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5 Takeaways: Devastating loss underscores Bears’ defining shortcomings

8 months agoChris Emma

DETROIT – Late in the fourth quarter of a game the Bears seemed to have in hand, fans began filing for the exits at Ford Field.  

The Bears owned a two-score lead and seemed on the verge of sealing the type of victory they have long coveted under the watch of Matt Eberflus – a divisional upset that would’ve marked consecutive wins for the first time since 2021 and left a defining stamp of progress.  

What ensued was another memorable Sunday for the first-place Lions and more devastation for the beleaguered Bears, who blew a late lead and fell 31-26 in Detroit. 

Here are the five takeaways from this loss to the Lions. 

1. Bears squander their chance at victory

The visiting locker room at Ford Field is a particularly cramped space, one that requires auxiliary lockers pulled into the middle of the room to accommodate each team. It’s a space that does not allow individuals to be alone in their thoughts and emotions. 

The Bears struggled to process how a potential galvanizing victory so quickly became a gut-wrenching loss. Players hung their heads to the floor and faced into their locker stalls, searching for clarity and pondering how this collapse came to be. 

“If I’m being real, we should’ve won that game,” quarterback Justin Fields said. 

The Bears took a 26-14 lead with 4:15 remaining after Cairo Santos kicked his fourth field goal of the game. All this team needed was to hold strong defensively and to run out the clock.  

Eberflus elected conservative calls down the stretch, including a pair of field goals in the fourth quarter – first on a 4th-and-1 from the 23-yard line, then later on a 4th-and-5 with 4:20 remaining in the game. He believed in this Bears defense, which had stifled the Lions’ attack and picked off Jared Goff three times. 

But Eberflus went away from the Bears’ game plan defensively, putting his unit into a two-minute mode up 12 with under four minutes remaining. Goff led the Lions on a six-play, 75-yard scoring drive that took only 1:16 off the clock. 

Goff picked apart soft coverages from the Bears, then capped the drive with a 32-yard touchdown to Jameson Williams. 

“They just went down the field too fast,” Eberflus said. 

Eberflus as the Bears’ de facto defensive coordinator let down Eberflus as the head coach. With 2:59 remaining, it was left up to Fields and the offense to seal their 26-21 lead.  

On first down, Fields handed off to Khalil Herbert, who was stuffed at the line of scrimmage. On second down, he dished back to Herbert on a read option play that gained just one yard. Then came a 3rd-and-9 play that came so close to being the decisive play.  

The Bears drew up a crossing route for No. 1 target DJ Moore, but Fields sensed a safety creeping in with a robber coverage. He looked deep down the left side to his second read, rookie Tyler Scott. The pass led Scott in stride but he lost track of the football in the air and it dropped just out of reach. 

“He’s a young player with a bright future in this league,” Fields said. “He’ll be good to bounce back. 

“(But) if that thing connects, I think that seals the deal.” 

The Bears were still searching for that one more play to close out a win with 2:33 remaining. They led 26-21 and turned back to the defense, which had been dominant throughout the course of this contest. It folded down the stretch. 

Goff guided an 11-play, 73-yard go-ahead scoring drive and the Bears suddenly had seen their lead slip away. Eberflus felt the Lions simply didn’t have enough time to orchestrate such a comeback. They did so with 29 seconds still to spare. 

With the Bears trailing 29-26, Fields was stripped by star pass rusher Aidan Hutchinson. The football was booted away to the back of the end zone for a safety. 

Hutchinson then punted the ball to the stands at Ford Field, which was still raucous despite the crowd clearing of some fans. 

2. Fields shows ‘growth’ in his return

In his first game back following a month-long absence with a dislocated right thumb, Fields felt this layoff had an impact. 

“It affected me positively,” Fields said. “Shoot, I felt like it was the first game of the season out there.” 

Fields felt fresh and his play reflected it. He was 16-of-23 for 169 yards and a touchdown through the air, plus he rushed for 104 yards in carrying the rushing attack.  

“That’s growth there with him,” Eberflus said. 

Late in the first quarter, Fields unleashed a deep pass to the end zone targeted for Moore. He led him too far and they couldn’t connect for a sure touchdown. 

Fields approached Moore on the sidelines with a message. 

“I told him I wasn’t going to miss him twice,” Fields said. 

And he didn’t. In the third quarter, Fields threw a similar pass deep to Moore and led him in stride for a 39-yard touchdown. It was one of the best throws of Fields’ career. 

Fields is facing the defining stretch of his young career, now with six games left in this regular season. The Bears face a looming decision at the position of quarterback. They must decide whether it’s wise to move forward with Fields – on whom a fifth-year option is due in May – or better to select his replacement with the draft capital at their disposal. 

The Panthers fell to 1-9 on Sunday with a loss to the Cowboys, leaving the Bears still in possession of the first overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. General manager Ryan Poles passed on the opportunity to select Fields’ replacement last year, instead dealing away that pick to Carolina. 

Fields can shape the way he is perceived to Poles and the Bears in these final games remaining. On Sunday, he made a strong impression in returning to action. 

“He just had that, ‘I’m here. I’m back’ mentality,” Scott said. “You could see it. Just his confidence running the ball, throwing the ball. He just stepped in like he never left.  

“It just kind of speaks to the player he is.” 

3. Right through the hands

Jaylon Johnson believes he’s an All-Pro talent, and he hopes to earn those accolades this season. He missed out on an opportunity to make that type of impression Sunday – a play that nearly changed this game. 

Early in the second quarter, Johnson reached for a pass intended to Amon-Ra St. Brown in the end zone. The football hit off his hands and fell incomplete. Had Johnson hauled in the pass, it would’ve gone for a sure pick-six. 

“Probably could have taken a better angle,” Johnson said. “I felt like I tried to undercut it a little too early but I mean it’s a play I got to make.” 

One play later, Jahmyr Gibbs took a toss in two yards for a touchdown. It was a potential 14-point swing in this game.  

Johnson was left hanging his head after this loss, left to consider a play he wants back. 

4. Edmunds’ impact

Three weeks ago Sunday, linebacker Tremaine Edmunds feared he had suffered a serious knee injury. He returned for this key divisional game and gave the Bears a boost defensively. 

Edmunds practiced just once since the injury – in a limited role during Friday’s light situational practice – but was able to return after a two-game absence. He posted eight combined tackles and an interception. 

“It felt good to be back out there with the guys,” Edmunds said. 

The Bears signed Edmunds to a four-year, $72-million deal in March with hopes that he could lead their defensive identity forward. He played a part in this strong defensive effort. 

5. Montgomery’s revenge

The knockout blow from these upstart Lions came from a familiar face: David Montgomery, who left the Bears in free agency last offseason to sign a three-year deal in Detroit. 

Montgomery took in a one-yard carry to complete the Lions’ late comeback. He was elated upon running into the end zone and celebrating a touchdown – and another win in Detroit. 

“David is my brother, no matter where we are in life or our football careers,” Fields said. “As much as it sucks seeing him win, I’m happy for him.” 

The Lions are now 8-2 this season, meaning Montgomery has matched the most wins in a season that he ever found over four years with the Bears. 

The Bears are still searching for their first divisional victory in nearly two years and have yet to capitalize with consecutive wins under Eberflus’ watch. 

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