By doing nothing, Chicago Bears rookie right tackle Jordan Mills made one of the most significant plays of the game against the Cincinnati Bengals today. Michael Bush ran for one yard on a third-down play. It would have brought up fourth down and given the Bengals the ball with roughly 30 seconds to play.
It was at the conclusion of the play that Mills showed impressive maturity after Bengals linebacker Rey Maualuga yanked the young lineman to the ground. Rather than reacting and risking a possible penalty, Mills stepped back and waited for the referee to throw a flag for unnecessary roughness on Maualuga. The Bengals were penalized 15 yards, Cutler took a knee and the Bears' victory was sealed.
When asked after the game how he was able to show such restraint, Mills laughed and uttered one word "Patience."
But Mills showed more than the ability to step back from a possible game-changing situation. It was a clear sign of the rookie's ability to translate what he sees on the field and turn the situation into a positive for his team.
"I'm taking things one play at a time," Mills said after the game "But I do observe what is going on around me and try to use that. The guys on this team have been telling all the new players since we first arrived at Halas Hall to be patient. We hear it over and over again that we need to be patient and not make rash moves that would hurt the team. I think I was able to show the vets today that I've been listening to them."
When asked what his initial response was after being grabbed by Mauluga, Mills said:
"I'm a competitive guy, so of course my first reaction was to grab him right back. Then I thought about it for a second. Also, saw the ref standing right next to us. He was looking directly at me waiting to see what I'd do. I threw up my hands and stepped back. That's when the flag was thrown and the Bengals got the 15 yarder. It gave us the chance to sit on the ball as the clock wound down."
Both Mills and fellow rookie starter Kyle Long looked very comfortable in their new roles with the team. Mills credits extensive work with the vets during training camp and communicating with Long both off and on the field for their success.
"Kyle and I are the new guys so we definitely have something to prove. The other linemen have tried to calm us down a bit, stressing the value of waiting for a play to come to us rather than just charging in. I think that as a new player, you want to get it all done every play but that usually is just not possible. We try to coordinate the pace of our play to the timing of those who have been on the O-line much longer than we have. So far, so good."
Cutler was not sacked in the game and completed 21 of 33 passes for 242 yards and 2 TDs, good for a quarterback rating of 93.2. Mills seemed satisfied with his performance but realized he still had a lot of learning ahead.
"The coaches congratulated me and had smiles on their faces. That told me I did well today," Mills said. "But while that is nice to hear, I need to go back and analyze the film. I know I have a long way to go before I am where I need to be technically. "
Mills also credits a strong offensive game plan against a formidable Bengals defense for today's success.
"All the guys, [Roberto] Garza, [Kyle] Long, [Eben] Britten, [Taylor] Boggs, we've been working together to get this done. The vets are guiding us and we're trying to soak up everything they say. What happened today pretty much followed that game plan."
Mills understands that in the NFL, a player gets 24 hours to enjoy his success before mentally moving on to the next opponent.
"It's been great. I had a fun time out there but next up is the Vikings, an important game against a division opponent. It'll be back to the drawing board at Halas Hall tomorrow."
Beth Gorr has been covering the Bears for the last 12 years and is the author of Bear Memories: The Chicago-Green Bay Rivalry. She is currently working on a second book about early Bears history.