What a week for the Chicago Bears. After a dizzying couple of days in which coach Matt Nagy had to deny a report he was on the verge of being fired, the Bears came out -- on a short week of preparation -- and eked out a 16-14 win against the winless Detroit Lions on Thursday.
Chicago’s victory snaps a five-game losing streak and takes a tiny bit of pressure off Nagy, who is 7-1 lifetime versus Detroit.
With rookie quarterback Justin Fields sidelined because of injured ribs, veteran Andy Dalton led the Bears on four scoring drives, including a memorable fourth-quarter drive that ended with Cairo Santos’ 28-yard game-winning field goal.
The Bears (4-7) are nowhere near out of the woods, and remain buried in the NFC playoff picture, but Thursday’s win allows them to catch their breath after a tumultuous stretch.
“I thought the guys handled this whole week really well," Nagy said after the game. "What I care about are these players and coaches. When it comes to distractions, it’s how you handle them, and we got the win. I can’t tell you how much this win means to me because of how much the players and coaches sacrificed.”
QB breakdown: Except for two errant throws in the end zone (one was picked off), Dalton played a solid game. The veteran became the first Bears quarterback to pass for 300-plus yards since Nick Foles in Week 9 of last season. Dalton finished the game 24-of-39 for 317 yards passing, one touchdown throw (to Jimmy Graham) and that one interception. For the Bears, that’s an impressive performance by a quarterback. Dalton did mostly everything right and stayed calm under pressure. That is how you expect a veteran to play under these circumstances.
"I think for us, all the outside noise, all the stuff that’s going on, nothing really came within the team,” Dalton said. “For us, we put our head down and worked. We still had to prepare for a game. Everybody on the outside was more worried about all the external things where everyone on the inside was worried about winning a game. I think that was the important thing.”
Biggest hole in the game plan: David Montgomery ran for 106 yards and two touchdowns when these teams met in Week 4. Montgomery, however, was an afterthought much of Thursday, rushing for 12 yards in the first half and finishing with 46 yards on 17 carries. Montgomery is too good to ignore. And Chicago’s running game is the best part of its offense. It's difficult to figure out why Montgomery wasn’t used more often.
Bold prediction for next week: Fields starts at quarterback. The Bears want to be cautious with him (rib injury), but no doubt the rookie is anxious to return. Nagy said Fields is still Chicago’s starting quarterback when healthy. If that is the case, Fields’ ribs ought to be healed enough for him to start at home versus the Arizona Cardinals on Dec. 5.