DETROIT — After beating the New York Giants a few days ago, the mantra from locker room at Soldier Field was simple: “Not good enough.”
The feeling was similar in the moments after the Bears beat the Detroit Lions in Week 10. The Bears knew they hadn’t played particularly well in beating two of the worst teams in the NFL.
But the Bears’ 24-20 win over the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving at Ford Field felt different to those who played and coached in it. The Bears didn’t just win; for the first time since late September, they legitimately felt good about how they won a game.
“The celebration today afterwards in Club Dub we had going brought back a lot of memories,” coach Matt Nagy said. “It felt very authentic. It felt very real.”
It’s amazing what good quarterback play can do for a team, isn’t it?
The mood inside the cramped locker room at Ford Field backed up Nagy’s point. Running back David Montgomery, who caught the game-clinching touchdown, said it was a “real fun” game in which to play.
There were few strings attached to this win, which brought the Bears to 6-6, probably because Mitch Trubisky’s best game of 2019 came with it: 29/38, 338 yards, three touchdowns, one interception and one game-winning 90-yard drive.
So even in beating a last-place, poorly coached Detroit Lions team starting a third-string quarterback by only four points, the Bears headed back to Chicago with a legitimate confidence boost.
“When you got that energy from the quarterback and he’s trying to bring everyone together, that just shows leadership and how he is no matter the moment,” left tackle Charles Leno Jr. said. “He was the same guy the whole game. Even when he threw that pick, it didn’t phase him at all. He just knew what he had to do and just go back out there and go back to work.”
Yes, the Bears still made the kind of baffling mistakes — like an illegal formation penalty coming out of a timeout on a fourth-and-six — that have defined their disappointing 2019 season. But on Thursday, their quarterback finally covered up those mistakes.
Consider what the Bears faced to begin their drive midway through the fourth quarter. Losing by three, a Cody Whitehair penalty backed the Bears up to their own five-yard line. Trubisky completed an 11-yard pass to Anthony Miller, but on second down, Allen Robinson dropped what would’ve been a first down by the near sideline. Those kind of mistakes have doomed so many drives to crushing three-and-outs in 2019.
But Trubisky stepped up and threw a tremendous ball to Miller, who hauled in a 35-yard reception on third and four. Three plays later, Montgomery was stuffed for no gain on second and five — and Trubisky followed it up with a 32-yard strike to Miller on third down, ultimately setting up his go-ahead touchdown toss to Montgomery (who was his third read on the play).
“A lot of players made a lot of plays, but today was Mitch’s day,” Nagy said. “He did a lot of things today in regards to making special throws at special times.”
It’s easy to understand, then, why the Bears felt so good about their win. The margin of victory didn’t matter as much as the play of their quarterback.
It may have taken 13 weeks for it to happen, but Trubisky finally lifted the Bears to a win with his play. You can by cynical about the quality of the opponent, or if it’s likely to mean anything in a week when a meeting with the Dallas Cowboys kicks off a difficult final quarter of the season.
But none of that felt like it mattered to this team as “Swag Surfin’” blared and Nagy let off four of his emotional “boom” celebrations. For the first time in a while, the Bears had a truly positive vibe to them, and that might count for more than you think.
“We have our hands full, no doubt,” Nagy said of the final stretch of 2019. “Very, very good football teams that are all — they’re all fighting for different reasons. I think what’s good for us is any way you look at it, all we can focus on is Dallas, but this is something for us that it was really hard for us in that four-game losing streak. That was hard.
“But we talked a silver lining. We still don’t know where that silver lining’s at. But we’re hoping that something, like games like this today and the celebration postgame and the feeling you have, we became tighter throughout all this but man, after that today, you can feel it. That doesn’t mean we’re going to go out and win every game, by no means. It just keeps guys focused and we want to do everything we can to try to beat Dallas.”