The noise outside of Halas Hall leading up to Thursday’s Thanksgiving game against the Detroit Lions was deafening. Each day that passed following the loss to the Ravens another report surfaced about Bears coach Matt Nagy.
On Monday, Jordan Schultz — Allen Robinson’s podcast partner — tweeted that Nagy had lost the locker room. On Tuesday, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Mark Konkol, a Patch.com writer, reported that Nagy would be fired after the Lions game. On Wednesday, The Athletics’ Dan Pompei reported that chairman George McCaskey “addressed the Bears players and coaches” to tell them the Patch.com report was not true.
Despite everything going on, the Bears went out and defeated the Detroit Lions, 16-14, to end their five-game losing streak.
“What I care about are these players and coaches,” Nagy said. “That’s what I care about because they’re the ones that are out there sacrificing all their time and energy to get this win. They deserve this. … When there’s distractions, which is in every sport, in all facets of life – there’s always going to be distractions. It’s how you handle them. And again, we got the win today and it could’ve went a lot of different ways. …”
In place of an injured Justin Fields, Andy Dalton played effectively. He finished 24 of 39 for 317 yards passing and threw a touchdown and an interception. One the 18-play, 69-yard game-winning field goal drive, Dalton found Damiere Byrd on two third down plays and hit Cole Kmet twice over the middle of the field.
“You get in a situation like that—that drive was so important for us, however it happened,” Dalton said. “It’s all about getting points, but to go 18 plays and run that clock out with eight minutes left is huge. To get down and to get into that position where we are able to kick a field goal in the end, it’s just a testament to our guys with a no quit attitude and finding a way to get it done.”
On the Bears’ only touchdown drive, Dalton hit Darnell Mooney for a 52-yard completion. Then on the next play, Dalton connected with Jimmy Graham over the middle for a 17-yard touchdown to complete the 2-play, 69-yard drive late in the second quarter.
As for the defense, the unit limited the Lions to just 239 yards of total offense and forced a fumble thanks to Robert Quinn and Trevis Gipson. Quinn sacked Lions quarterback Jared Goff and while Quinn was finishing the play, Gipson punched the ball out and recovered the football.
The Bears did enough to beat a winless Lions team, but, initially, it looked like all the rumors were going to be a distraction for the Bears.
On the first offensive possession, Mooney couldn’t haul in a pass that would’ve been a first down on third-and-8. The defense gave up a touchdown on its first possession. Four plays later after recovering the Goff fumble, Dalton was intercepted in the end zone by Amani Oruwariye. Cairo Santos failed to connect on a 53-yard field goal on the first offensive possession coming out of half time.
This was an ugly win for the Bears. There is no disputing that. But was anyone expecting anything different? Especially given all the rumors circulating around the team and how the Bears had been playing recently.
In a short week, the Bears didn’t have Akiem Hicks and Khalil Mack on defense. Robinson was out again. And Dalton didn’t get one live rep the entire week heading into the Week 12 matchup.
Still, the Bears found a way, which hasn’t been the case the last two games against Baltimore and Pittsburgh. And despite the Lions’ record, this was a Detroit team that has been competitive the last two weeks. The Lions lost by three to the Browns — a team that demolished the Bears — and tied against the Steelers.
For many Bears fans, this victory most likely doesn’t change their perception of the organization and what they think about Nagy. And that’s completely fine. The Bears are still a 4-7 team that has plenty of problems that need to be addressed.
But now they get to work on those issues coming off a win. Something that hasn’t happened for quite some time.
“There’s some relief, for sure,” Dalton said. “To go on a losing streak, five games, it’s tough, especially the way the last couple have been. But for us, to have everything be going on this week and everything on the outside, for our guys to just play to the very end and get the win on Thanksgiving, it’s special. I think that’s the biggest thing. We’re going to enjoy this one.”
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