BY MADDIE TOPLIFF
Some National Football League teams’ fans are blessed with a Thanksgiving day game each and every year. Unfortunately, those fans follow either the Detroit Lions or the Dallas Cowboys. Fortunately for Chicago Bears fans, Detroit is in our division, which meant that we had a reason to keep the TV on during dinner last Thursday.
The Bears and Lions last played each other during Thanksgiving dinner on Nov. 27, 2014. This was not a successful venture for the Bears, who lost 17-34. Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has started for the Lions on Thanksgiving the last eight years straight, and his team has won four out of the five previous matchups. They had good energy going into the game, especially since the game is at home.
Also, in case you are wondering, you are not having deja vu. The Lions and the Bears did square up no more than two weeks ago–11 days from Thanksgiving to be exact–to the tune of Chicago victory. However, this go-around, the Bears are missing their playmaker. Because of a late hit courtesy of a Minnesota Vikings player last week, Bears QB Mitch Trubisky is not playing. Cue a large yikes, please. This news ironically came not much after the networks praised him last week for starting so many games in a row.
The Bears’ backup QB goes by the name Chase Daniel, and is a league veteran; in 2009, he was signed by the Washington Redskins as an undrafted free agent. Ol’ Daniel has only thrown one touchdown in his NFL career and one interception, for that matter, so it could really go either way it seems.
The last time Daniel started a game, though, was luckily as a Kansas City Chiefs player. Remember: Bears head coach Matt Nagy was the QB coach and offensive coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs before coming to Chicago. That means that Daniel is more-than-likely very familiar with the Bears’ new offensive system.
To be safe, the Bears need to keep playing well on the defensive side of the ball to compensate in case Daniel decides to throw to blue-and-grey. The Bears are a little better at stuffing the run than pass coverage, which is good because I do not think even the Lions want Stafford to throw all the time.
Both teams used the first quarter to gather their footing after two painful first drives; the Lions took analysts’ advice and tried to run, but as expected, the Bears held them to third down-and-out. On the Bears side, it looked like the beginning of a long afternoon after Daniel connected with the dirt more than his receivers.
The Chicago groans intensified–from hunger, too–when Bears tight end Trey Burton fumbled the football in the first series of the second quarter. Lions linebacker Jarrad Davis scooped up the loose football and returned it for 20 yards which later led to Lions running back LeGarrette Blount scoring the first points of the game, rushing into the endzone for a 4-yard TD with nine minutes left in the half.
Bears place kicker Cody Parkey got Chicago on the board just inside four minutes left with a field goal from 40 yards out, which shifted the momentum just enough. The Bears defense made for a very short next series from the Lions, which included a sack by Bears linebacker Roquan Smith.
The Bears got the ball back with just over two minutes left in the half, and Daniel did what he had to do. He connected four passes in a row before finally finding Bears RB Taquan Mizzell for a 10-yard TD. That score was Daniel’s second career TD and Mizzell’s first career receiving TD. Although the two-point conversion failed, the Bears were up 2 points at the half after an uneventful Lions series: 9 points to 7 points.
Third quarter was silent–no penalties or anything–until inside two minutes left, when Blount coincidentally rushed for another Lions 4-yard touchdown. Only six points would be added to the score, however, because Stafford could also not connect a two-point attempt. 13-9, Lions. Not a huge margin, but there was only slightly more than a quarter of football left to play.
From my mouth to Chase Daniel’s ears, it seemed. With slightly more than 13 minutes left in the game, Daniel connected with the Bears’ most-trusted RB Tarik Cohen to score a 14-yard touchdown. That brought Daniel’s career TDs from one to three in one day. It’s the little things.
No two-point attempt this time; Parkey kicked it through the uprights to bring the score to 16-13 Bears.
The Lions’ next drive was fairly productive, and they were able to get a field goal out of it. Tie game. Not the “just desserts” I wanted after my meal.
The next Bears drive was cut especially short when Daniel was sacked by Lions safety Glover Quin for a six-yard loss on third down with only six or so minutes left. Punt. Time is of the essence, now!
But then in the very next play, none other than the best safety in the league Eddie Jackson picked off Stafford and ran it all the way back for a 41-yard defensive touchdown, making for his second pick-six in the last two games.
That play gave Detroit the ball right back, but Stafford didn’t listen and was eventually picked off by Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller for no gain.
Then, it was just a matter of time until the Bears ran out the clock and called it a day. What a beautiful day for family and Bears football.
Although the scoring margin was closer than the last Bears and Lions matchup, Chicago still pulled out a win without Trubisky. And as Rich Campbell from the Chicago Tribune stated it, the Bears won not despite Daniel, but “in part, because of him.”
At least we know we have a solid backup now, which is good considering that Trubisky may miss Sunday’s game against the New York Giants as well. More on that next week.
After the Bears play the Giants, and hopefully win, it would do them good to watch tape of the Lions and Los Angeles Rams matchup. The Rams are a dynamite franchise this season and are the toughest team that the Bears have left on their regular season docket, which is why we can’t throw away losses against irrelevant teams like the Giants. We will not make the playoffs by slacking off now; after the Rams, the Bears have to play the Vikings and Green Bay again as well as the 49ers. Both the Vikings and Green Bay still have an intimidation factor because everyone is starting to dig in to win the NFC North.
Maddie’s Monster of the Game (MoG): Chase Daniel, you did it, buddy. Two more touchdowns to your name, and you didn’t get picked off. Thank you for stepping up while Trubisky rests. Icon.