Admit it, that was exactly how you thought the first win of the year would be drawn up.
Well, I guess to be fair, for this team, that’s how a win would ideally look - get the first score, play some solid defense, and hold on for the win. While the offense might have had its biggest flash yet, scoring 17 points, holding a Detroit offense that had been 5th in points scored and 4th in yardage to just 6 points of offense, 263 total yards, and converting 14 non-penalty first downs is no small feat in and of itself. Except for, of course, how bad Detroit looked.
Nearly everything statistically screamed that the Bears dominated the Lions, for as much as 17 points can be dominating - yet, this is what the team is supposed to do. An extra 6:30 in time of possession, 11 more plays run, converting an additional 7 first downs, and probably most importantly, taking the ball away twice without giving it away.
Now that we’ve given away some of the interesting statistical numbers, let’s get into how this game actually went down, because this game actually shows moments of flashing brilliance followed by long lulls of “What the hell was that nonsense.”
For starters, after both sides punted to open the game, Brian Hoyer spread the ball around to Alshon Jeffery, Eddie Royal, and Logan Paulsen, coupled with a fairly generous pass interference call drawn by Jordan Howard on Tahir Whitehead, in marching 83 yards in ten plays, capped off by a nice rollout to extend the play and a high throw that Royal snared out of the air at the goal line.
After what turned briefly into a punting duel between the two teams, the Bears took a ten play drive down to the Detroit 36, where they would fail to convert a 4th and 1 with Joique Bell up the middle. The play was blown up as Cody Whitehair, Bobbie Massie, and Charles Leno Jr all were destroyed on the play. The Lions took possession and converted it into a Matt Prater 50 yard field goal, and it seemed like the tide might turn. That feeling solidified when on the next drive as Connor Barth pushed a 50-yard field goal just wide, and the Lions took possession looking to take the lead into the half.
But on 3rd and 1 from the Chicago 22, the Lions had a miscommunication, and paid dearly for it as Jacoby Glenn snared the interception.
The Lions would get the ball to start the second half, and they would make the most of it, holding onto the ball for nearly 8 minutes and 13 plays, moving to 1st and goal at the Bears’ 5 yard line. Harold Jones-Quartey stopped Theo Riddick at the 1 yard line, and from there Will Sutton and John Timu made stops on 2nd and 3rd down. Timu especially did an excellent job timing the snap and shooting the gap to trip up Zach Zenner. The Lions had to settle for a field goal.
The next drive, things looked bleak for the Bears as Cody Whitehair pushed the Bears into 2nd and 12 at the 23, then a short pass to Kevin White left the Bears with 3rd and 11 at their 24. But Hoyer found Eddie Royal in the middle of the field and he ran, and kept running, for 64 yards down to the Lions’ 12 yard line. Zach Miller hauled in the touchdown pass, and the Bears were up 14-6, adding another field goal on their next drive to push to 17-6.
The Lions started to make another push down the field, aided by a pair of defensive holding penalties to get to the Bears’ 23 yard line. Then, there was a second Lions’ miscommunication - this time, Deiondre’ Hall was the recipient of the Matthew Stafford pick.
The Bears couldn’t quite run the clock out just yet, so they had to punt to Detroit inside of the final two minutes, and Andre Roberts made them pay, taking the punt 85 yards for a touchdown, and the Lions converted the two point try to make it 17-14. But a tricky, poorly executed onside kick failed miserably, and the Bears had their first victory of the young season.
- Let’s address right away Brian Hoyer’s very solid game. He played well, and that’s a great thing. Last week’s performance was marred by the number of garbage time attempts, but yesterday’s game was really a pretty balanced gameplan emphasized by the running of Jordan Howard. Hoyer picked up his second 300-yard passing game of the year and a couple passing touchdowns en route to a 120.1 passer rating; Howard racked up 111 yards on the ground, and Eddie Royal caught all seven of the balls thrown his way for 111 yards. We also saw a lot of different things with the offensive scheme - the accurate passes, play-action rollouts working with an effective, 4.8 YPC running back. We also saw 9 targets for Kevin White, leading the team, though he caught 6 of them for 55 yards. Alshon Jeffery was tied with Cameron Meredith for third with 5 targets.
- Does this mean the Bears are trying to phase Jeffery out of the offense or suppress his value? No. No, no, no. But Jeffery had, over the first couple games, shown a tendency to get shut down as games wore on - the Bears needed to develop another reliable weapon to keep the pressure off him. With this game, they may have taken steps to establishing some of those other weapons, especially Royal.
- This also shows how important the running game is to what the Bears want to do, especially in terms of controlling the clock. But it seems like every run just off the tackles led to a 2nd and long or 3rd and long. That isn’t where the Bears’ run strength is, especially with Jordan Howard, who hits a hole and hits it hard.
- Now, onto Hoyer. Before you get too carried away with Hoyer and the Bears’ offense, consider: This Lions defense is not “good.” It was missing its best pass rusher, had already allowed 450 yards to the Colts in week one, and the 17 points the Bears scored are the second-lowest on the young season (the Lions have allowed 35, 16, and 34 points this year). So the best Bears offense of the year was a lot of sound and fury (yards), but not much substance to back it up (points). The Bears haven’t sniffed 20 points yet this season. Really, the Bears took the lead, then their best job was holding the ball and not screwing it up for a defense that was playing solid football without getting a good pass rush all day.
- Speaking of defense: It was a revolving door at cornerback for the Bears; Tracy Porter started, Jacoby Glenn filled in next to Bryce Callahan (who flashed a pretty strong game himself) and picked Stafford, then Hall came in for Glenn and got himself a pick as well. Cre’von LeBlanc stepped in as the nickel back and wasn’t bad. Neither pick the Bears made was the result of some spectacular individual effort or “I can’t believe he made that play,” but the playmaking element was missing so notably last season that even driving on a miscommunication is worth taking as a small victory for a defensive backfield that has sorely needed some talent and ball skills.
- Cornelius Washington picked up an NZI penalty that gave the Lions a first down to keep their field goal drive alive. Later in the game he made up for it with a strong sack of Stafford to force 2nd and 19. Later in the drive, Glenn would give up defensive holding to concede the first down.
- Speaking of sacks, Darius Slay’s DB blitz was just a really well executed play. Kyle Long may have been the only guy who wasn’t blocking anybody, but Bobbie Massie had to block inside and Howard can’t be responsible for two blitzers at once. If nobody gets open, the only end result there is sack. I’ll be looking forward to Lester’s sure-to-be excellent breakdown later to see how somebody blew it (I am not an offensive line coach).
- There’s literally a Lions player named Don Juan Carey?
- I like the looks that Nick Kwiatkoski is getting while Danny Trevathan is out. He looks like he can play.
- Okay, no, but seriously, how do you allow a punt return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter while trying to ice the game... when they leave no blockers?
- Hey, somebody finally told Deonte Thompson that when you’re in the end zone on a kickoff... stay there. I’m pretty sure I heard Raheem Mostert tell Thompson to stay there or he would tackle him himself.
- After week 1’s performance, Stafford and the Lions really looked lost. They got nothing going on the ground and outside of Marvin Jones’ 74 yards nobody could really come through through the air. Maybe there’s some growth coming through in the Bears’ defense, or maybe the Lions just aren’t that good.
Well, that’s about all for this week. In the end, the Bears had a game that I’m sure they’d like to duplicate as much as possible - score first, hold the other team to 6 points offensively, and get out with the clock and the lead. That being said, there’s a lot of room for improvement, and maybe next week we’ll see if there’s something they can do to work on that.
What did you notice from yesterday’s game?