Justin Gage, a former standout receiver at Missouri, scored his first NFL touchdown Sunday for the Chicago Bears.
Gage scored on a 21-yard pass from Chris Chandler in the second quarter of the Bears 24-16 victory against the Detroit Lions at Soldier Field.
Gage, a Jefferson City native who the Bears picked in the fifth round of the 2003 NFL draft, had a school-record 82 catches last season for the Tigers for 1,075 yards and nine touchdowns. He ended his career at Missouri as the Big 12 Conference’s all-time leading receiver with 200 catches for 2,704 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Faced with a Lions blitz, Chandler threw to Gage on a slant. After the catch, Gage broke away from Detroit cornerback Jim Wyrick and outran several other Lions defenders to the end zone.
Because of injuries, the Bears were missing six starters against the Lions and had to turn to their rookies.
“With a lot of guys out, we knew we had to step up and I think we did,” said Gage in a game report on chicagobears.com. “We got the opportunity to prove to a lot of people that we can play and belong at this level.”
Gage also made a 37-yard catch late in the first half that set up a field goal for a 10-0 Bears lead at halftime. Gage, who is 6 feet 4 and also played basketball at Missouri, leapt to wrestle the ball away from Detroit defender Otis Smith on the play.
“It was like getting a rebound,” Gage said. “Chris threw it up there and just gave me a chance to leave my feet. It’s something that helps my game out going up over defenders and getting the ball. That’s why he put it up there for me.”