The Chicago Bears wanted to show that they were a better team than their 4-8 record showed. They've allowed 28.3 points per game for the season. That ranks 23rd in the NFL. However, the real story is hidden.
After giving up 34.2 points per game in their first four games, their defense has allowed an average of just 19.1 points per game in their last nine. That means that for most of the season, this defense has been a very good one.
While the improvements have been happening, the Bears were unable to turn them into wins. However, those wins are now starting to happen. They are now 5-4 in their last nine games. That is a big deal, considering that for most of last season and into this season, they lost 14 consecutive games.
After struggling early on, the Chicago Bears went into their bye week with some momentum. They used the bye to add to that momentum and they got a signature win.
The Chicago Bears team that took the field on Sunday looked very different from the team that struggled to make stops and get wins. This team looked confident even before the game began. There was a pep in their step and they looked focused on getting the win.
Of course, they felt that because they should have won their first game against the Detroit Lions in Week 11. They dominated the game and did everything but the most important thing -- win the game. They suffered a collapse in the final five minutes and blew a 12-point lead.
That was a devastating loss for the Bears. Yes, they had another late-game collapse against the Denver Broncos. However, the Broncos at that time were struggling like the Bears. The Lions lead the NFC North and were fighting for the top record in the NFC.
The Bears did something during the bye week. They had to, since they lost their last nine games coming out of their bye week. Head coach Matt Eberflus and his staff spent the off-time making some changes. Additionally, Eberflus took the time to reflect and decided that he had to be more aggressive.
Too many times, the Bears had hopeful drives that fizzled. They faced quite a few fourth down and short yardage situations, Instead of taking chances and going for it, he decided to either punt or settle for a field goal. Furthermore, the offense was stagnant and there was no creativity.
In the Bears' game before the bye week, offensive coordinator Luke Getsy called 22 passes of five yards or less. He called so many screen passes this season that it has become a running joke among the NFL folks. Something had to change.
Well, the change happened. It looked like the coaches finally realized that their jobs were on the line. Desperation has a tendency to force coaches to become more creative than they were before. This is what happened to Eberflus and Getsy.
The first thing that happened was right at the start of the game. The Bears won the coin toss. Usually, when this happens most teams defer to the second half. Chicago decided to take the ball, though. They got it and marched down the field. Then, when they were on Detroit's 16-yard line, they used a trick play.
Wide receiver DJ Moore took the direct snap. Quarterback Justin Fields lined up in the slot. He ran towards Moore and Moore faked a handoff. Moore kept the ball and ran to his left. He had three blockers in front of him. He ran it into the end zone for an incredible score. It was a creative move no one, let alone the Lions, expected to happen.
Of course, the Bears wouldn't be the Bears if they didn't get into a rut. Getsy again got conservative and Chicago, which had a 10-0 lead early, was unable to take advantage of an interception and a great punt return. On fourth-and-one, they tried a pitch to Moore but it did not work. They failed to score, while the Lions were able to find the end zone twice. Suddenly, the Bears were down 13-10 at halftime.
In the second half, the defense just shut down the vaunted Lions offense. Detroit had just 76 yards of offense in the half. We were all just waiting to see if the offense could turn things around and put some points on the board.
This was when the biggest play of the game happened. The Bears were marching down the field. However, after an incomplete pass to tight end Cole Kmet, the Bears faced a fourth-and-13 situation. Instead of punting the ball, they lined up and tried to get the Lions to jump offsides. If they did, they considered going for a 51-yard Cairo Santos field goal.
The plan worked. They got Detroit's star pass rusher, Aidan Hutchinson, to jump offsides. However, Fields and Moore took advantage of the free play. Moore blasted past the defender and was wide open. Fields hit him perfectly in stride for a 38-yard touchdown pass. The Bears failed on the two-point conversion, but they had a 19-13 lead.
That fourth-down play was the turning point of the game. When the Lions got the ball back, Lions quarterback Jared Goff fumbled a snap on Detroit's 29-yard line. The Bears recovered and were in business. This time, however, they took advantage of their good fortune. Fields, after missing a wide-open receiver earlier in the drive, took the ball in from 11 yards to make the score 25-13.
The Bears defense forced a turnover on downs and the Bears took over again. This time, they got another Santos field goal to give Chicago the 28-13 lead. That was the final score.
There was a different feeling to the game right from the beginning. The Bears wanted to avenge their Week 11 debacle and did so. They gave their fans and many across the league a glimpse into how good this team could be.
Eberflus credited the players with sticking to the plan. At times it seemed that the plan was a mess. However, Eberflus and the players kept with it and now the wins are coming. Those wins are giving the players even more confidence.
"You can just feel confidence. The guys have always been confident in their approach and confident in their abilities. But you can see the feeling of confidence when you actually see it, the progress, when you see the result. You can certainly feel that with the players and the staff. The guys are upbeat, and they'e always been that way. But you can certainly feel the confidence growing as we start stacking these wins."- Matt Eberflus
While it is great to see the players' perseverance finally paying off, it is even better seeing Eberflus take charge and make some changes himself. He was more aggressive and took some chances. That is something that the team needed in order to beat a team like the Lions.
If this continues, the hope for the Chicago Bears' latest rebuild will skyrocket. Then, during the offseason, they will again have nearly $100 million in salary cap space like last year. They could also have the top pick in next year's draft. That will only strengthen the roster and the future will look much brighter than many felt a few weeks ago.