Bears escape embarrassment on last-second field goal to beat winless Lions 16-14

A week that began with Matt Nagy fighting off rumors of his firing ended with an ugly, unconvincing win.

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Matt Nagy went into the game with a 31-27 record as Bears head coach.

Matt Nagy went into the game with a 31-27 record as Bears head coach.

Nic Antaya/Getty Images

DETROIT — Anyone who hoped the Bears’ week of dysfunction and confusion would calm down once they finally made it to Ford Field to face the Lions was expecting too much.

One of those optimists was beleaguered coach Matt Nagy, who must’ve been relieved simply to have a few hours away from the very busy work of shooting down reports that he’s on the cusp of getting canned. He probably was blissfully unaware that the Bears’ bumbling continued into the coin flip Thursday, when veteran linebacker Christian Jones clearly wasn’t paying attention.

“Detroit has won and elected to defer,” referee Adrian Hill announced after the toss. “Chicago, you want the ball? You want the ball?”

“No,” Jones said as he laughed, apparently about something completely unrelated. “We’re gonna defer.”

“They deferred,” Hill persisted. “You want the ball? You want the ball?”

Jones nodded, and finally the game was able to proceed past that awkwardness.

It provided the national audience a welcome moment of entertainment — “That is an all-timer,” broadcaster Troy Aikman said — in an otherwise uneventful and inconsequential game that the Bears won 16-14 on Cairo Santos’ 28-yard field goal as time expired to snap their five-game losing streak.

Nagy avoided inflaming his already-heated situation, but that’s all the victory over the flailing Lions actually accomplished. It simply kept a bad ordeal from getting worse.

“What happens is, people try to take you down,” said Nagy, who has taken himself down with a 20-23 record and a lifeless offense the last three seasons. “They try to rip you apart. They think you’re vulnerable.

“I think today we just proved we’re not [vulnerable]. We’ve got guys that fight.”

Under no other circumstances would narrowly beating a winless opponent be celebrated this much. Nagy will not be fired this week and most likely will get to finish the season, but his job was no safer after this game than it was before.

The Bears are still sunk at 4-7, still sitting 13th out of 16 teams in the NFC and still don’t have an offense that anyone takes seriously.

Mustering 16 points against a Lions defense that was giving up 27.3 per game is not progress. Rushing for 68 yards at a rate of 2.3 per attempt against one of the NFL’s worst run defenses doesn’t make anyone feel any better. And while it’s nice that Andy Dalton gave the Bears only their fourth 300-yard passing game of the last three seasons, it was another day of treading water at quarterback.

This season is already lost, and Dalton’s performance has no impact whatsoever on the Bears’ future. The sooner prized rookie Justin Fields gets back from his rib injury, the better off the Bears are.

And in the end, they needed a field goal on the final snap to escape against a team that couldn’t do anything right. The Lions had a player crash into a teammate while he was trying to field a punt, had too many players on the field for an extra point and were flagged for calling a timeout coming out of a timeout because they were in such disarray during a critical situation on the Bears’ final drive.

“I don’t think I’ve been a part of that — where they took two timeouts in a row,” Dalton said, unsuccessfully trying to stifle a smirk. “But they did.”

Imagine losing to a team like that.

The Bears almost did. Again.

Ever notice how they’re so preoccupied by the Packers, yet all these slap fights with the Lions go down to the last play? This is their real rivalry.

As sloppy as the Lions were, the Bears weren’t much cleaner. Give Nagy credit for using his timeouts properly and expertly running the clock down on the last drive, but this was still a mess.

Jones followed his coin-flip fiasco by holding on a punt and forcing the Bears to start at their 16-yard line late in the first quarter. Midway through the third, he added an unnecessary-roughness penalty that turned a 17-yard pass by the Lions into a 32-yard gain on their way to a touchdown and a 14-13 lead.

Minutes earlier, the Bears were looking to pull away. Dalton scrambled for a clutch seven-yard gain on third-and-six, which would’ve given the Bears a first down at the Lions’ 18-yard line, but left guard Cody Whitehair negated it by holding. Next thing you know, they walked away without any points after Santos’ 53-yard field goal fell well short.

There were enough mistakes to cost the Bears the game. They’re fortunate the Lions graciously let those slide.

“We won today,” Nagy said.

Did anyone, though? All the Bears proved was that they’re barely better than the worst team in the league. The best thing anyone can say about them now is at least they aren’t the Lions.

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