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.)

Five things to watch as Lions look to snap road losing streak at Bears; plus my prediction

Coming off a home win against the Packers, the Lions have a chance to snap that ugly 13-game losing streak on the road when they face the Chicago Bears on Sunday.

Coach Dan Campbell said he might not present it to his team that way.

“Boy that’s brutal, when you just said that I haven’t thought of it like that. That’s rough, I think we will talk about that now that you’ve – yeah, no look I think it’s this. I don’t think – I think what we talk about is, ‘Hey, man first road win. This is an opportunity to get the first road win,’’ Campbell said. 

The coach said to get success on the road it takes composure and discipline. “You know it’s going to be loud. There will be things that are going to happen, momentum will shift and not to buckle under that pressure is big. And then I think from a coaching standpoint, we’ve got to keep it – we’ve got to have enough ammo, but we’ve got to keep it simple enough to where we don’t put ourselves in a bind. You put in too much stuff, for example offense, man it’s good. You’ve got all these things you want to attack, but yet, man, if it’s a lot of kills and shifts and motions to the extent where it takes away from you getting lined up, and just doing your job playing fast, playing efficiently. That’s where you’ve got to be careful of,’’ Campbell said.

The Lions have not won on the road under Campbell. Their  last road win was on Dec. 6, 2020, at Chicago with a 34-30 mark.

“We both kind of have our backs against the wall a little bit, so there will be that fight and that fight to the bitter end, and you have to prepare for that,’’ quarterback Jared Goff said. “There are some teams that you don’t get that with, but we’re both kind of in the mix of this adversity, trying to pull our ways out of it. It’s going to be a fight. It’ll be a good one, and we’ll be ready.”

Five things to watch as the Lions (2-6) face the Bears (3-6):

1. The Lions defense, which is coming off its best game this season, has had some trouble with mobile quarterbacks like Jalen Hurts and Geno Smith. Facing Bears’ Justin Fields, who had 178 rushing yards against the Dolphins last week, will present another challenge. “I think over the past three weeks, they adjusted on how they operate with this ( Fields) quarterback, and he’s playing at a high level right now. And I would say in the run and really in the pass game when you think about it, man, he’s not getting the yards that you’d want, but he’s being efficient with what he’s doing,’’ defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn said. “And I’ll tell you what, these two backs they have, I mean they’re really good now. They’re really, really good, and the thing is they break tackles, they can find the seam, so we really have to be disciplined.’’

2. Continue the improvements the defense made last week. “Really excited about the way the defense played, but I guess more excited of the fact that our defense was on the field at a critical time at the end of the game to put the game away, and that was something that our guys needed because belief starts to stick,’’ Glenn said. “And I’ve said this to you guys before, belief is a powerful drug, so that’s something that we’ve got to continue to do, and I’m proud of the way our guys fought. I’m proud of the energy, the execution, just overall, the sideline, it was outstanding. And this has got to be one of the better games we’ve had since I’ve been here, so I’m looking forward to more games like that. And then just continue to look forward to practice, so we can continue to just get better.”

3. While the defense was on fire the offense played just well enough to win but has seen a lack of explosive plays in the last two weeks. “I want to say just by our metrics there were five explosives two weeks ago and then only four last week, which really we’ve been averaging over eight early in the season there,’’ offensive coordinator Ben Johnson said. “So, the explosive game hasn’t been there and that’s not just throwing the ball down the field or getting the big runs. It’s also some of these opportunities we have to get the ball in our hands short and making a tackler miss and creating something that way.’’ In their metrics a run is considered explosive at 12 or more yards while it’s 16 or more for a pass.

4. While D’Andre Swift is still not 100 percent, Jamaal Williams has been logging the bulk of the work in the run game. “I think since we got him even a year ago, he’s been the model of consistency for us offensively. He runs hard. It might not be flashy or sexy all the time, but he finds a way to always be falling forward when he’s being tackled,’’ Johnson said. “He’ll find creases. He’s got great vision, and he’s shown the ability to break tackles and potentially have some explosive runs for us too. So, minus the one game, the Dallas game, I mean he has been exactly what we want from a physical, downhill running back.”

5. One of the reasons the LIons’ defense had success last week was rookie safety Kerby Joseph playing his best game. ”Since he started, which has been about four weeks now, he’s just every week gotten a little bit better and I think that’s what it says is that he’s putting in the work and he’s growing,’’ Campbell said. “And that’s – just as far as the players, it continues to trend that way is the whole idea, but that’s a credit to Brad (Holmes) and our scouting staff, to be able to project a player like that and hopefully he continues to trend that way.’’

INS AND OUTS: Wide receiver Josh Reynolds (back) is out after not practicing all week. Tackle Matt Nelson (calf) is doubtful. Four are questionable: Joseph (concussion protocol), safety Ifeatu Melifonwh (ankle), cornerback Chase Lucas (ankle) and LB Malcolm Rodriguez (elbow).

(Prediction: Bears 31, Lions 21)

Five things to know as Lions face Bears in Chicago

In the NFL losses are losses and then there was the last-second loss to the Baltimore Ravens last Sunday. That could be a tough one to get over for the Lions but they have no choice.

The Lions (0-2) face the Bears (1-2) at Chicago’s Soldier Field on Sunday.

“Between my coaching staff and myself, we’re just trying to preach the right things every day. You go back to work. It’s about being resilient. It’s about learning from your errors. It’s about not giving up,’’ coach Dan Campbell said this week. 

“It’s all of the things and I think that the veterans that we have here that have been retained or that we have brought in believe the way we believe. They’ve been winners in other programs and they know what it takes and I think while we’re bringing them along, particularly the young guys, I think their voices are beginning to get louder,’’ he added.

The Bears are coming off a 26-6 loss to Cleveland in quarterback Justin Fields’ first start.

Five things to watch: 

1. Fields will get his second start on Sunday. All week the Bears were mum about who would get the nod, but announced on Saturday it will be Fields. The rookie completed 6 of 20 pass attempts for 68 yards with zero touchdowns and zero interceptions in the loss to the Browns last week. He was sacked nine times for a loss of 67 yards. It was not pretty.

2. Trey Flowers (shoulder/knee) will miss his second straight game. It looked like he was trending to play but was officially declared out on Friday. Holding him out is not devastating because of the depth on the defensive line. “I think, to be honest with you, we’re in a pretty good place just depth-wise and it’s more – I just feel like if we are – this is the right thing for Trey, too, which in turn is also the right thing for us long-term,’’ Campbell said. “I think if we can get him back to where he’s feeling really good, I think in the long run, that’s going to be a good thing for him and for us.” DE Michael Brockers and OLB Romeo Okwara are both questionable due to shoulder injuries.

3. They say if you have three quarterbacks you really don’t have one. That’s an issue for the Bears but at least starting quarterback is not a problem for the Lions. Jared Goff has been steady in the opening three losses with five touchdowns, two interceptions and a 69.6% completion percentage. He’s had the offense rolling for stretches, but not a complete game yet. “I think we’re really close. It’s a constant, ‘How do we get better today? How do we get better the next day?’ It’s always that way, but you feel close, you always do and we have to do it,’’ Goff said. “We have to put it on the field, we have to do it on game day on Sundays and make it come to life. Yeah, I do feel like we’re close to doing that and putting four quarters together.”

4. Tight end T.J. Hockenson is the leading receiver in yards with 18 catches for 173 yards, but Campbell things Quintez Cephus could be ready for a breakout game.”I think he’s – you see things last week, though he didn’t get targeted as much, I thought he did some good things on tape. He’s getting there. I think (Amon-Ra) St. Brown is close. I think he’s due to have a game for us. He does a ton of dirty work for us. I think his opportunities are going to come. And so, there again, it’s got to happen,’’ Campbell said. “I think once one to two of those things happen, then there will be confidence in those players and then, in turn, in all of us. It helps the quarterback, helps us game plan, all of those things.”

5. While the 66-yard field goal crushed the Lions hopes of a win last week, it was the fourth-and-19 conversion that allowed that kick to happen. Campbell blamed lack of communication for the breakdown on that play so they worked on it in practice this week. “Everything that we talk about emphasizing has really shown up and you can hear it. You can hear the communication, you can see them talking, you can see the hand signals. We do pre-practice walkthroughs, we do walkthroughs before practice. So, we have a pre-practice, pre-practice, then a pre-practice,’’ Campbell said. “It has, it’s really shown up. Now, do we still make mistakes? We do, but the point is, the emphasis, and it is, it was better. I thought (Thursday)  was one of the best practices that we’ve had all year. I was encouraged. It was good.”

PREDICTION: Lions 24, Bears 10