Good opponents will not let the Bears get away with this.
Any of it.
It was a thrilling afternoon but hardly encouraging as the Bears beat the Lions 27-23 thanks to a late spark by Mitch Trubisky and a lot of freebies. Thank goodness — for the Bears and their fledgling quarterback — they play the Lions twice every season.
With another feast Sunday, Trubisky has a 106.0 career passer rating against Detroit — a spike from his 82.7 against everyone else. Similarly, coach Matt Nagy is 5-0 against the Lions and a modest 16-12 otherwise.
Every win matters for the Bears when the future of their coach, general manager and starting quarterback is as shaky as a Jenga tower, and they desperately need to stack victories in the first four games against some of the worst defenses on their schedule.
But Nagy saw this last season, when the Bears were 3-1 after a squeaker in Denver and a haphazard win at Washington. He knows performances like the one the Bears gave Sunday will produce more defeats than victories.
“We’re not going to let this win deodorize any of the stuff on offense, defense or special teams that wasn’t good,” Nagy said. “We’re 1-0 right now. We appreciate that. We know we have a lot more to go.”
The Bears won despite Trubisky’s 65.1 passer rating through three quarters (he rallied to 104.2), the offense going 2-for-11 on third down and the defense going without a sack until Akiem Hicks delivered with five minutes left. That all sounds maddeningly familiar.
There were good parts, too, to be fair. Trubisky had no turnovers (Charles Leno pounced on his fumble for a 28-yard loss), Cordarrelle Patterson finally fit perfectly and Nagy’s commitment to the run produced 5.3 yards per carry.
But sharper opponents won’t give them nearly as much help. Consider the gifts the Lions handed out, and ask if the Buccaneers, Saints, Vikings and Packers will be so generous:
† Outside linebacker Jamie Collins, one of the Lions’ most important players, took himself out of the game early in the second quarter when he demonstrated how he hit someone by headbutting an official. That’s not from the Onion. It really happened, and he was ejected.
† Rather than sack Trubisky late in the first half, Lions cornerback Desmond Trufant grabbed his face mask to add 12 yards to a 19-yard scramble.
† When Trubisky overthrew a pass that deflected off Allen Robinson’s hand early in the second quarter and it gently landed in cornerback Justin Coleman’s hands, Coleman bobbled it away for an incompletion.
† Matt Stafford, ever the risk-taker even with a lead in the final minutes, zipped one over the middle into double coverage that Jaylon Johnson tipped for Kyle Fuller to intercept. It set up the Bears’ go-ahead score.
And the Lions saved their best gift for last.
From 16 yards out, running back D’Andre Swift got a step on Danny Trevathan and Buster Skrine, and for a moment the Bears were beaten as he got all 10 fingers on the game-winning touchdown pass. Stunningly, though, Swift lost his grip, and the ball fell harmlessly to the turf with six seconds left.
“What a break,” Nagy said. “For a second, you could feel the whole sideline for Detroit just start jumping up and down, going crazy. And then they started, like, grabbing their heads because they saw him drop it. And we started cheering.
“That’s the breaks. We just feel very lucky and fortunate that we were able to get out of there.”
That’s a fascinating aspect of Nagy: He’s irrepressibly optimistic but simultaneously realistic. He knows he’ll always be “luckier” against the Lions than the heavyweights the Bears will encounter later.
This victory didn’t fool him into thinking everything’s on track. And no one else should fall for it, either.