Mitch Trubisky’s two 30-plus yard throws on third downs to Anthony Miller on the Bears’ go-ahead touchdown drive in the fourth quarter are the starting point here. Those were big time throws no matter the competition, and showed a certain level of confidence we haven’t seen Trubisky possess at times in 2019. He let those throws rip and gave Miller chances to make plays, and was rewarded for his aggressiveness and confidence instead of trying to fit a shorter throw to the sticks into a tight window.
Trubisky did well to go through his progressions and pick out Jesper Horsted and David Montgomery for touchdowns, too, with that throw to Horsted displaying outstanding touch.
But four throws don’t tell the entire story of Trubisky’s game, which otherwise was solid. He was on time and on schedule with most of his throws, allowing him to complete 17 of 19 passes on first down and convert a handful of other third downs in important moments outside of that final drive.
Yes, the Lions’ defense plays a lot of man coverage — and plays it poorly — but this was Trubisky’s best game of 2019. His grade is only marred by his one interception, which came when he stared down Allen Robinson and threw the ball late and behind his receiver, allowing cornerback Darius Slay to jump in front of the route and pick the pass off.
RUNNING BACKS: B+
David Montgomery took advantage of the good blocking in front of him, displaying excellent vision, patience and toughness to pick up 75 yards on 16 carries (4.7 yards per attempt). He did well to not get re-routed by Lions linebacker Christian Jones on his game-winning touchdown catch, too.
Tarik Cohen didn’t make much of an impact, though, gaining only 35 yards on seven touches (four catches, three rushes).
WIDE RECEIVERS: A-
Miller’s speed and physicality shined in his nine-catch, 140-yard game, with his 35 and 32-yard snags on third down over Lions cornerback Justin Coleman turning out to be two of Thursday’s biggest plays. Allen Robinson, too, had another steady game — though he dropped a first down on the Bears’ go-ahead drive.
Javon Wims had his most productive game as a pro (five catches, 56 yards) though was flagged for two illegal block above the waist penalties. Still, credit Wims for playing well in place of the injured Taylor Gabriel.
TIGHT ENDS: B-
Without Trey Burton, Adam Shaheen and Ben Braunecker, the Bears didn’t involve their depleted tight end room much on Thursday. But Horsted’s highlight-reel touchdown catch was a standout moment for this unit, while J.P. Holtz did some good things in the run game to help out there.
OFFENSIVE LINE: A-
Cody Whitehair and James Daniels delivered some of their best combo blocks of the season, while Rashaad Coward held his on on the right side of the interior to help spring Montgomery’s effective day. Credit Cornelius Lucas for playing well in place of Bobby Massie at right tackle, too, while this entire unit did a good job of giving Trubisky time to throw and allowing their quarterback to be comfortable in the pocket.
There were still some penalties on this group — a facemask assessed to Coward pushed the Bears into a first-and-32, for instance — but this group played some of its best football of 2019 on Thanksgiving. They’ll need to keep this level of play up against some better fronts in the coming weeks — the Lions, after all, were without stud run stuffer Damon Harrison.
DEFENSIVE LINE: C-
The good news is Akiem Hicks is eligible to return to practice this week, with the possibility he can coming off injured reserve for the Bears’ Week 15 trip to play the Green Bay Packers. The bad news is the Bears’ defensive line was pushed around on Thursday, with Detroit’s running backs averaging a little over four yards per carry. There wasn’t much in the way of a pass rush from this group, too.
OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS: B-
Khalil Mack didn’t hit home for a sack but still managed to pressure Lions quarterback David Blough five times, this in the face of frequent double and triple-teams. Leonard Floyd, though, only managed two pressures on 32 pass rushing snaps, per PFF. His most notable contribution Thursday’s game was shoving Blough as he threw the ball away, resulting in a roughing the passer flag (one that, while “weak,” gets called every time).
INSIDE LINEBACKERS: A
Roquan Smith was all over the field, notching career highs in tackles (15) and sacks (two). Without the defensive line playing at their usual level against the run, a lot of the Bears’ run stopping chances fell to Smith and Nick Kwiatkoski, who also played well with seven tackles and one near game-sealing interception.
Calling something a “tale of two halves” is often football speak for excusing poor play early in games, but in this case, it’s not a terrible explanation. Prince Amukamara and Kyle Fuller both got toasted by Kenny Golladay on double moves, and the Lions consistently gave Blough open receivers to throw to during the first 30 minutes on Thursday.
But in the second half, two plays stand out: First, Amukamara making a critical tackle to stop a screen on third down and force a punt after Trubisky’s interception; and second, Fuller’s tackle of J.D. McKissic for no gain on third and one only a few yards from the Bears’ end zone. Blough averaged 11.9 yards per attempt in the first half but 4.4 yards per attempt in the second half.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was bailed out by Fuller’s tackle of McKissic, since his offside penalty gave the Lions that third and one try. Some of the deep ball issues the Bears’ secondary had weren’t necessarily on Clinton-Dix and/or Eddie Jackson, but it was nonetheless jarring to see a first-time starter tear through a defense that hadn’t allowed many explosive plays this year. Jackson did get his first interception of 2019 on Detroit’s last play of the game.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B
Cordarrelle Patterson’s 57-yard kickoff return set up a short field for the Bears’ offense on their opening possession, which was converted into a touchdown. That was the good here; the bad is Nagy’s continued distrust of Eddy Pineiro in passing on a 50-yard field goal to try to convert a fourth-and-six in the second quarter. Also, the Bears were not able to recover an odd “onside” attempt when Matt Prater blasted a squib kick off up man Deon Bush.
The Bears’ script on their opening drive worked for the first time in two months, and the offense finished strong with that nine-play, 90-yard drive. Any time a team wins on Thursday, it’s representative of a good job by coaches to find a gameplan that works without any real practices during a truncated week.
But there still were some head-scratching decisions, like Nagy passing on that long field goal to try to convert a fourth and six — and then having a pre-snap penalty follow after a timeout. The Bears nearly ran an offensive play with 10 men on the field — again coming out of a timeout — before sending Riley Ridley racing on to the field at the last second (Nagy took the blame for that, not putting it on his rookie receiver).