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)

Lions’ draft pick LB Julian Okwara joins brother Romeo in Detroit

Julian Okwara has always been competitive with his older brother, Romeo. Now the brothers will play on the same team in Detroit.

It was a nice touch, as the TV cameras showed the brothers hugging when Julian’s name was announced when the Lions selected him in the third round of Friday’s NFL draft.

At the NFL Combine in February, Julian said it would be great to play for the Lions because he could get free rent from his brother. 

“It’s awesome I’ve always dreamed about this, it’s a dream come true, I’m pretty much speechless, still letting it marinate. I’ll wake up tomorrow and let it set in,’’ Julian Okwara said on a conference call on Friday night. 

And, yes, he still plans on a year of free rent from Romeo.

Okwara, who played at Notre Dame just like his brother, was the 67th overall pick of the Lions on Friday night.

Edge rusher was one of the Lions’ biggest needs and Okwara (6-4, 248 pounds) should be able to step in. 

“They’re getting a relentless pass rusher, a great defensive end who wreaks havoc in the backfield. I’m looking forward to learning on and off the field,’’ Okwara said. “I’m a dominant player, I’m looking forward to bringing a championship to Detroit.’’

Athlon Sports had him slotted as the fifth best outside linebacker in the draft.

Athlon reported: “He flashes exceptional skills in the pass rush, with good get-off and the heavy, active hands to beat blocks and enough flexibility to turn once he’s softened the edge.’’

In nine games for the Irish in 2019 he had five sacks, seven quarterback hits and two forced fumbles.

His brother Romeo, a defensive end, was undrafted. He originally signed with the N.Y. Giants and was claimed off the waiver wire by the Lions on Sept. 5, 2018. He had 15 starts and led the Lions with 7.5 sacks. In 2019 he had one start in 14 games with 1.5 sacks.

Earlier on Friday night the Lions drafted running back D’Andre Swift (Georgia) in the second round (35th overall).

Later in the third round, the Lions drafted offensive guard Jonah Jackson (Ohio State).

Lions waive Anthony Zettel; awarded DE Romeo Okwara via waivers

Zettel had 6.5 sacks in 2017

In the past two years, Lions GM Bob Quinn has proven that he is not shy about dumping his own draft picks.

It happened again on Wednesday when Quinn waived defensive end Anthony Zettel who was a sixth-round pick in Quinn’s first draft class in 2016.

The Lions were awarded DE Romeo Okwara via waivers from the New York Giants. Okwara, 23, played in six games for the Giants in 2017 due to a knee injury and finished with no sacks. As a rookie he played in all 16 games with four starts and one sack. He was signed by the Giants as an undrafted free agent out of Notre Dame in 2016.

In 2016 with Kerry Hyder out, Zettel started all 16 games and was second in sacks (6.5) only to Ziggy Ansah (12).  As a rookie he played in 13 games with no starts.
Zettel, who is from West Branch, Mich., was listed as Hyder’s backup on the depth chart released this week.

In the final game of the 2017 season, the defensive line starters were Zettel, Ansah, A’Shawn Robinson and Akeem Spence who was traded to the Dolphins in May. Ricky Jean Francois and Sylvester Williams are expected to start at defensive tackle with Robinson as a backup. Hyder and Ansah will start at defensive end.

The Lions open the season on Monday night against the New York Jets.