Five reasons the Lions were able to hold on to beat the Bears, 31-30

On Sunday, Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields was tough to stop, but when it counted the Detroit Lions found a way. 

When it was over Detroit squeaked out a 31-30 win at Soldier Field. It was Detroit’s first road win since Dec. 6, 2020, the first game after Matt Patricia was fired. That makes it the first road win for coach Dan Campbell and the second straight win for the 3-6 Lions.

The Lions were down 24-10 to start the fourth quarter and were able to claw back.

“We got ourselves back in the game. We’ve gotten back in a lot of games but haven’t been able to finish them out. And we got ourselves back in the game and won it,’’ Campbell said. 
“That to me, more than anything else means everything to me, to this team. That’s above ‘on the road.’ The fact that we battled our way back and they stayed true to what they’ve been coached to do and we made the plays we had to to win the game.’’

Tied 10-10 at the half, the Bears scored a pair of touchdowns to take a 24-10 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Midway through the quarter, D’Andre Swift’s 9-yard touchdown scamper got the Lions back into the game, down 24-17.

Then one minute and 8 seconds later, cornerback Jeff Okudah intercepted Fields and brought the ball back 6 yards for a touchdown to tie the game at 24-24.

Of course there was no quit in Fields and he busted through the middle and ran 67 yards for a touchdown with Okudah on his heels as he headed into the endzone. After the extra point was missed, the Bears led 30-24 with 9:11 left. Each team went three-and-out and the Lions got the ball back with 5:23 remaining.

Running back Jamaal Williams completed the 91-yard scoring drive with a one-yard touchdown run. The extra point was good, giving the Lions a 31-30 lead. 

Five of the many reasons the Lions won:

1. Even after the Lions’ final score, the Bears had enough time to get downfield and kick a field goal to win it. But Aidan Hutchinson, Julian Okwara and the entirety of the defense had another plan. In that possession, Fields was sacked twice. Once by Hutchinson on second-and-10, then by Okwara on fourth-and-8. “That’s two weeks in a row where our defense has come up huge. That is a tough offense to play, that quarterback it’s everything we talked about. You can play perfect and play the game you want to play and if you just let him out four plays it will kill you, it could be four touchdowns,’’ Campbell said. “At the end of the day we bottled him up enough and forced him to have to stay in there and make some plays that’s hard for him to do. … Even though we got hurt on a couple of plays they stayed true to it.’’ Fields finished with 13 carries for 147 yards and two rushing touchdowns. He was also 12 of 20 for 167 yards, two passing touchdowns and one interception.

2. Another huge play came with 3:14 left and the Lions needing a touchdown. On third-and-8 from Detroit’s 42, Jared Goff connected with wide receiver Tom Kennedy for a 44-yard gain getting them to Chicago’s 14-yard line. Two plays later Jamaal Williams ran in for the game-winning touchdown. “It doesn’t shock me or surprise me that TK came up with a big play. He’s there when needed and that was big for us,’’ Campbell said.

3. Jeff Okudah’s interception and return for the touchdown early in the fourth was also key. (Notably, Okudah and Fields are both Ohio State products.) “Our defense came up big. When we desperately needed a takeaway we get that and we get points, Jeff (Okudah) makes a heck of a play,’’ Campbell said.

4. The offense had struggled a bit in the win over the Packers a week ago, but came back to life in Chicago. Goff finished 19 of 26 for 236 yards and one touchdown. His only interception was negated by a Bears penalty. “I thought Goff threw the ball well today, it wasn’t perfect all the time but I thought he was feeling it,’’ Campbell said. “He made some pivotal throws when we absolutely needed them. I thought he played quarterback for us very well and, there again, when we needed a huge drive he made some monster plays.’’

5. Over so many losses during so many years, the Lions have shot themselves in the foot with penalties. Not on Sunday. “As a whole our team played very disciplined today overall. We ended up with two penalties, their penalties really helped us,’’ Campbell said. Indeed the Bears were called for nine penalties costing them 86 yards. Also, another tried-and-true method of shooting oneself in the foot is turnovers. The Lions never turned the ball over on Sunday.

BY THE NUMBERS: The Lions only went for it on fourth down once and converted it. That was a fourth-and-2 from the Bears’ 2 in the second quarter. Goff connected with tight end Brock Wright for the score. … Alex Anzalone led the defense with 10 tackles, one pass defense and on forced fumble. Hutchinson had eight tackles and one sack. Julian Okwara had a pair of sacks. … The Bears finished with 258 rushing yards compared to just 95 for the Lions. But Detroit had 228 passing yards compared to 150 for Chicago.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

(Next up: Lions (3-6) at N.Y. Giants (7-2) at 1 p.m., on Sunday, Nov. 20. The Giants topped the Texans 24-16 on Sunday.)

Lions look for answers as they head into their bye week

ALLEN PARK — Frustration among the 1-4 Lions is not unexpected. Even though this is early for an NFL bye week, it may be perfect timing for this bunch. Many of them need to heal physically and they all need to examine what has led to this train-wreck of a start.

The 29-0 loss to the Patriots just put an emphasis on the shortcomings on both sides of the ball.

The offense imploded after good showings in the first four games. The defense, which is ranked last in the NFL, slightly improved, according to coach Dan Campbell.

One of the team leaders, running back Jamaal Williams, gave a speech during training camp that was featured on ‘Hard Knocks.” His anger showed after the team just won three games a year ago.

He has not given up on his teammates or coaches.

“I sense the disappointment, we don’t do this, we don’t work everyday for us to come out and be 1-4, we don’t accept losing, I don’t accept losing. I’ll never get used to losing. Losing will never be – that (is something) I feel in this locker room right now that we’ll get used to. I understand the status of this team the last few years,’’ Williams said on Monday.

“For me I’ve only been here for two years and, for me, I feel like this team can be very great. We can be good and have a good winning season, we can go to the playoffs, we can win a whole Super Bowl,’’ Williams said. “That’s my mindset because I’m here, I see these people every day. I see my teammates, I see my coaches, I see these people every day.’’

Still for Williams and everyone, including Campbell, the game against the Cowboys in Dallas on Oct. 23 is the total focus.

The one game at a time approach is not exactly a novel idea, but not many alternatives. No one in the Lions’ building seems to doubt this team has the work ethic. Great, but it doesn’t always lead to wins.

Center Frank Ragnow said they don’t necessarily have to work harder, but maybe work smarter  and trust each other more.

“The biggest thing we’re missing right now is complementary football. I know that’s coach-speak but it’s real,’’ Ragnow said. “Last week as an offense we scored 45 and the defense struggled. This week we put the defense in a lot of tough spots. We need to be able to have each other’s back so we can have the flow of the game. We’re a young team and we need to figure that out.’’

Campbell’s message about the next game being key, working hard and playing smart has gotten through to at least some of the team. It shows in their words to the media.

“Everybody is in the same boat, everybody is upset, everybody is frustrated, nobody likes losing here. I think everybody knows we’re better than 1-4, but we haven’t shown that collectively,’’ Campbell said on Monday. “In pieces we have, but I also know what kind of group of guys we have in this locker room. Brad (Holmes) and I built it that way. These guys are not going to lay down, they’re not going to give up, it’s a good group of guys, we have to regroup, we have the bye to do that, make adjustments, figure out what we can do better, how do we use our personnel, what do we do to maximize the personnel.’’

Immediately after the game he said he thought the defensive played better — they only gave up 29 points instead of the average of 35-plus. 

“Watching the tape, the defense played much better. I felt like we stopped the bleeding from what we’ve been going through the last couple weeks,’’ Campbell said. “Good in the red zone, good on third down, good in the run — aside from two runs they popped when we didn’t fit the gaps right,’’ Campbell said. “We gave ourselves a chance really for what we were getting ready to play and the style they were going to play. I thought we did what we needed to do.’’

Due to injuries during the game, they were so critically short on defensive backs.

“The late touchdown was tough. We had (Chase) Lucas playing safety. He had never played safety and Bobby (Price) is out there at corner and they had got us,’’ Campbell said. “Those guys will learn from it, they got put in tough spots particularly Lucas.’’

The bye week should give many of the injured time to heal.

Detroit Lions defensive issues lead to 48-45 loss to Seahawks

DETROIT — This Lions’ loss was on the defense. The offense, which is decimated by injuries, did its part on Sunday, but the Lions lost to the Seattle Seahawks, 48-45, at Ford Field. 

“I’m not shocked, I’ve been a part of so many games where you think it’s going to go one way and it goes the complete opposite,’’ coach Dan Campbell said. “I’m not shocked, but I thought it would be more defensive, a more conservative type game and it certainly wasn’t that.’’

How bad was Detroit’s defense?

— Seattle’s 48 points were more than they scored in their first three games combined. 

— The Seahawks never punted and they were 9 of 12 on third-down conversions.

— Quarterback Geno Smith completed 23-of-30 passes for 320 yards, a pair of touchdowns and he ran seven times for 49 yards and a touchdown. In the first three games he ran for a total of 15 yards.

— Running back Rashaad Penny carried 17 times for 151 yards and two touchdowns.

— Wide receiver DK Metcalf caught seven passes for 149 yards.

Campbell will do a deep dive into the defensive woes. When asked if there could be staff changes, he said: “I’m going to look at everything.”

This was not the first time the defense looked unprepared. The 1-3 Lions have averaged 31.7 points per game (before Sunday) which was second in the NFL, but the defense had given up 31 points per game which is the worst in the League.

The math is pretty simple.

“We lack confidence (defensively), that’s very clear to see, that’s one element to it,’’ Campbell said. “We lack a lot of confidence. …  We’re lacking some confidence, and there again, we’re still making errors which falls into our boat as coaches. That’s on us.’’

Naturally, questions arise about defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn. Campbell said he will sit down with Glenn and look at everything from scheme to personnel.

“A.G. is a damn good coach,’’ Campbell said. “This is what I told the team, the worst thing we can do is start pointing fingers at each other — you did this, you didn’t do this. We can’t do that, we can’t let anybody pull us apart.’’

The offense gets it. Quarterback Jared Goff, who passed for 378 yards, said he’s been in the inverse situation. “I know what happens. If you don’t support them, it goes downhill quickly,’’ Goff said.

Tight end T.J. Hockenson, who had a career day with eight receptions for 179 yards and two touchdowns, echoed Goff’s thoughts.

“I don’t want anybody to lose hope in that locker room,’’ Hockenson said.

Since day one, Campbell has always taken blame and it was no different on Sunday.

“As dismal as it is right now, we’re not as far away as we feel. Until we do something about it, it doesn’t matter,’’ Campbell said. “We’ve got to coach better and they need to take it on their shoulders.’’

He said they’re all in the same boat together.

“I know this, we can’t go in panic mode, it’s the worst thing you can do,’’ Campbell said.

While most problems were with the defense, he will also look at ways to improve the offense which was without its biggest producers. D’Andre Swift and Amon-Ra St. Brown were sidelined with injuries. And still they produced 520 yards of offense in a game where they never held a lead. Along with Hockenson and Goff, running back Jamaal Williams had 19 carries for 108 yards and two touchdowns. Wide receiver Josh Reynolds caught seven balls for 81 yards and a touchdown.

That next man up motto seems to be working for the offense under coordinator Ben Johnson. 

“There’s really no flinch with who is in there,’’ Goff said.

The flinch comes when the defense takes the field. Changes have to be made, whether in staffing or scheme, to get the season back on track.

(Next up: Lions at New England Patriots, 1 p.m. on Sunday, Oct 9.)