Week 13

Nick Kwiatkoski continues to prove he belongs in Bears' starting lineup

Nick Kwiatkoski continues to prove he belongs in Bears' starting lineup

When the 2019 season began, inside linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski wouldn't have been one of the first defensive players mentioned when discussing this Bears team. In fact, he might not have been mentioned at all.

But following another standout effort in Week 13's win over the Detroit Lions, Kwiatkoski has emerged as a critical piece to the future of the Bears' defense while filling in for an injured Danny Trevathan, who happens to have an expiring contract at year's end.

Kwiatkoski's rookie deal is up after 2019, too. General manager Ryan Pace will be forced to choose between the them this offseason; there's little-to-no chance the Bears can re-sign both.

Kwiatkoski's resume of impressive performances added another page on Thanksgiving Day when he finished tied for the Bears' highest-graded defender, per Pro Football Focus. His 78.6 was the same score as cornerback Kyle Fuller and was better than Bears stars Eddie Jackson and Khalil Mack. He ended the game with seven tackles and a near-interception and was seemingly all over the field. It was the second time in four weeks that Kwiatkoski was Chicago's best. In Week 10, also against the Lions, he registered PFF's highest grade of any linebacker in the NFL.

Kwiatkoski's recorded 35 tackles, two sacks and an interception in 12 games (four starts) in 2019.

The combination of Kwiatkoski and Roquan Smith (who finished the Lions game with 15 tackles and two sacks) has become an encouraging development in an otherwise frustrating season. Now it's up to Pace to make sure he keeps the pair together for the prime seasons of their careers.

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David Montgomery was Bears' highest-graded player in Thanksgiving win over Lions

David Montgomery was Bears' highest-graded player in Thanksgiving win over Lions

The Bears' season remains meaningful entering Week 14's game against the Dallas Cowboys because of the come-from-behind win over the Detroit Lions, 24-20, on Thanksgiving Day.

Now 6-6 and still in the hunt for the NFC wild card, the Bears looked like an offense capable of delivering in the clutch for the first time in quite a while. Quarterback Mitch Trubisky played his best game of the season, throwing for 338 yards and three scores, but he wasn't Chicago's highest-graded star per Pro Football Focus. Instead, it was rookie running back David Montgomery, who not only had the highest mark on offense but also the entire team.

Montgomery ended the game with 16 carries for 75 yards and added two receptions for 21 yards and the game-winning three-yard touchdown catch. His 87.4 PFF grade was his best of the year.

“It was a quick play, so get to the line fast,” Montgomery said of his touchdown catch. “I had a shallow (route) coming across, and I just happened to squeeze open and I just caught the ball. I almost dropped it, but I caught it.”

Montgomery's rookie season hasn't been as productive as expected when the Bears selected him in the third round of last April's NFL draft, but he's been limited by questionable playcalling and an even more questionable offensive line. Nonetheless, he's carried the ball 172 times for 594 yards and five touchdowns, which puts him on pace for just under 800 yards and around seven touchdowns. Every one of those yards and touchdowns will have been earned by the first-year bowling ball of a runner.

Montgomery flashed a little bit of everything in the Bears' Thanksgiving Day win. He was elusive, powerful, patient and had just enough burst to pick up yards in chunks. He set the tone early in the game with a 14-yard run on his second carry from the Lions' 24-yard line; the Bears scored the next play on a Trubisky-to-Allen Robinson dart.

It was a sequence that's been missing for what feels like the entire season. A strong running play that set up an effective passing touchdown. Better late than never, I suppose.

Montgomery will be even more important in Week 14 against the Cowboys, who have an offense that will be a much more difficult challenge than the Lions and quarterback David Blough. The Bears have to play keep away, and it'll be up to Montgomery to maintain his Thanksgiving Day success down the stretch.

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Club Dub turns it up a notch after Bears' Thanksgiving win

Club Dub turns it up a notch after Bears' Thanksgiving win

Bears fans were prepping for an extra dose of Tums this Thanksgiving shortly after Detroit Lions rookie quarterback David Blough connected with wide receiver Kenny Golladay on a 75-yard touchdown just four minutes into the former Purdue Boilermaker's first NFL start.  And while Blough finished Thursday's game against the Bears with a solid overall performance, Mitch Trubisky came out victorious in what was arguably his best game in a year.

Trubisky finished with 338 yards, three touchdown passes and a 118.1 rating, and provided a glimpse into what general manager Ryan Pace fell in love with on tape prior to the 2017 NFL draft. With the exception of a few throws, Trubisky's fastball was accurate, his poise in the pocket was fantastic and his ability to move through his progressions was the best it's been in a very, very long time. It was also the first game — in a very long time — that the Bears won because of Trubisky, not in spite of him. If it wasn't for No. 10, the Bears would've suffered loss No. 7.

Naturally, when a beloved player like Trubisky has a breakout performance like he had on Thanksgiving, the post-game locker room is filled with a little more juice. Chicago's locker room, which famously turns into Club Dub after each win, isn't normally short on that juice regardless of who the stars of a win are. But there was a little more swag up in the club at Ford Field, and you have to believe it's because this win is the first one all year that felt like a sustainable recipe for longterm success.

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