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Film study: Defensive plays that swung Bears’ miracle win

Four key scenes on defense from the Bears’ come-from-behind win Sunday — just the fourth time in the last 783 games that an NFL team successfully rallied from a 17-point deficit in the fourth quarter

Marvin Jones knocks Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson to the ground Sunday.
Marvin Jones knocks Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson to the ground Sunday.
Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

Four key scenes on defense from the Bears’ come-from-behind win Sunday — just the fourth time in the last 783 games that an NFL team successfully rallied from a 17-point deficit in the fourth quarter:

Danny and the drop

Bears inside linebacker Danny Trevathan almost gave up the game-winning touchdown.

He was playing man defense against Lions rookie running back D’Andre Swift when the Lions, down by four points with 11 seconds to play, snapped the ball from the Bears’ 16-yard line.

Standing to quarterback Matthew Stafford’s left in the shotgun, Swift ran an option pass route straight up the field. Trevathan took two steps toward the sideline, then stopped. He was flat-footed as Swift broke to his left, then up toward the front left pylon, and turned to look over his outside shoulder for the ball.

When Stafford threw it, Trevathan had to know he was in trouble — he was four yards behind Swift, with his back to the ball.

Inside linebackers coach Mark DeLeone said Trevathan should have been positioned wider toward the sideline.

“He’s got to do a better job of his leverage there and staying outside that route,” DeLone said.

Swift reached to catch the ball at the 1. As it hit his hands, he began to turn to run up the field. He probably could have just fallen backward into the end zone instead.

He dropped the ball. Trevathan got lucky.

Calling Trevathan a “grown man,” DeLeone said he’ll treat the play as the error it was.

“I think Danny knows the mistakes he had,” he said. “He’s a competitor. He’s going to be able to correct those.”

The pick

On third-and-six with 2:45 remaining, the Lions lined up with a chance to seal the game. They had two receivers lined up right and close to the ball, just outside the right tackle. Receiver Marvin Jones and tight end T.J. Hockenson were in a similar tight formation, lined up left.

The Bears had prepared for this play during the week. Safety Eddie Jackson told his teammates during meetings that he would bluff playing deep, then sprint to the center of the field as the “robber,” trying to intercept a pass while the cornerbacks played man coverage.

Jackson stood at the Lions’ 42 at the snap. After sitting back for two seconds, he sprinted five yards forward, toward Jones, who ran a dig route seven yards deep — just past the first-down marker — with Jaylon Johnson in tight man coverage.

Jackson closed in with his arms extended forward and tipped the ball, which then hit Johnson’s shoulder pads. It bounced in the air and landed in cornerback Kyle Fuller’s arms for an interception.

“The quarterback threw it right to where Eddie was,” Bears secondary coach Deshea Townsend said. “And those guys made a great play on the ball.”

Johnson gets back up

About halfway through the second quarter, Jones ran a crossing route, caught the ball at the Bears’ 46 and ran up the left sideline. Eight yards later, rookie cornerback Johnson put his head down to tackle him. Jones used his right shoulder to knock Johnson down and practically steal his soul.

“You show me a corner that has never been run over,” Bears secondary coach Deshea Townsend said, “and I’ll show you a corner that hasn’t really played.”

What impressed Townsend was what Johnson did four plays after he was trucked. On third-and-eight from the Bears’ 14, Jamal Agnew, the Lions receiver split nearest right, crossed the middle of the field with inside linebacker Roquan Smith behind him. When the ball was thrown, Johnson — playing zone with no other wide receivers on the left-hand side of the field — broke up the pass at the 1.

“His ability to have vision and to see the other route coming across the field was a very instinctive play by a young guy,” Townsend said.

His only quibble: Johnson got both hands on the ball but didn’t catch it.

“To make it a great play would’ve been for him to finish it,” he said.

Someone stop him

Future Hall of Famer Adrian Peterson looked every bit like his younger self while rushing for 93 yards on 14 carries for the Lions.

He didn’t need to break many tackles. The first time he touched the ball, he went 16 yards before a Bear got a hand on him. On a 21-yard run in the third quarter, no Bear touched him for the first 19 yards. On his next rush, he wasn’t touched for the first eight yards. And he made it nine yards untouched on one of his two 14-yard runs in the fourth quarter.

The Bears will play all year without their best run-stuffer, nose tackle Eddie Goldman, who opted out of the season. They already missed him.

“I’ve seen us play some good downs,” defensive line coach Jay Rodgers said. “But the consistency part of it, we need to be able to be better across the board for the entire game.”