Sometimes the absence of pain will just have to pass for pleasure. For the Bears, only losing once in the last four games and downing the Detroit Lions 24-20 on Thursday unofficially qualifies as a by-definition positive for a stumbling team that the league and NFC North had all but left for dead a few weeks ago.
The Bears won three of four to start this season, but that somehow felt more impressive, if only because the third of those wins was a throttling what has proved to be a very good Minnesota team — still the Bears’ only 2019 win over a team .500 or above. This current three of four… It’s true that you can only beat the team you’re playing, but…
Last week quarterback Mitch Trubisky was blunt in saying that their play in defeating the New York Giants was nowhere near good enough. After the Detroit game, wide receiver Anthony Miller, who led the Bears with nine catches for 140 yards, said flatly that their 10-point, 194-yard first half was “horrible.” So at least self-delusion appears to be in decline after a too-long run of it since the end of last season.
Still, the team has won three of four and and now has a full week to prepare for a Dallas Cowboys team that is reeling after a 23-15 at home to the Bills. The 6-6 Cowboys have gone the opposite direction from the Bears, losing three of their last four and finding their owner griping at and about their head coach.
“What’s good for us is all we can focus on is Dallas,” said coach Matt Nagy. “We talked about a silver lining. We still don’t know where that silver lining is… but after today, you can feel it.”
Maybe the silver lining is actually dark clouding over what is projected to be an insurmountable final four opponents of the season. Dallas has lost three of its last four. Green Bay has lost two of its last three, although the Packers should have little difficulty this weekend dealing with the Giants in New York. Kansas City has lost four of its last seven and has Oakland this weekend.
All that is to come. In the meantime, the Thanksgiving Day 24-20 defeat of the Detroit Lions pushed the Bears to 6-6 and another step back from the edge of the abyss where they found themselves at the beginning of this month at the end of a four-game losing streak. Not all that far, given that five of the six wins have been over teams with three or fewer wins, and Detroit (3-8-1) ranked in the bottom 10 in the NFL in yardage and points allowed.
But a few days earlier the offense managed just 19 points and 335 yards at home against a bad New York Giants group, so putting 24 points and 419 yards – the first 400-yard game in more than a year, since last Nov. 11 against the Lions – has to pass for progress.
“We finally had one of those games that felt good for the majority of it,” Nagy said.
It certainly has to count as that for quarterback Mitch Trubisky, who completed 29 of 38 throws for a season-high 338 yards and TD passes to a wideout (Allen Robinson), tight end (Jesper Horsted) and running back (David Montgomery). Horsted and Montgomery were the second and third options, respectively, in the route progressions for those plays. “[Trubisky] did a lot of things today as far as making special throws at special times,” Nagy said.
Recurring discipline problems
The game was marked by the kind of sloppiness that has afflicted the Bears much of this season. They were assessed nine penalties for a total of 85 yards, fortunately not a deciding element only because Detroit had 10 walkoffs for minus-89 yards. If you’re going to be not very good, it’s important that your opponent is and performs worse.
“There’s no call for that,” Nagy said. "If there’s a negative to the game, the improvement we need to make, it’s the penalties.”
The defense for the second straight game needed a fourth-quarter stop (two, in fact, Thursday) to preserve a victory. Unlike in the losses to the Raiders, Chargers and Eagles, the once-elite unit made those stops, all part of holding Detroit to zero touchdowns on the Lions’ last nine possessions, after allowing touchdowns the first two times Detroit had the football.
The Bears did allow themselves another Club Dub get-down, regardless of record, opponent and all the rest.
“I know we’re 6-6 and all that but we wanted to enjoy this moment,” Nagy said, “and it felt really good.”