Bears hang on to top Lions, earn first win of the year


Bears hang on to top Lions, earn first win of the year

The countdown has ended at 364 days.

In danger of going a full calendar year without a victory at Soldier Field, the Bears mercifully put an end to that streak as they defeated the Detroit Lions, 17-14, on Sunday afternoon. The win also snapped a a six-game losing streak to their NFC North rival with the previous win coming in Lovie Smith's final game as head coach of the Bears on Dec. 30, 2012.

Starting at quarterback for the second-straight game due to Jay Cutler's sprained thumb, Brian Hoyer (28/36, 302 yards, two touchdowns) had the Bears offense clicking on all cylinders from the outset. In their second series, Hoyer engineered a 10-play, 83-yard scoring drive as he completed passes to three different wide receivers. Hoyer capped off the drive when he escaped the pocket and kept the play alive with his mobility before setting his feet and finding Eddie Royal for a four-yard touchdown score.

The Bears defense forced the Lions to go three-and-out on three of their first four possessions before a Matt Prater 50-yard field goal gave the Lions their first score of contest midway through the first half. Despite being dominated in the first half, the Lions stole some momentum after Bears kicker Connor Barth missed a 50-yard field goal attempt wide right — ironically on the same day former Bears kicker Robbie Gould's picture was featured on the gameday ticket — late in the second quarter. Following Barth's miss, the Lions marched deep into Bears territory for a possible go-ahead score, but Matt Stafford was picked off by Jacoby Glenn to close out the first half. 

Coming out of the break, the Lions quickly moved the ball down to the Bears' one-yard line, but were stuffed on consecutive running attempts before having to settle for a Prater chip shot, 21-yard field goal. 

The Bears responded immediately when Hoyer connected with Royal for a 64-yard reception to put the Bears in scoring position. Just three plays later, Hoyer found tight end Zack Miller for a six-yard touchdown reception to give the Bears a 14-6 lead.

Bears rookie cornerback Deiondre' Hall all but sealed the victory when he picked off Stafford with under five minutes remaining with the Lions deep in Bears territory,

The Bears offense got a boost from rookie running back Jordan Howard, who made his first career NFL start. Howard finished the game with 111 yards on 23 carries and also hauled in three receptions for 21 yards. 

Royal notched his first career 100-yard receiving game with the Bears as he had seven receptions for 111 yards and a touchdown.

Hoyer, who moved his record to 16-12 as a starting quarterback, completed passes to seven different wide receivers. 

Wide receiver Kevin White left Sunday's game with a left ankle injury. Before departing, White had six receptions for 55 yards.

The Bears will look for consecutive victories when they travel to Indianapolis to take on the Colts in Week 5.

Report: NFL expected to expand playoff field to 14 teams

Report: NFL expected to expand playoff field to 14 teams

According to NFL Insider Adam Schefter, the NFL is working towards finalizing a new collective bargaining agreement—possibly as soon as next week—that could include big-time changes for the NFL postseason format.

As currently constructed, the NFL postseason features six teams, four division winners and two wild card teams. The wild card teams play on Wild Card Weekend while the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds receive a first-round bye. Under the possible new system, which Schefter reported could take place as soon as next season, there will be seven teams making the playoffs from each conference rather than six and there will only be a single first round bye, given to the top team in the conference. Players on a team receiving a first round bye would receive postseason pay for that week, something that is also different from the previous CBA and certainly got players behind the changes. 

The change of the overall NFL playoff field to 14 teams would mean instead six wild card round games rather than the current total of four. 

If the new, proposed playoff format was in effect last season, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Los Angeles Rams would've been the last two teams in, while the Bears would've been a mere one game back of a postseason berth. 

While the playoff changes would take place swiftly, there are additional items that could be added to take place at a later date, including a 17-game regular season. According to Schefter's report, there was little-to-no disagreement among NFL folks when it came to expanding the postseason and seeing how last season went for the Bears, there certainly won't be many complaints about the playoff field expanding in Chicago either. 

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Sports Illustrated dubs Teddy Bridgewater and Marcus Mariota logical fits for Bears

Sports Illustrated dubs Teddy Bridgewater and Marcus Mariota logical fits for Bears

With so many veteran QBs available this offseason, it's anybody’s guess where some of these big name play-callers will end up this fall. Sports Illustrated curated a list of which teams they deem as the best options for notable free agent veteran QBs. Since everyone in the NFL knows the Bears are looking for another QB to challenge the struggling Mitch Trubisky, it was no surprise that the Bears would appear on this list as a reasonable landing pad for some of these vets. The Bears came up as the best fit not once, but twice for Teddy Bridgewater and Marcus Mariota.

Neither of these names are considered radical to Bears fans, who have heard speculations tossed around about how both players could fit on the offense at Soldier Field.

Once Drew Brees announced he would play another season in New Orleans, it was widely accepted that the Saints would resign restricted free agent Taysom Hill as their backup, leaving Bridgewater to find a new home in unrestricted free agency. SI describes Bridgewater as someone with “an incredible ability to spot start and also keep the peace behind the scenes. Bridgewater could be both a calming presence and legitimate competition for Mitchell Trubisky, who needs to be pushed heading into Year 4.”

However, a major downside for signing Bridgewater is that he has been speculated to command a starter-caliber salary in free agency. The Bears don't have a lot of cap space to work with this offseason, so this may hurt their chances at signing Bridgewater. 

Tennessee Titans’ Marcus Mariota seems to check off a lot of boxes Ryan Pace is looking for. He had a rough start to his offensive career, despite once high expectations, making him not overtly threatening to Trubisky. Mariota has 61 starts and a career record of 29-32 under his belt, completing under 63% of his of his 1,110-career pass attempts and has 76 touchdown passes to 44 interceptions. So, while his resume isn’t glowing, SI speculates he could fit well within Matt Nagy’s offensive system. 

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