SOLDIER FIELD — It wasn’t pretty, but it was a win. A win the Bears badly needed.
“It’s been a long four weeks for us,” Bears head coach Matt Nagy admitted as he started his victorious postgame press conference.
42 days to be exact. Not that Bears fans were counting.
Facing the league’s 31st ranked defense, Nagy’s offense was able to produce what could accurately be called a “mini-explosion,” finding the end zone on three straight drives to score just enough points to beat the Detroit Lions 20-13 Sunday at Soldier Field.
It was similar to what the Bears did back in Week 3, when they scored three straight touchdowns in the second quarter against Washington — the last suspect defense they faced. In between, there hasn’t been much offense to cheer about.
Perhaps that’s why many critics and fans were shrugging as the players enjoyed their first “Club Dub” celebration since they beat the Vikings on Sept. 29.
But anyone who watched the Bears’ first eight games of the season shouldn’t have been expecting a 40-plus point offensive explosion Sunday. This offense still has a lot to work out, but at least Sunday’s win was a step in the right direction.
“I think winning always (helps build confidence),” Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky said. “I think playing well, playing a little bit better and kind of fixing those mistakes that we’ve been making, just finding ways to get in the end zone on offense and then coming up with a W is always big. It feels good. We’ve just got to build off of it and keep getting better.”
Trubisky’s confidence has largely been absent all season and he appeared to recapture some of that as he made three big throws downfield against the Lions. Overall, he only threw for 173 yards, but he added three touchdowns, two of which were perfectly thrown passes over 20 yards in the air — an issue throughout Trubisky’s career.
“When you just make a good throw like that? I think you just feel like it gives you confidence,” Trubisky said. “You feel like you’re doing what your team needs you to do.”
For most of the 2019 season, Trubisky hasn’t done what his team needs him to do. That changed Sunday. On his first touchdown throw, Trubisky led tight end Ben Braunecker — in for the benched Adam Shaheen — perfectly and Braunecker made a nice adjustment to pull in the pass. It’s fair to wonder if Shaheen would have made the same type of adjustment or run the same crisp route Braunecker did.
On the Bears’ second touchdown drive, Trubisky led Allen Robinson perfectly on a deep pass down the left sideline that went for 33 yards, helping setup a nine-yard catch-and-run for Tarik Cohen. Then, on Trubisky’s third touchdown, Taylor Gabriel ran an outstanding route and used his speed to beat man coverage, while the quarterback hit him in stride.
“Selfishly as coaches, when you talk about a play that you really like and it comes to fruition in a crucial moment like that … and then the players (make) it happen,” Nagy said. “As a coach, that’s why you coach.”
In other words, Trubisky finally hit his man on a play the Bears practiced all week. Too often this season, he has missed the throws in the game that he hit all week in practice.
Of course, he wasn’t perfect. Trubisky missed Robinson wide open in the end zone on a busted coverage two plays before the touchdown pass to Braunecker. His internal clock also contributed to one or two of the five sacks he took against the Lions.
Still, it was something to build on. And that goes for the entire offense.
While the three touchdown “explosion” was encouraging to see, it was sandwiched by two very unimpressive stretches. The Bears started the game with 3-and-outs on three of their first four drives and they ended the game with 3-and-outs on four of their last five drives. As a result, the Lions nearly came back and tied the game on their final possession. And it wouldn’t be hard to argue that Detroit would have won had Matthew Stafford not missed his first start in 136 games.
But the Lions didn’t win. And the Bears aren’t apologizing for re-opening Club Dub after it was temporarily shut down for 42 days.
“I just sat back and was able to watch the guys, what we were so used to doing, seeing them in there, they ended up doing some one-on-one dancing, which is pretty neat,” Nagy said. “It’s exciting. We enjoy it. It brings you together.”
A common “hot take” this past week was that the Bears didn’t deserve to have a dance party in their own locker room after losing four straight. Some claimed the nostalgia of Club Dub had worn off. Of course, that argument both ignores how hard it is to win in the NFL and underestimates the power of a win in the NFL. This Bears team badly needed to get its swagger back and experience the fun of winning again. And that’s exactly why Nagy never considered closing Club Dub for good.
“Never. That’s who we are,” he said. “That’s who we are.”
Now, for the first time since they were preparing for their trip to London, the Bears will have a more enjoyable week as they prepare for a Rams team that certainly looks beatable.
“You’re able to coach off of wins a lot easier,” Nagy said. “There’s still a lot of things that we need to get better at. We understand that. But you step back in those moments and you say, this is why we do what we do.”
The Bears just needed a win. It didn’t really matter what it looked like.