It's been just three days since the Chiefs and Rams combined for 105 points but after sitting through the first quarter of this, shall we say, defensive struggle between the Bears and Lions, it feels more like three months. Either way, 17 seconds into the second quarter we finally got something resembling football.
Lions cornerback DeShawn Shead forced a Trey Burton fumble and linebacker Jarrad Davis recovered:
And nine plays later, LeGarrette Blount blasted his way into the end zone for the first time since Week 7 -- and for the first points in this Thanksgiving Day get-together.
It was the first time the Bears had trailed in five games, which includes the Week 10 meeting between these two teams when Chicago jumped out to a 26-0 lead before cruising to a 34-22 victory. By halftime, the Bears had taken a 9-7 lead. This is noteworthy because they've had a second-half lead in every game this year.
So naturally, you might imagine that would be the Lions' cue to fold up shop. Just the opposite, it turns out. And it's worth noting that Detroit's offense was without Kerryon Johnson and Marvin Jones. In their places, the aforementioned Blount and second-year wide receiver Kenny Golladay picked up the slack. On the Lions' first drive of the second half, Matthew Stafford finally got going, and hit Golladay on a 43-yard pass:
A couple things: Golladay is one of the best young pass catchers in the league. And THAT'S LINEBACKER ROQUAN SMITH running down Golladay in the open field.
Four plays later, Blount scored a vintage Blount touchdown to give the Lions a 13-9 lead.
In related news:
By scoring that rushing touchdown, his fifth of the season, LeGarrette Blount just earned a $350,000 incentive. A Happy Thanksgiving.— Field Yates (@FieldYates) November 22, 2018
For reasons that aren't immediately apparent, first-year coach Matt Patricia decided to go for two after the Blount score. The attempt failed, so instead of kicking the extra point and making it 14-9, the lead remained four points. (Seriously, what's the thinking here? What advantage is there going up by six instead of four? The Bears still need a touchdown to take the lead.)
The Bears defense, which is the NFL's best according to conventional or advanced stats, finally took over the game midway the fourth quarter. Stafford threw back-to-back interceptions on the team's final two possessions and the Bears prevailed, 23-16, to end an eight-game divisional road losing streak.
Chicago is 8-3 on the season. Let that sink in.
Eddie Jackson is very good at his job
The Bears' defense is for real. It's exactly what a young (or veteran backup, in the case of Chase Daniel) quarterback needs on a team that's looking to make a deep playoff run. After a stalled Chicago drive midway through the fourth quarter and with the scored tied, 16-16, safety Eddie Jackson decided it was time for him to make an appearance.
Jackson materialized out of nowhere to pick off that pass and take it to the house.
As a rookie, Jackson had two interceptions, a forced fumble, three recovered fumbles and two defensive touchdowns, but as Windy City Gridiron noted last week, he managed those numbers in just three of his 16 games. This season, Jackson now has four picks to go along with two forced fumbles, a recovered fumble and three defensive touchdowns. For some perspective:
Bears offense was just fine with Chase Daniel
Daniel went undrafted out of Missouri in 2009, even though he was considered one of the best quarterbacks in college football. The issue: His size; Daniel is listed at 6-0, 225 pounds and there are few examples of short quarterbacks having success in the NFL. It makes some sense that the Saints signed him after he failed to make the Redskins' roster ahead of the '09 season. He spent three seasons behind Drew Brees in New Orleans where he never started a game and threw a grand total of nine passes (seven were completions). He then spent three seasons in Kansas City, where Nagy also served as the quarterbacks coach. After one-year stints with the Eagles, and a return to New Orleans, in the offseason Daniel signed a two-year, $10 million deal to rejoin Nagy in Chicago.
And just like the previous eight NFL seasons, Daniel, who came into Thursday's game 51 of 78 in his career with a touchdown and an interception, was pegged to be the backup, this time behind Mitchell Trubisky. But Trubisky's out with a right shoulder injury and Daniel made his third-ever professional start. It was fair to wonder what he might look like given that he last saw meaningful action in a 2013 game for the Chiefs, and hasn't played consistently in almost a decade.
Not surprisingly, Daniel started slow. The Bears' first three series ended punt, punt, fumble. But on possession No. 4, we saw signs of life from Daniel and the offense. He hit Allen Robinson on a nice 23-yard completion, and he just missed Tarik Cohen on a wheel route that would've been an easy touchdown, forcing Chicago to settle for a field goal. A series later, Daniel looked even better. There was a 26-yarder to Anthony Miller to get deep into Lions territory:
Two plays after that, great throw from Daniel to Taquon Mizzell to give the Bears a 9-7 lead just before half.
If you're keeping score, that was Daniel's second career touchdown pass. His first touchdown pass came 1,789 days ago. It was also Mizzell's first-ever touchdown reception. There was only about 15 minutes of game time before Daniel threw his third career touchdown, this time he hit Cohen in stride for an easy six.
But much like Trubisky, Daniel was the beneficiary of this Bears' defense. There was that Eddie Jackson pick-six to give Chicago the lead, and then, with the Lions in the red zone looking to tie the game with just over a minute to go, Kyle Fuller decided it was his time to shine.
And that, as they say, was that.
As for Daniel, who finished 27 of 37 for 230 yards with two touchdowns, no turnovers and a passer rating of 106.8, Nagy has long been unconcerned about turning to his backup.
"This is why you have a guy like Chase," he said this week, via NBCSports.com. "You feel very comfortable with him. Chase understands -- he's the oldest guy on our team, so he's got experience. Chase and I have a relationship, a coach-player relationship going back three years in Kansas City. I know Chase inside-out; he knows me inside-out. ...
"He's extremely confident in how he plays because he's so smart," Nagy said. "The game is not fast to him when he plays. The other thing with Chase that I've always appreciated is the fact that he prepares every game like he's the starter (so) if his time does come, he doesn't blink.
"... The confidence factor that he has, he's been with a lot of good quarterbacks. He has experience and you have trust."
And Daniel, who has never been short on confidence, exuded it in the days leading up to the game.
"I know the offense like the back of my hand," he said. "It's my fifth or sixth year in the league in this offense, so there's a very good comfort level there. ...
"This offense is all based around our playmakers," Daniel continued. It's based around the quarterback getting the ball to the playmakers in space, in the open field and letting them make plays so that's what we try to do every single week, we try to find matchups that we can take advantage of week in and week out."
And that's exactly what happened against the Lions -- with a little help, of course, from the Bears' defense.
Fun facts to impress your relatives on Thanksgiving (or not)
Fun fact:— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) November 22, 2018
The #Bears were the #Lions first #ThanksgivingDay opponent in Detroit on Nov. 29, 1934
Entering the game, #Chicago was 11-0, and #Detroit was 10-1
HOFer Bronko Nagurski threw the game-winning TD pass to HOFer Bill Hewitt to lift the Bears a 19-16 victory#NFLhistory
Glover Quin came out in same draft class as Daniel. Been one of better safeties in the league. Played almost 10,000 in his career. And has made only $5 million more than Daniel in his career— Mike Renner (@PFF_Mike) November 22, 2018
Things don't get any easier for the Lions (4-7); in 10 days they'll host the Los Angeles Rams (10-1). The Bears, meanwhile, travel to New York to face the Giants (3-7) before returning to Chicago to be the next in line to take on the Rams.