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Monday, October 18, 2021

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High Marks for Bears’ Resiliency – Sports Illustrated

It was more a case of taking care of the matter at hand than a long-term statement about the Bears competing for anything higher than they achieved last year.

Beating the Detroit Lions normally elicits a smile from Bears fans and that’s about it.

Detroit has been rebuilding in football for as long as they’ve been saying their auto manufacturers are making a comeback.

Real Bears fan emotion is reserved for Arlington Heights discussion, the McCaskeys, Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy but not in that order.

When the Bears beat Detroit 24-14 Sunday, it’s true they beat a team that led Green Bay into the third quarter, stormed back late against San Francisco to lose by eight and tragically lost on the combination of an official’s call and an NFL-record field goal of 66 yards by Justin Tucker.

That’s just the point. The Lions know how to lose. They are to losing what da Vinci was to painting.

Snapping the ball off the quarterback before he’s ready, getting inside the 10 five times and producing seven points, allowing 373 yards to a team with a rookie quarterback after they had 47 yards the previous week, and making a couple dumb fourth-down gambles when field goals would have sufficed definitely follows Detroit’s standard operating procedure.

Still, to chalk this win up to the antics of a rebuilding team would be to rob the Bears of a few well-deserved bows.

They know the schedule and the way it is stacked for the next month and a half. They didn’t have their perceived starting quarterback, only a rookie in his second start after a disastrous debut start. The mob was last seen gathering pitch forks and torches to go with their Nagy effigy.

And yet, the Bears got it done convincingly, no late foul-ups like in the 20-17 win over Cincinnati.

Justin Fields delivered. The offensive line let him throw this time. Bill Lazor replaced Nagy as play caller and came up with another gem against a weak defense, his specialty.

To call this the result of Detroit’s problems most of all would deprive David Montgomery of rightful accolades after a scary injury.

The Bears deserved more than cynicism and sarcasm. They’ll no doubt get that next week.

Here are the grades for Nagy’s sixth win in seven tries against Detroit, quite the accomplishment.

Running Game: A+

Obviously Montgomery’s efforts stood out with 106 yards on 23 carries but they didn’t drop off when Damien Williams carried. Only twice before under Nagy had the Bears gone beyond Sunday’s 188-yard rushing total. The 39 carries let their injury plagued defense get some rest. A special commendation for the two tackles, as both Jason Peters and Germain Ifedi struggled greatly the previous week as pass blockers but lowered their shoulders and plowed the road against the Lions.

Passing Game: B+

Only a deflected interception and the dreadful 1-of-8 production on third downs kept this one from behing higher. Averaging 12.3 yards per attempt is what big-time quarterbacks do. With a few more performances like that, Fields might even get Nagy to forget about this Andy Dalton silliness. And don’t forget the pass blocking. Fields did use his quickness a few times to escape trouble, and even displayed a Denis Savard “spin-o-rama” move, but overall the pocket formed and remained intact.

Run Defense: B-

The Lions got a huge break when Akiem Hicks suffered a groin injury on the first play. Without Hicks to team with Eddie Goldman in his return to the lineup, the run defense gave way early in the game and it resulted in 90 Lions rushing yards. This could have been higher but Detroit simply ran out of time to rely on the running game.

Pass Defense: B

The pass rush continued its assault on quarterbacks with four more sacks, one each for Robert Quinn and Khalil Mack, one for Trevis Gipson and another for Roquan Smith. Holding T.J. Hockenson to four catches and 42 yards is a good day’s work for any secondary, particularly when they didn’t have starting safety Tashaun Gipson due to a hamstring injury. It was more of a big-play approach to pass defense and it worked, although the coverage can definitely improve.

Special Teams: B

Pat O’Donnell averaged 53 yards and got them out of a hole a few times, including with one 60-yarder. The ability to cover on kicks made by Cairo Santos to the goal line and just before it was part of the reason for a 23.5-yard return average for the Lions. The play Xavier Crawford made on punt coverage should have brought him commendations and a bonus check rather than a penalty. It was a clean hit without his helmet involved after Kalif Raymond fielded the punt, an instant replay of the penalty call made in 2019 against Cordarelle Patterson in Green Bay. The officials who called and then allowed the flag to stand need to be suspended.

Coaching: A-

Nagy swallowed his pride again and let Lazor do it, although he reminds everyone he had a hand in the game plan. Thanks for that. The only play-calling decision to pick at was why, with 10 minutes remaining right after they picked up a first down while protecting a 10-point lead, they decided they had to pass instead of run and keep the clock rolling. Fields got blindsided, and only his quickness allowed him to recover the fumble for a loss of 24 yards.

Overall: A-

The Bears continue to hold serve. They beat the weaklings and misfits of the NFL and they play tough at home. They won’t actually prove something until they beat a good team on the road, and that opportunity could be coming as soon as their next game.

Twitter: BearDigest@BearsOnMaven


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