the evening. Jason Peters made his Bears debut for an offensive line that stepped up following a woeful performance in the Bears' previous contest.
Barkley drove the Titans into the red zone on the Titans' second offensive possession but threw an interception right into the arms of Danny Trevathan, who returned it 24 yards to the Bears' 31. The Bears proceeded to turn the ball over on downs near midfield, with Damien Williams getting stuffed behind the line to gain on fourth-and-short. Logan Woodside served as the quarterback on the ensuing drive and led the Titans to the end zone, with Mekhi Sargent scoring a one-yard rushing touchdown on fourth-and-goal.
With Mike Vrabel out due to COVID-19 regulations, John Streicher was the Titans' head coach for the tilt, and he successfully challenged an 11-yard reception by Rodney Adams. The third-down completion was overturned, as Adams' knee touched down out of bounds after only one of Adams' feet touched down inbounds. However, Woodside was picked off not long after that, with Trevis Gipson forcing him to throw a bad pass while facing pressure and Tre Roberson intercepting it and sprinting 27 yards to the house. Roberson's interception return marked the first touchdown scored against the Titans all preseason.
Following an offensive pass interference call, the Bears had a chance to force a punt in Titans territory, but Khari Blasingame caught a screen pass and gained 50 yards en route to being brought down at the Bears' 6-yard line. The Bears held the Titans to three, though, with Sam Ficken kicking a 21-yard field goal with 1:47 remaining in the first half. In his final series, Fields led the Bears on a touchdown drive. Defensive pass interference was called on an incomplete pass intended for Horsted, placing the ball on the Titans' side of the field.
Thereafter, Adams was suplexed by Breon Borders, who was flagged for unnecessary roughness because of the demonstrative tackle. Fields was forced out of the pocket on the next play but threaded the needle with a 20-yard throw to Horsted made while on the run. Horsted caught the pass in tight coverage in the right side of the end zone, giving the Bears a 14-10 halftime lead. Out of the intermission, Foles commandeered a 69-yard drive that was capped off by Horsted hauling in a six-yard touchdown pass. During the course of the possession, Foles completed third-down throws to Bears newcomer Isaiah Coulter and Jon'Vea Johnson to keep the drive alive.
The Titans manufactured an 80-yard scoring drive after that. Barkley connected with a wide-open Dez Fitzpatrick for a gain of 28 yards to reach Bears territory, and Javian Hawkins eventually scored on the ground from one yard out. Following a Bears three-and-out, the Titans took the lead via a 78-yard procession to the end zone. Christian Jones tallied a game-high 11 tackles but was penalized for a face mask during this particular drive. The Titans were called for holding later in the possession, but a 14-yard pass from Woodside to Brian Hill on third-and-15 set up a six-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-1. Cameron Batson caught Woodside's throw while being closely guarded in the left side of the end zone.
After the Bears and Titans traded three-and-outs, Horsted made his case for playing a more important role in the Bears' offense. First, he was able to hang onto a 17-yard reception despite absorbing a big hit from Jamal Carter. Two plays later, Horstead warded off his defender while reaching out and somehow corralling a one-handed grab. He proceeded to break free in the secondary and rumble 54 yards for what proved to be the game-winning touchdown. Roughing the passer was called on the play, which saw Foles link up with Horsted under duress. Foles went back to Horsted on the two-point conversion attempt that followed, but the pass was batted down.
At that point, the Bears led 27-24 with 6:51 left in the contest. The teams exchanged punts in the next two possessions, and the Titans then suffered a turnover on downs near midfield not long after a neutral zone infraction called against the Bears on fourth down moved the chains. A 40-yard punt by Pat O'Donnell was downed at the 1-yard line with 23 seconds remaining and the Titans out of timeouts. Three snaps later, the game clock expired, and the Bears notched a 27-24 victory over the Titans.