Bears, Mitch Trubisky step back from the abyss with 20-13 win over Matthew Stafford-less Lions

John Mullin

Maybe it really was those TVs all this time.

Sunday against the Detroit Lions, more than any of the previous three losses with him under center (and in shotgun), had the potential to be a signature, potentially defining moment for quarterback Mitch Trubisky to grab the flag and declare, "Follow me!"

To silence the silliness over things like mentioning turning Halas Hall TVs off to keep negative punditry away from a team generating a whole lotta negative.

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To at least temporarily tone down the always-percolating "what-if" talk about quarterbacks Jimmy Garoppolo, Patrick Mahomes and DeShaun Watson, or the "what-about?? chatter regarding Teddy Bridgewater, Marcus Mariota or a quarterback to be named later.

To make a statement that this can be indeed HIS team.

In the span of less than six minutes, from late in the second quarter through early in the third, he didn't get all that done, but at least he took a step back from the abyss toward which he has been stumbling for a very long time now. In that six-minute stretch Trubisky guided the Bears (4-5) to scores – actual touchdowns, including an actual game-winner – on three straight possessions, only the third time that has happened in a season of travail.

"I think the guys feed off how I react, my body demeanor and everything like that, and just communicating on the sidelines," Trubisky said. "Letting the guys know we're close, we're just making a couple mistakes on the first couple drives, but I think when we're all on the same page, when all 11 guys are doing what they need to do and guys are getting open, guys are making great blocks and we're able to make plays and be on the same page as an offense. You've just got to stay even keeled."

What it means – or doesn't mean – is what the next several weeks, particularly next Sunday in Los Angeles against the Rams, will be about. But in the meantime, after four straight losses upset the 2019 season, the Bears were in desperate need of any positives, and Trubisky provided some.

"What I really appreciated about Mitch today was the fact that he never got rattled in all that stuff. He really didn't," said coach Matt Nagy. "And it's hard for everybody to see in those moments because there were some mistakes today that weren't his fault, that it's easy to become unraveled, and he didn't do that. He stayed composed the whole time.

"It would have been easy to go the other way," Nagy added, perhaps speaking of more than just in Sunday's game. "But he faced it, and he stepped up into it, and he made some strong throws, and even after the strong throws, we had some moments throughout the game where there were mistakes by some certain players, which is a part of football.

"But we didn't let that rattle us today, and then we got into four-minute [stretch] there at the end and we had some situational football today, which is always good for us to learn from, too."

The Bears' 20-13 escape from the Detroit Lions (3-5-1) certainly wasn't close to the kind of definitive statement Trubisky and the team wanted or perhaps even needed. With just over two minutes remaining in the first half, the Bears had 53 total yards of offense vs. 25 yards assessed in penalties, tallying zero points against one of the NFL's worst defenses that was missing two starters.

A win is a win is a win

The stumbling Lions were without starting quarterback Matthew Stafford (back) and No. 1 running back Kerryon Johnson (knee) and still out-stat'ed the Bears in first downs, yardage, third-down conversions, average yards per play, average yards per rush and just about every other offensive category.

Hey, the last time the Bears played a team (New Orleans) that was without its 4,000-yard passer and No. 1 running back, they were blown out. So maybe that's something.

But probably not too much. The Bears barely gained half (226) of the average yardage (424) being allowed by the 31st-ranked Detroit defense this season. It marked the eighth time in nine games that the Bears failed to amass 300 total yards. And if the Bears had managed to lose despite a 20-6 lead deep into the fourth quarter, then that truly would have been rock bottom for a team that might not be there yet but certainly could see it over parts of the last four weeks.

Still, the only team the Bears could beat on Sunday was the one in front of them, and the result was a trace of a pulse for a player, team and season largely bereft of any for the past month. The Bears do travel west to face the Los Angeles Rams next week but then get the New York Giants (2-8) and Lions again, in Detroit, over the next three weeks.

Trubisky still The Great Unknown

If Nagy was pleased with the emotional resilience of his quarterback, Trubisky this time finally did give him some reasons for positivity. His 16-of-23-passing for 173 yards and three touchdowns built into a passer rating of 131.0 – only the second 100+ rating of this season for him, albeit with both against bottom-feeder defenses (Detroit, Washington).

Trubisky was inaccurate-high too often, even on some of the throws which his receivers managed to turn into completions, beginning with a third-down completion to Taylor Gabriel who was unable to catch the high throw cleanly and pick up the first down. And not all of the five sacks by Detroit were the fault of Trubisky's protectors.

"[Gabriel], he'll tell you, he came off, he still could catch that football [cleanly], but the accuracy of that would have slowed him down," Nagy said. "Just early-on was a miss, but [Trubisky] stayed true to what we talked about all week long, which is just trusting in who he is as a player and making sure that you understand that it's okay."

Trubisky entered the game with the lowest red-zone passer rating (54.2) in the NFC and above only Cleveland's Baker Mayfield in NFL rankings. His mark for fourth-quarter passing was just 73.9. Against the Lions he got the Bears into the end zone just before halftime with a precisely thrown 18-yard pass to tight end Ben Braunecker. He followed that with a swing pass to running back Tarik Cohen for a nine-yard touchdown and completed the trifecta with a 24-yarder to Gabriel after an interception by linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski gave the offense the ball at the Detroit 25.

The three-score run will have to stand as its own shining time in a game that began with the Bears going three-and-out three of their first four possessions and ended with them going three-and-out four of the last five, with a combined three first downs in those nine possessions.

But for now, best guess is that those nasty, negative TV's will be silenced.

"Part of our philosophy is to block everything out and play our game," Kwiatkoski said. "Don't worry about the outside. The good, the bad – it's going to come. We just need to focus on the game and play."

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Bears, Mitch Trubisky step back from the abyss with 20-13 win over Matthew Stafford-less Lions originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

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