Bears top Lions 34-22 for first NFC North victory in more than two years
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The Bears entered play Sunday against the Lions having not won an NFC North game since Halloween night in 2016. Jay Cutler was the quarterback then, Mitch Trubisky was a college junior and Matt Nagy was a Chiefs assistant who never had called an NFL play.
The Cubs were two days away from winning the World Series.
The Bears exited the game at Soldier Field having thoroughly, mercilessly pummeled the Lions 34-22 to begin their three-game, 12-day divisional gauntlet. The first-place Bears (6-3) will be healthy — and winners of three consecutive games — going into their showdown Sunday night against the Vikings (5-3-1) at Soldier Field. And then, they hope, for the Thanksgiving rematch against the Lions in Detroit.
‘‘I think guys came out hot, ready to play,’’ defensive end Akiem Hicks said. ‘‘We really felt like we had to assert our position in our division. That’s what you want to do every time you play a divisional opponent. You want to make sure they know they’re playing the Chicago Bears on their field, and it’s going to be a long game.’’
The Lions never had a chance. The Bears scored touchdowns on each of their first four drives for the first time since 1993. Their fifth drive ended when the clock expired to end the first half. The Lions managed only a one-yard touchdown run by Kerryon Johnson in the first half and trailed 26-7 after 30 minutes.
Quarterback Mitch Trubisky had a 158.3 passer rating at halftime — ‘‘Is that perfect?’’ Nagy asked playfully — and finished 23-for-30 for 355 yards, with three touchdowns and no interceptions. He and Tarik Cohen each ran for a touchdown, too — Trubisky for four yards and Cohen for three.
Trubisky’s 148.6 passer rating was the highest in franchise history among quarterbacks who threw at least 30 passes in a game.
Outside linebacker Khalil Mack had two of the Bears’ six sacks in his return from an injured right ankle. Receiver Allen Robinson, whose groin injury forced him to sit along with Mack in the previous two games, caught six passes for 133 yards and two touchdowns.
The Bears’ three takeaways — cornerbacks Bryce Callahan and Prince Amukamara had interceptions and safety Adrian Amos recovered a fumble — gave them 24 on the season, two more than they had in all of 2017.
‘‘Any win feels good, especially in the division,’’ cornerback Kyle Fuller said.
The only player who didn’t feel good was kicker Cody Parkey, who missed four kicks — two extra points and two field goals — by hitting the upright.
Nagy admitted the misses — all of which came before the middle of the third quarter — affected his play-calling the rest of the game. Still, he said, there was ‘‘zero chance’’ the Bears would try out other kickers to take Parkey’s spot this week.
‘‘We’ve got momentum, and we’re rolling right now,’’ right tackle Bobby Massie said. ‘‘And everyone got out of the game healthy.’’
Being in the hunt in the NFC North is foreign territory around Halas Hall. John Fox won a combined three division games in three seasons. Since Lovie Smith was fired, the Bears have finished last in the division every season but 2013.
‘‘We’re not talking about the past no more, man,’’ Hicks said.
The Bears are playing as though they’re trying to bury the past. Beating the Vikings in prime time would be their biggest shovel of dirt all season.
Rookie receiver Anthony Miller, who caught five passes for a career-best 122 yards and a 45-yard touchdown, knows what next week means — even as he called the victory against the Lions ‘‘very important’’ to the Bears’ future.
‘‘It just shows what we can do as a team; it shows what we’re capable of,’’ he said. ‘‘And we’ve got a big one next week against the Vikings.’’