Five reasons the Detroit Lions beat the Chicago Bears

In Darrell Bevell’s first game as Detroit Lions interim coach, the Lions made a fourth-quarter comeback to remember. Certainly, it will be one sweet memory for Bevell whose head was spinning after the game.

The Lions (5-7) snapped a two-game losing streak with a 34-30 win over the Bears at Chicago on Sunday. 

In the locker room afterward quarterback Matthew Stafford presented Bevell with the game ball.

“I think his energy is infectious and guys feed off of it and really appreciate him as a person and just happy to help us get the win today,’’ Stafford said. “Guys went out and played fast and free, it wasn’t perfect you know, there were plays we want back but never quit, never looked at the scoreboard, just kept playing, let it figure itself out and it did.’’

Detroit was down, 23-13, at the half. Bevell had a message for them.

“I just told them to continue to keep playing, don’t measure the game, play until there’s no time left on the clock and to continue to play with joy and enthusiasm we want them to play with and we’ll see what happens at the end,’’ Bevell said. “I think they did exactly that and good things happened.’’

It was the sixth straight loss for the Bears (5-7) who took the lead with their first possession and held on until late in the fourth quarter.

Turns out the Lions defense had a few huge plays left and Stafford did too. 

Five reasons the Lions won: 

1. Romeo Okwara, likely the Lions’ best defensive player this season, came up huge with a strip sack of Mitchell Trubisky with 1:37 left. He stripped the ball and John Pensini recovered it at the Bears’ 7-yard line. Two plays later Adrian Peterson ran over four Bears on his way to the end zone for what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown. Okwara’s play was obviously key. “To get that big play right there in that moment, it changed the whole momentum of the game. It was a cool play. … Just so happy for him, the defense and how they responded in the second half,’’ Bevell said.

2.  The offense appeared to open up a bit under Bevell who still made the play calls as he had as offensive coordinator. Even after Stafford missed on two deep balls, he went back deep to Quinten Cephus for a 49-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter. “The game plan was kind of do what we normally do but let Matthew kind of take the game over a little bit,’’ Bevell told WJR. “Receivers, we felt good about that, mixing in the run game. The offensive line protecting him. Matt Nelson has to go in and play right tackle, a converted defensive lineman to go out there and play tackle and block Khalil Mack play in and play out.’’ Stafford finished completing 27 of 42 attempts for 402 yards, 3 touchdowns, 1 interception and a 109.4 rating.

3. Stafford is no stranger to fourth-quarter magic. With 4:33 left, he drove the offense 96 yards down the field in 2:15, ending with a touchdown throw to Marvin Jones Jr. that put the Lions within 3 points of the Bears. Stafford now has 31 fourth-quarter comebacks, the most in the NFL since 2009. He tied with John Elway for the seventh-most in history. His 38 game-winning drives are the second-most in the NFL since 2009 and tie quarterbacks Matt Ryan and Johnny Unitas for the eighth-most in history. He did have one big hiccup. On the Lions’ first possession in the fourth, Stafford threw a side-arm pass and it was intercepted by a Bears’ defensive linemen. They were down 30-20, but obviously the game was not over. And Stafford said he kept his confidence because he felt he’d been in a good rhythm all game.

4. The Lions defense struggled in the first half, giving the Bears a 23-13 lead at the half. The Bears were held scoreless in the third. Chicago did run the ball practically at will finishing with 140 rushing yards but only 34 of those yards came in the second half. Before Sunday, the Bears had two rushing touchdowns in their first 11 games. They had three against the Lions

5. Bevell is a breath of fresh air. The emotion on the sideline was evident throughout the game, even though the Lions were losing for the first 58-plus minutes. In some of the most recent efforts, the sideline was dead. The game at Carolina stands out — the Lions were a team without a pulse. Bevell has injected much needed energy late in the season. So far it’s a winning formula

Next up: Green Bay Packers at Lions, 4:25 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 13.

(Photo courtesy of the Detroit Lions)

Five things to watch as Detroit Lions face Chicago Bears

All eyes will be on Lions interim coach Darrell Bevell in his first game in charge. He’s beyond excited for the opportunity.

The Lions’ last two losses were the final straw and cost Matt Patricia and GM Bob Quinn their jobs.

At 4-7 the Lions will face the reeling Chicago Bears (5-6) who have lost five straight after a 5-1 start.

It’s perfect that Bevell gets his first chance with an NFC North battle. After All he’s spent much of his NFL career in the division with stops in Green Bay (2000-2005) and Minnesota (2006-2010).

“This division means a lot to me. I’ve kind of joked (that) I feel like it’s my division. I’ve been in it for the entirety of my career for the most part. Just great football – all of the black and blue days, even when it was not the North, and it was different names,’’ Bevell said. “The rivalries that are here, I guess the history of football – some of the greatest places and organizations that are in football, and with some of the greatest people.’’

The Lions and Bears opened the season at Ford Field. The Lions held a 23-6 lead with three minutes left in the third quarter. Detroit’s defense collapsed, allowing Mitchell Trubisky to throw three late touchdown passes for the 27-23 win. It was definitely a sign of things to come for the next 10 weeks.

Now change is in the air for the Lions. 

“I’m asking the guys to come in with a refreshed attitude, ready to work, No. 1, but ready to have a good time and let them play with their hair on fire. Let them play fast; let them play free,’’ Bevell said. “We’ll worry about the end result at the end, but we’re going to take it one game at a time. Hopefully we like what happens at the end.”

Five things to watch:

1. Bevell will still make the offensive calls, but he’ll be on his own with no guidance from Patricia. Expect to see him open up the offense and unleash Matthew Stafford more than usual. “In the last game, we did have a little fun. We were able to hit the one, the reverse, triple hand-back to Matthew (Stafford); we threw it back to Matthew on another one,’’ Bevell said. “So we’re going to continue to try to do that, like I said, it’s fun winning. It’s fun moving the ball down the field. We have playmakers, we just have to get it in their hands,’’ Bevell said.

2. Wide receiver Kenny Golladay (hip) will be out again and running back D’Andre Swift is questionable. Still the offense should be able to move against the Bears’ defense which gave up 393 yards to the Packers last week including 182 rushing yards. “We have talented players. We haven’t had all those players all year, but like I said, the game doesn’t care,’’ Bevell said. “So we have to do the best that we can with all the things we have available to us. But I want us to play more consistent. I want us to continue to find those explosive plays that we haven’t been as consistent as we’d like to be in finding those.’’

3. Cory Undlin remains the defensive coordinator. While Bevell has  always worked on the offensive side of the ball, certainly he and Undlin have talked philosophy. “The mindsets of defensive players and offensive players are different. So, it’s fun to be in (the meetings). I have a lot of respect for Cory. From the day that he walked in here, I felt like we almost had an immediate kinship anyway, so our conversations have been great, they’ve been easy, they’ve been free flowing,’’ Bevell said. “So, we were just down there before I came up here talking about the game plan and what he’s talking about doing. I would definitely be informed, but like I said, I want him to feel free to do what he thinks is best for our players to put them in the best situations to be successful because he knows those guys inside and out right now.”

4. Trubisky will get the start again.This is bad news for the Lions since Trubisky seems to play his best football against Detroit. In six career starts against Detroit, Trubisky has thrown for 1,601 yards, 14 touchdowns and four interceptions (106.0 quarterback rating) — including four consecutive games with at least three touchdowns and a passer rating over 100.0, per ESPN.com.

5. Bevell’s message to the team is to look forward, first to the Bears and then the final four games. He was first allowed (due to COVID-19 restrictions) to meet with the team in person on Wednesday. “ I was happy to see them face-to-face. I could feel energy. There was excitement in the room. Hopefully I did a good job speaking to them, but really my message to them was about perspective and changing our perspective and turning that thing forward.,’’ Bevell said. “There’s no rearview mirror. We’re looking forward, moving ahead, and we’re straight dialed in on Chicago. So, that was my message.”

Prediction: Lions 27, Bears 24

Lions Matthew Stafford likes excitement that interim coach Darrell Bevell brings

Of all the Lions, quarterback Matthew Stafford probably knows interim coach Darrell Bevell best. The two have worked together closely since Bevell started as offensive coordinator before the 2019 season..

Bevell was named to replace Matt Patricia on Saturday after the coach and general manager Bob Quinn were fired.

Bevell said he’s jacked up and ready to go during a media Zoom call on Monday.

“I’m asking the guys to come in with a refreshed attitude, ready to work No. 1, but ready to have a good time and let them play with their hair on fire. Let them play fast, let them play free,’’ Bevell said.

He mentioned the word fun repeatedly. And, like Stafford, neither of them would not disparage the past regime. Both are only looking forward.

However, a close look between the lines shows clearly not enough fun was being had by the Lions probably for the last three seasons. Winning leads to fun and there wasn’t much of that under Patricia.

The Lions have five games remaining, starting at Chicago on Sunday, to finish the year on a somewhat positive note and to show what Bevell can accomplish in his first stint as a head coach.

“When you’re a player and you get that coach that’s excited like that it’s a fun thing. As a player this is a fun game, it’s an exciting game, let’s go have some fun and play with some excitement and passion and I know that Bev brings it in his own way, every person is different,’’ Stafford said. “He’s going to be comfortable with who he is, he’s going to bring his energy that’s authentic and natural to him. It’s on us to make that come to life on the field on Sundays and win games.’’

Stafford is excited for the defensive players to get to know Bevell who has met twice with the players on Zoom. Per the NFL, all team facilities were closed Monday and Tuesday to help try to control the coronavirus spread.

The quarterback said the biggest thing for the players is to respond to what Bevell will bring to the team.

The 50-year-old Bevell started his NFL coaching career in 2000 as assistant quarterbacks coach for the Green Bay Packers. From 2003-05 he was elevated to quarterbacks coach working with Brett Favre.

That connection hasn’t been lost on Stafford who shares a bit of the gunslinger attitude that was typical Favre.

“I think from Day One when I first met (Bevell) he’s always been the same guy. He’s been positive, upbeat. He loves coming to work — he loves the game of football,’’ Stafford said. “He’s lucky early in his career, he got to spend a lot of time around Brett Favre. It’s a similar kind of feel where they just love the game for the game. I know Bev has great appreciation for Brett and it probably rubbed off on him a little bit on how much fun a grown man can have playing a kids game. He brings that kind of youthful joy to the game and always has since I met him.’’

BONUS: Stafford was curious to see the Broncos’ game on Sunday, more for how often his buddy Sam Martin had to punt since all three quarterbacks were quarantined. Denver’s starter was a practice squad wide receiver (Kendall Hinton) who had never taken a snap in practice. 

The Lions would not be in such a dire predicament.

“For us, we actually kind of have a sneaky talented group of throwers,’’ Stafford said. “(Mohamed) Sanu’s passer rating is perfect. (Danny) Amendola throws it good. (Jamal) Agnew dropped a dime on me at Thanksgiving that I dropped. There’s endless possibilities, we’ll keep defenses guessing with that one, but hopefully we don’t have to find out.’’