The throw on a corner route Mitch Trubisky made to Ben Braunecker for an 18-yard touchdown was special, the kind that’ll give the Bears hope in their franchise quarterback. His touchdown to Taylor Gabriel and 33-yard strike to Allen Robinson were impressive, too.
But are we at the point where Trubisky’s good throws are so few and far between — over the course of a season — that the rare good ones are overstated? The Bears’ offense still went three and out on eight of its 12 drives, with Trubisky missing some throws and taking some bad sacks to contribute to that malaise.
So we’ll give Trubisky credit for the good throws he made, which helped push the Bears to their best offensive game in over a month — but recognize that 1) that’s not saying much and 2) it came against one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL.
RUNNING BACKS: C+
David Montgomery got off to a good start with a five-yard run on the Bears’ first play of the game, but was stuffed for no gain on the second play (he didn’t have anywhere to go on a read option). Such was life for a stop-and-start game for Montgomery on Sunday — he had four runs of seven or more yards, but five runs of one yard or fewer.
Not all that is his fault, of course, and his tough, agile running style was still a positive. Cohen caught all four of his targets, including a touchdown on a swing pass.
WIDE RECEIVERS: B-
Robinson did well against cornerback Darius Slay, grabbing that 33-yard deep ball over the only established member of the Lions’ secondary. The Bears’ best offensive plan is to feed him the ball as much as possible.
Taylor Gabriel had a bad drop on what should’ve been a third down conversion deep in Bears territory in the first half, but ran a good route to flash open for a touchdown in the third quarter. Anthony Miller was largely invisible — except for when Trubisky led him into a high-speed collision — and through nine games has just 17 catches for 218 yards.
TIGHT ENDS: C
One big play — Braunecker’s touchdown — drags this grade up to average. Braunecker did well to read safety Will Harris, identifying man coverage and running a clean route to get open on a critical touchdown just before halftime. It was the kind of play we haven’t seen at all from this position group in 2019, and otherwise didn’t see on Sunday. Credit Braunecker for making a play, too, when given an opportunity with Adam Shaheen inactive.
Trey Burton was targeted once and didn’t have a catch before exiting late in the game with a calf injury. He’s now had consecutive games without a catch for the first time since the end of the 2015 season with the Philadelphia Eagles, when he was almost exclusively a special teams player.
OFFENSIVE LINE: D+
Moving Cody Whitehair back to center might’ve helped the Bears get more protections right, but Trubisky still took five sacks (though not all of those were the offensive line’s fault). Whitehair had some issues with the accuracy of his shotgun snaps — which was a problem last year — and the switch didn’t have a noticeable impact on the Bears’ run game, which still averaged fewer than four yards per carry.
James Daniels, playing left guard for the first time this season, was whistled for a holding penalty that largely ruined the Bears’ shot at operating an effective four-minute offense with the lead late in the fourth quarter.
DEFENSIVE LINE: A-
Nick Williams notched his team-leading sixth sack of the season, and this group did its job to hold a banged-up Lions backfield to 2.5 yards per carry. This group isn’t the same without Akiem Hicks but got good contributions from Williams, Eddie Goldman, Bilal Nichols, Roy Robertson-Harris and Brent Urban.
OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS: B-
This unit didn’t flash until Leonard Floyd forced Jeff Driskel to throw an incomplete pass with 28 seconds left, though that doesn’t mean they didn’t have a positive impact on the rest of the game. Still: Khalil Mack only has one sack and four quarterback hits since Hicks suffered that gruesome elbow injury in Week 5 — a span of five games.
INSIDE LINEBACKERS: A-
Losing Danny Trevathan to another gruesome elbow injury may be difficult for the Bears to overcome in the long term — he and Hicks have been the vocal leaders of this defense for years — but on Sunday, Nick Kwiatkoski subbed in and played well, notching a sack, interception and nine tackles. It was the second time he’s thrived in a “next man up” spot (he was excellent in Week 4 during Roquan Smith’s absence) and will have a chance over the next few games to earn some good money this offseason when he hits free agency. Roquan Smith had a solid game, leading the Bears with 11 tackles.
Kyle Fuller had a tough day, even if his unnecessary roughness penalty for a late hit on Driskel was the product of a shoddy officiating decision. He slipped on the turf in the south end zone to allow a 47-yard touchdown to Kenny Golladay that gave the Lions late life, and was flagged for defensive holding and pass interference. He did have a nice pass break-up midway through the third quarter, though.
Prince Amukamara and Buster Skrine were fine, but the feeling here is the Lions would’ve had much more success pushing the ball downfield against the Bears’ secondary had Matthew Stafford been healthy.
Eddie Jackson and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix both broke up passes and did their part to keep a lid on the Lions’ offense — though, again, Driskel had a lot to do with that, too. We’re now more than halfway through 2019 and Jackson still does not have an interception, for a variety of reasons (some in his control, some out of it).
SPECIAL TEAMS: B
Eddy Pineiro missed a PAT wide right and the Bears didn’t get much going in their return game, despite Cordarrelle Patterson getting four chances on kickoffs. More importantly, though, Pat O’Donnell dropped three punts inside the 20-yard line and boomed one 55 yards, while Chris Tabor’s coverage units limited explosive Lions returner Jamal Agnew to an average of 22 yards on three kickoffs and an average of nine yards on three punt returns. With the Lions’ offense struggling to move the ball, making sure Agnew didn’t conjure up a big-chunk return was critical on Sunday.
The Bears had some early issues with not having enough players on the field on the Lions’ first drive — like on a 22-yard third-and-seven completion — and then didn’t send anybody back to field a punt the Lions down at the Bears’ four-yard line early in the second quarter. Matt Nagy’s decision to decline an illegal formation penalty deserves some scrutiny, too, as it allowed Matt Prater to kick a 54-yard field goal, which he made.
But Nagy’s aggressive call to have the Bears try to convert a fourth-and-one at their own 29-yard line in the second quarter was a pivotal point in Sunday’s game. Montgomery fought to pick up the first down, and the Bears marched downfield and scored their first touchdown just before halftime.
Nagy’s play designs to beat man coverage worked well, even if the Lions’ defense is suboptimal. From a coaching standpoint, Sunday’s game was a step in the right direction.