Bears

NBC Sports Chicago to chronicle unforgettable Thanksgiving Day comeback on next installment of Bears Classics

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NBC Sports Chicago to chronicle unforgettable Thanksgiving Day comeback on next installment of Bears Classics

‘Bears Classics’ presented by Xfinity to debut Tuesday, November 21 at 7:00 PM CT -- Exclusively on NBC Sports Chicago

Narrated by Chicago Bears/Pro Football Hall of Fame legend DICK BUTKUS

NBC Sports Chicago live stream available 24/7 on NBCSportsChicago.com/WatchLive  or via the NBC Sports app

Chicago, IL (November 16, 2017) – NBC Sports Chicago and the Chicago Bears will debut a brand new installment of its partnered Bears Classics presented by Xfinity Emmy award-winning documentary series when the network will once again go back in time to highlight a memorable Thanksgiving Day come-from-behind victory against one of the franchise’s fiercest longtime rivals.   

Debuting Tuesday, November 21 at 7:00 PM CT exclusively on NBC Sports Chicago (live stream of this program also available to authenticated NBC Sports Chicago subscribers on NBCSportsChicago.com/WatchLive or via the NBC Sports app), this edition of Bears Classics will turn back the clock to November 27, 1980, as the Bears traveled to the Pontiac Silverdome to face the Detroit Lions in a nationally-televised Thanksgiving Day showdown.

Since 1934, the Lions have played football on Thanksgiving Day and the team that helped them launch this special 83-year tradition was none other than the Bears. Over the years, the rivals have met a total of 16 times on the festive holiday and this thrilling match-up featured two of the NFL’s top running backs at that time: 1980’s NFL “Offensive Rookie of the Year” Billy Sims and the Bears legend in the making, the great Walter Payton. 

Down 17-3 heading into the fourth quarter, the Bears dug deep and mounted a comeback for the ages, thanks in part to quarterback Vince Evans, a 1977 draft pick who emerged as a starter that season when Mike Phipps was benched midway through the season.  Evans was determined to own that fourth quarter as he threw and rushed for two critical touchdowns tying the game at 17 apiece.  And then there was Dave Williams, an offensive utility man whose kickoff return overtime heroics simply shocked the nation in this holiday afternoon battle that many have heralded as one of pro football’s greatest games.

This hour-long installment of Bears Classics, subtitled The Feast of Pontiac, takes an in-depth look at this critical moment in Bears history featuring candid interviews with Bears players and coaches, Lions opponents, along with those who covered this memorable holiday battle. 

This edition of NBC Sports Chicago’s Emmy-winning Bears Classics documentary series will once again be narrated by Chicago Bears legend/Pro Football Hall of Famer Dick Butkus.  Butkus played for the Bears from 1965-1973 and is credited for redefining the middle linebacker position.  He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979. 

In addition to the documentary narration by Butkus, among the numerous players interviewed in this edition of Bears Classics include exclusive interviews with the following individuals:

VINCE EVANS

Bears Quarterback (1977-83)

ROLAND HARPER

Bears Running Back (1975-82)

DAN HAMPTON

Bears Defensive End/Tackle (1979-90)

DAN JIGGETTS

Bears Offensive Tackle/Guard (1976-82)

OTIS WILSON

Bears Linebacker (1980-87)

BILLY SIMS

Lions Running Back (1980-84)

Please note the following quotes from NBC Sports Chicago’s premiere airing of Bears Classics: The Feast of Pontiac, debuting Tuesday, November 21 at 7:00 PM CT:

DAN HAMPTON (on the Bears/Lions rivalry):

"When we played the Lions, it was always a fist fight. And they were looking for respectability, we were looking too…and we’d kind of took it out on each other."

DAN JIGGETTS (on the spotlight of Thanksgiving Day games):

“On that day, you knew that the rest of the league was watching, and you know, some people were sitting down and dining and other people were the turkey…and the one thing you wanted to make sure of was that you weren’t the turkey."

ROLAND HARPER (on the talents of his backfield partner Walter Payton):

“He’s gonna be Walter regardless of what, he doesn’t care what you put on the scoreboard, he doesn’t care what you say, sooner or later he’s gonna break one."

BILLY SIMS (on the late game heroics of Bears kick returner Dave Williams):

“I saw that guy coming right past me, I sure would’ve put my leg out there and trip him up (laughs).  I could not believe it."

VINCE EVANS (on having a career day as a QB):

“There's not a lot games that you have like that, I mean throughout your career…but when they happen, they’re magical."

NBC Sports Chicago will also re-air this episode of Bears Classics on Friday, November 24 at 8:00 PM.  In addition, fans can also get interactive prior and during every airing of Bears Classics with their thoughts, memories and comments by utilizing the Twitter hashtag #BearsClassics.  Plus, NBCSportsChicago.com will provide additional, online exclusive interviews and commentary write-ups from NBC Sports Chicago’s team of Bears experts. 

Bears grades: The return of D's and F's, except for the linebackers

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USA Today

Bears grades: The return of D's and F's, except for the linebackers

QUARTERBACKS: D

Mitchell Trubisky threw three interceptions, with two of them particularly deflating: His first pick came on the second play of the third quarter when he overthrew Kendall Wright while rolling to his left; his second came in the end zone on third down. The last one came late in the fourth quarter when he and tight end Daniel Brown weren’t on the same page. Those mistakes were disappointing for a guy who hadn’t thrown an interception since Week 12, and now has as many interceptions as touchdowns (seven). But Trubisky did make a number of good throws, like when he stared down a blitz and found Markus Wheaton for a 22-yard gain. He also appeared to be the reason why the Lions to jump offsides twice, a good sign for his development with his cadence. But while he threw for over 300 yards for the first time in his career, the turnovers are the most important thing here. 

RUNNING BACKS: D

While some of the Bears’ running issues on Saturday were the product of some shaky run blocking from an offensive line that lost its two starting guards (Tom Compton and Josh Sitton) to injury, Jordan Howard wasn’t able to do much, either. According to Pro Football Focus, he didn’t break a tackle, and Howard finished with only 37 yards on 10 rushing attempts. Tarik Cohen didn’t get on the field much, playing only 25 of the Bears’ 63 offensive snaps and gaining one yard on two rushing attempts. The good news, perhaps, for this group: Howard caught all four targets he received for 26 yards, and he, Cohen and Benny Cunningham combined for 12 catches on 15 targets for 75 yards with the Bears’ only touchdown (which went to Cunningham). 

WIDE RECEIVERS: D

The stats for this group are inflated by the Bears’ having to try to pass their way back into the game in the second half, but while Kendall Wright (seven catches, 81 yards), Josh Bellamy (five catches, 70 yards) and Markus Wheaton (two catches, 42 yards) seemed to be productive, that trio only caught 14 of their 24 targets. Trubisky’s accuracy issues had something to do with that, but there were some poor plays in there too, like when Wright couldn’t hang on to a pass on the Bears’ first drive that was dislodged by safety Quandre Diggs. Also concerning here: Dontrelle Inman was invisible for the second straight week, only catching one of two targets for five yards six days after Trubisky didn’t look his way at all in the Bears’ blowout win over Cincinnati. Bellamy was also whistled for two penalties. 

TIGHT ENDS: D

Not having Adam Shaheen (chest) on Saturday was a blow to this group, especially after it functioned so well with the rookie in there last weekend in Cincinnati. Dion Sims caught his only target for nine yards, while Daniel Brown caught three of four targets for 32 yards — but that one target he didn’t catch was intercepted. That the Bears struggled to run the ball falls some on the tight ends, too: Only three of the nine plays with Sims and Brown on the field at the same time were runs, and those went for a meager nine yards. 

OFFENSIVE LINE: D

Four penalties were assessed to the Bears’ offensive line: Holding and a false start for Charles Leno, holding for Hroniss Grasu and illegal hands to the face for Cody Whitehair. Losing Sitton and Compton stretched this group to its max, and the Teryl Austin’s Lions defense had some success run blitzing the Bears. But it’s hard to find positives when the production from the Bears’ running game wasn’t there, especially a week after this offensive line dominated the Bengals’ front seven. 

DEFENSIVE LINE: C-

Akiem Hicks hit home on a sack for the first time since Week 8 and added a tackle for a loss, but he whiffed dropping Matt Stafford on that 58-yard heave to Marvin Jones in the second quarter. The Lions averaged 4.6 yards per carry, over a yard higher than their season average (3.4, 31st in the NFL). Eddie Goldman returned to the defense and only got on the stat sheet because of a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty he committed on the first play of the game. 

LINEBACKERS: A-

Sam Acho (one sack, one TFL, one hurry and a forced fumble) and Lamarr Houston (two sacks, two hurries, two tackles for a loss) each had huge games, while Nick Kwiatkoski had a solid game (eight tackles) as well. Pernell McPhee, prior to suffering a shoulder injury, had a few decent pressures and sniffed out a screen to Ameer Abdullah for a loss of six (he was injured on that play). This unit was not the problem with the Bears on Saturday, to say the least. 

DEFENISVE BACKS: D-

Eddie Jackson did some good things in the open field, but allowing Jones to catch that 58-yard jump ball in the second quarter — which was on a third-and-18 play and set up Detroit’s first touchdown of the game — was rough. Kyle Fuller struggled, too, allowing catches all five times Stafford threw his way for 61 yards, according to Pro Football Focus. Fuller was flagged once, while Prince Amukamara had two penalties assessed on him. Stafford has been kryptonite for this group, with passer ratings of 120.2 and 115.3 and no interceptions against the Bears in 2017. 

SPECIAL TEAMS: D-

There were two bad penalties assessed to the Bears on special teams on Saturday: First, DeAndre Houston-Carson was flagged for holding on what was otherwise a 90-yard kickoff return by Cohen. And John Timu was whistled for holding on a shanked punt that only went 24 yards, leading to the Bears beginning a third quarter possession at their own 36 instead of own 46. 

COACHING: F

Another week of undisciplined play (13 penalties) doesn’t reflect well on the coaching staff. John Fox’s decision to punt on fourth-and-one from the Bears’ own 45-yard line in first half was head-scratching for a team without anything to lose. Not kicking an onside kick down 10 with about two and a half minutes left was odd, but made more confusing by Mike Nugent kicking a pooch kick instead of going deep. This postgame quote from Wright about why the Bears played so poorly six days after playing so well wasn’t necessarily meant as a criticism of the coaching staff, but can be read as sort of an inadvertent one:

“I have no idea,” Wright said. “I have no idea. That’s a question I can’t even answer. I would say we came out flat, but I don’t really think so. I think everybody was ready to play and everybody had the energy to play. It’s not anything I can put on that.”

Under Center Podcast: What’s the game plan!?! Bears lose 10th game to Lions

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USA TODAY

Under Center Podcast: What’s the game plan!?! Bears lose 10th game to Lions

Laurence Holmes, Alex Brown and Jim Miller break down the Bears 20-10 loss to the Lions on Saturday.

Why didn’t the game plan include more runs for Jordan Howard? How did Mitchell Trubisky play so poorly despite a career-high in pass yards? And where is the leadership on this team? Plus – could the Bears actually lose to the Browns and hit rock bottom?

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: