Bears draw winning hand with offensive line discards

When Bears offensive line coach Chris Morgan told center Sam Mustipher he was no longer starting last week, Mustipher did not take it well.

“I was pissed. Furious,” Mustipher said. “I could use profanity to describe how I was feeling at that point, but that was tough. Because I’m all about the Bears and wanting to help the Bears win. And for me to feel like it came down on my shoulders …”

And then, the discipline that turned made Mustipher from an undrafted free agent into an NFL starter in the first place prevailed.

“But when you get benched, you’ve got to be honest with yourself,” Mustipher said. “Obviously what I was doing wasn’t good enough. And that’s what they felt. I could have sulked. I could have pouted. But once the initial sting wears off, you’ve got to be a man. I looked myself in the mirror and I was like, ‘Here’s the things I’ve got to improve on. And the next time I get on the football field, I can leave no doubt.”

To even Mustipher’s surprise, that opportunity came just 10 snaps into his benching, when his replacement, Lucas Patrick, injured his toe in the first quarter Monday night against the Patriots at Gillette Stadium. (Patrick was still being examined Tuesday. His status is “wait and see” according to coach Matt Eberflus.) Mustipher got the call, and went to work.

And he got the job done. The Bears rushed for 243 yards, averaged 5.4 yards per carry and scored on seven of Mustipher’s first eight possessions in a 33-14 upset. But as much as he plays on emotion, Mustipher wasn’t going to call it a storybook ending.

“I wasn’t inspired [by the benching] –that stuff’s for Disney movies,” Mustipher said. “I’m more about, I wanted to go out there and affect winning. I wanted to help the Bears win. That’s the mentality I take into every game It was the same [Monday] night. As soon as Lucas went down, I was like, ‘All right, how can I help these guys win?’ That’s what it’s about.”

It was that kind of game for the Bears. An offensive line that was identified as an area of needed improvement over the mini-bye week responded in a big moment — aided no doubt by a game plan that utilized Justin Fields as well as in any game he’s played for the Bears.

“Elation,” Mustipher said. “Fate, if that’s what you want to call it. It’s cool to see all that work come to fruition [after] the roller coaster of emotions that I had this week.”

And the Bears did it with two discards. Not only Mustipher, but guard Michael Schofield, who had been cut in training camp and then re-signed on Sept. 14, started at left guard when Patrick moved to center.And they did it with two discards. Not only Mustipher, but guard Michael Schofield, who had been cut in training camp and then re-signed on Sept. 14, started at left guard when Patrick moved to center.

Schofield, the Sandburg High School product, is in his eighth NFL season and started on the Broncos’ Super Bowl winning team in the 2015 season. But this was a moment to remember.

“It was pretty cool. Pretty special moment for me,” Schofield said. “First game starting as a Bear. Beating the Patriots is always a fun thing to do. So it was good — very special.”

Schofield was 2-4 in his career against the Patriots before Monday night’s game, but 0-2 against them at Gillette Stadium, including a 41-28 blowout loss with the Chargers in the AFC Championship in the 2018 season playoffs.

“We thought we had a hell of a team and we got there and they kicked our ass,” Schofield said.

So the victory Monday night was particularly gratifying for Schofield, especially during a difficult season that left his NFL future uncertain.

“It’s definitely pretty good for me,” he said. “Just how the season went — obviously getting cut and being able to start a game and [I] played pretty decent. It’s exciting. Crazy how it works out.”

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