It just felt different on Sunday. You could tell early on that it was going to be a better day at the Chicago lakefront on the shores of Lake Michigan. Even the sod at Soldier Field was in good shape. Long time Chicago fans know that’s a rare occurrence. A home game at noon was a welcome sight for Bears players and fans alike. It’s Week 4 of the NFL season and yet this was just the Bears second home game and first during the day. Cloudy October skies on a Sunday at high noon inspired memories of Walter running relentlessly while Hampton prowled the line of scrimmage. Would those Bears have ever let the Lions come into this Bear den and leave with victory? No way man.
After imagining this disparity, I wondered…..am I over-glorifying the 80’s Bears? Let me check the NFL Record & Fact Book…….FACT: Bears won 10 of 13 games over Detroit at Soldier Field from 1980-1992. Overall, Chicago beat Detroit ten games in a row from 1984-1989. But those were the good ‘ol days when Coach Ditka roamed the sidelines. Those days are just distant memories now. Meanwhile, Coach John Fox wanders the modern sidelines trying to conjure the same magic that made those Monsters of the Midway dominant.
Right away Chicago responded with a TD pass from #2 Brian Hoyer to #19 Eddie Royal. You know how I feel about Royal. He’s an underrated playmaker that the Bears desperately need to use. They need to get the ball in his hands and let him make plays! That’s what he did with 6:35 left in the 1st quarter, catching a 4 yard pass for a touchdown.
The fun continued when gigantic beast #96 Akiem Hicks sacked Matt Stafford late in the 1st quarter. I believe it was former Bears Defensive Coordinator Greg Blache (1999-2003) who once said sacks were overrated. They might be, but sacks are drive stoppers too. What’s more, sacks are fun! Hicks drove Stafford into the turf and celebrated to Bears fans’ applause.
Detroit finally got on the board with 2:19 left in the 1st half as Matt Prater nailed another long FG, this one a 50 yarder. Prater holds the Soldier Field record for longest FG as he converted a 59 yarder last season. One of the turning points in this game that helped the Bears finally earn a victory was #39 Jacoby Glenn’s interception right before Halftime, stopping Detroit’s drive that was probably going to result in at least a FG. Glenn’s return out to the Bears 34 set up the Bears for a last chance at scoring before the gun. Hoyer’s 26 yard completion to #17 Alshon Jeffery gave the Bears what turned out to be a lame Hail Mary try with 2 seconds left. Going into the locker room, the Lions only had 99 total yards. Meanwhile the Bears had 230 yards to go along with a 15-5 1st Downs advantage. Bears led 7-3 at Halftime.
Going into the 2nd half, as a Bears fan you’re worried because despite all of these statistics, the Bears only had a 4 point lead. Then when the Lions had a long 3rd quarter drive, chewing up over 7 minutes of the clock as they drove down the field, advancing into the shadows of the Bears goal line, you’re getting extremely worried. Perhaps the most important plays of the game were the 2nd down and 3rd down stops to hold Detroit to a FG. The 3rd down play reminded me of Nintendo’s NFL Tecmo Bowl video game from the late 80s/early 90s in which you had to choose from 4 plays. If you picked the correct play on defense, your entire defense would swarm the ball carrier, giving virtually no chance to the offense. It was hilarious! That’s what the Bears defense looked like on this 3rd and Goal play for Detroit as #53 John Timu blitzed up the middle, tackling Lions RB #34 Zach Zenner milliseconds after he received the handoff along with a host of Bears defenders. In fact, it looked like they had made a bet on who could grab Zenner first. About 3 or 4 Bears gobbled him up in the backfield. The result was a 3 yard loss and a Bears red zone stop! So after the Lions hit the shorty, the Bears still led 7-6.
The proceeding Bears drive was paramount as Eddie Royal caught a long seem pass on 3rd and 11 from his own 24 and took it 64 yards with his run after catch. Then from the Lions 12, Hoyer hit Kevin White on 1st down (who sprained his ankle on the tackle) and #86 TE Zach Miller on 3rd down for the 6 yard touchdown!
You knew it was over when…..
#32 Deiondre’ Hall picked off QB Matt Stafford’s pass with 4:03 left preserving a 17-6 Bears lead. After that, it was “all over but the shouting”. The Bears shaky special teams did allow an 85 yard punt return TD by #12 Andre Roberts with 1:52 left but once the Lions couldn’t successfully grab their onside kick it was truly over. Bears won 17-14.
#37 Bryce Callahan – He had to cover #15 Golden Tate and he did a fine job. Callahan held Tate to 1 lousy catch for 1 useless yard on 4 targets. Way to make a name for yourself Callahan!
#13 Kevin White – White brought gobs of energy with his play today, catching 6 passes for 55 yards on 9 targets. He is oozing potential and gaining confidence by the week. The Bears are really working this kid into the offense the last 2 weeks, seemingly targeting him more than veteran WR’s Jeffery and Royal. I’m really pumped to see his continued development. Hopefully his ankle injury isn’t too bad.
#19 Eddie Royal – Royal showed off his playmaking skills once again, catching 7 passes for 111 yards and 1 touchdown. Royal is so good at turning screen passes into solid gains. His big play was really a shot in the arm for the Bears offense and seemed to give everyone watching (fans and teammates alike) a lot more confidence.
#24 Jordan Howard – If you read my Preview this week, you knew I’d be keeping an eye on Howard as he filled in for #33 Jeremy Langford. He did not disappoint, finishing with 111 rushing yards on 23 carries. He hauled in 3 passes for another 21 yards. In fact, Howard showed that he could be a possible starter moving forward for this young Bears team. Why not? He’s got power, speed, and even ball skills as a receiver. It’s fun to watch this guy!
Player of the Game
#2 Brian Hoyer – Hoyer did an excellent job hitting his receivers in motion and giving his skill guys a chance to make runs after the catch. Bears YAC (Yards after catch) yards today were ? Hoyer went 28-36 with 302 passing yards and 2 TD. He had zero turnovers, along with the rest of the offense. He converted a good solid game plan into just 17 points (despite one missed FG), executing OC Dowell Loggains plays with consistency. Hoyer seems to have a knack for taking what the defense gives him. He hits his short passes and rarely throws deep but will take a couple of shots when needed. Best of all, he led the Bears to a victory.
Since we’re giving all the credit to the Bears skill players, we shouldn’t forget to give credit to the offensive line that blocked so well for them. Maybe the OL is finally gaining some steam due to cohesion gained from a few games and weeks of practice.
Next up…..the Indianapolis Colts are next as they take a quick flight back over the pond after their loss to Jacksonville in London, England. Chicago will take the rather long flight from O’Hare to Indianapolis for the Week 5 matchup at Noon on Sunday.