If you don’t believe it matters how a team wins a game, then you’re still celebrating the Bears’ homely 24-20 victory against the Lions on Thanksgiving. It’s comforting to know there are people like you out there. Wearing a drum major’s plumed hat would be mortifying for many of us, but not you!
If you do believe it matters how a team wins a game, if excellence matters, then some of you are wondering why the Bears found it so difficult to beat an opponent that was starting a third-string quarterback who had never thrown an NFL pass in his life.
In its own peculiar way, it’s the perfect glass-half-empty/half-full debate for a 6-6 team.
Does that .500 record speak of a team that’s not half-bad or one that’s just bad? I think if you’re honest with yourself, not inebriated and/or stubborn in your refusal to listen to the gobbledygook (turkey reference) that came out of the Bears’ locker room Thursday, you know that a victory over a bad team doesn’t mean a whole lot. It just means that the Bears’ season is one step closer to being over.
Who said there’s nothing to be thankful for?
The Bears’ playoff hopes are slim, and by that I mean they now have to beat Dallas and Kansas City at home and Green Bay and Minnesota on the road to have a chance. They favor lighter fare, such as Detroit, Washington and the Giants. Alas, the kitchen says that menu is no longer available.
David Blough (sounds like how) started at quarterback for the Lions because Jeff Driskel was injured. What’s that? You haven’t heard of Driskel, either? OK, fine. Does the name Matthew Stafford ring a bell? Great. He’s the Lions’ star quarterback, but he missed the first Bears-Lions game this season because of fractured bones in his back. Driskel started in his place, and the Bears prevailed. But Driskel strained a hamstring over the weekend, meaning Blough, an undrafted rookie from Purdue, got the start.
Easy pickings, one would think.
Instead, on the Lions’ third play from scrimmage, Blough (sounds like wow!) hit former Northern Illinois wide receiver Kenny Golladay with a 75-yard touchdown pass. It was the first completion of his NFL career. A bewildered Prince Amukamara, a Bears cornerback, was considered a person of interest on the defensive breakdown.
Then Blough led another touchdown drive to give the Lions a 14-7 lead.
That’s why it’s hard to squeeze much joy out of this Bears victory.
But wait! Bears quarterback Mitch “Much-Maligned” Trubisky completed 29 of 38 passes for 338 yards and three touchdowns. He threw one interception, a really bad one, but still. His 8.9 yards per pass sounded like somebody else’s average, not his 5.8 average heading into the game.
Afterward, coach Matt Nagy said that Trubisky “made special throws at special times.’’
So what’s the problem?
Tempering any excitement those stats might elicit is the fact that the Lions came into the game ranked 30th out of 32 teams in passing yards allowed. And Trubisky committed a cardinal sin late in the second quarter when he failed to run forward on third-and-four from the Detroit 13. If he had done so, he surely would have gotten a first down. Instead, he ran sideways for one yard, and the Bears settled for a 30-yard field goal to cut the Lions’ lead to 17-10.
You say: Why does it matter? The Bears won the game! It matters because a quarterback in his third season shouldn’t be making that kind of mistake. Trubisky made several very good throws, including an 18-yard touchdown pass to rookie Jesper Horsted to tie the game at 17 and a 32-yard strike to Anthony Miller that set up the game-winning touchdown. But that mistake and the interception, a late-to-the-party pass to Allen Robinson, canceled a sizable chunk of the good.
Nagy’s history of flowery praise for Trubisky, even after bad games, has left the buyer wary. When Nagy says “special,’’ we know to immediately downgrade it to “pretty good.’’
For a second consecutive game, a rotten team had the ball late and could have pulled out a victory. Last week, it was the Giants, who fell to 2-9. This time it was the Lions, who are 3-8-1.
The Bears’ defense held again, with inside linebacker Roquan Smith sacking Blough for a 13-yard loss with 36 seconds left. That was the same Roquan Smith whose unnecessary-roughness penalty three plays earlier had gotten the Lions to the Bears’ 27-yard line. That’s how this went.
Bears safety Eddie Jackson picked off Blough on fourth-and-22 to snuff Detroit’s upset hopes.
A victory, it was. What it meant was in the beholder’s eye. Mine was looking for an eye patch.