Detroit — Undrafted rookie quarterback David Blough kept the boo birds at bay with a fast start, but the Lions' defense blew yet another lead, as Detroit fell to the Chicago Bears, 24-20, on Thanksgiving.
"I think when you take a look at today’s picture and see us go out there with our third-string quarterback that we got after training camp, and watch that team fight and rally behind somebody like that, I think you can tell how much all of those men in that room care about each other, how hard they work for each other and how much they’re trying to win for each other." Lions coach Matt Patricia said. "They don’t really ever stop, or they don’t ever give up.
"I have to do more, and I have to just keep pushing that, so that we can break that thing that’s stopping us right now and get going," Patricia continued. "Once that happens, I feel really good that we’ll be there."
The difference Thursday was a 3-yard touchdown pass from Mitchell Trubisky to running back David Montgomery with 2:22 remaining.
“We just got lined up fast, it was a quick tempo play for us," Trubisky said. "Everyone just overflowed to the right, so just moved on across the board and got the ball to David. They weren’t expecting that, and we didn’t even practice that all week. Sometimes it just happens, you go out there and make a play and trust that your guys will be in the right spot and we found it.”
That was set up by a pair of long completions to receiver Anthony Miller on third downs, beating the coverage of cornerback Justin Coleman both times.
Blough and the Lions worked across midfield with their final shot, but a sack on third-and-9 from the Chicago 26 squashed the comeback effort. A desperation heave on fourth down was intercepted by Bears safety Eddie Jackson.
The winning touchdown gave the Bears the lead for the first time since the game's opening minutes. The two teams quickly bucked expectations of a low-scoring affair, combining for 21 points in an entertaining opening quarter.
On the game's opening kickoff, Bears return man Cordarrelle Patterson took the ball out from seven yards deep in his end zone and brought it back to midfield. From there, Chicago needed just six plays to take a quick 7-0 lead.
Trubisky completed all three of his throws during the possession, hitting top target Allen Robinson on a 10-yard slant to open the scoring.
The Lions took only three plays to draw even. After firing his first NFL pass well short of its intended target, Blough connected with Kenny Golladay on a deep ball for a 75-yard touchdown.
The Lions have dropped five straight and have been eliminated from the postseason. Justin Rogers and John Niyo break it down. Justin Rogers, The Detroit News
"We’ve been running that concept a lot," Blough said. "(Offensive Coordinator) Darrell Bevell had a great idea to kind of pump it against the coverage that we expected to get, and sometimes the stars just align, and he’s 10 yards open, and you can throw a lollipop to him and he can score.”
Then, after the Bears went three and out, Blough went back to work, completing three of four throws for 56 yards on a 78-yard touchdown drive. He found Marvin Jones on a short crossing route for an 8-yard score to cap the series.
The score kept Detroit's streak alive of leading at some point in every game this season.
With that lead, the Lions got aggressive with an onside kick. Matt Prater intentionally drilled the ball off Bears defensive back Deon Bush and the live ball was recovered by Lions linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin.
"I don’t know if they were trying to squib it and happen to hit him, but maybe by doing that you know there is always a chance that it can ricochet off of somebody so it’s a high percentage type of deal," Bears coach Matt Nagy said. "They may have been trying to do that, and that’s a credit to them."
Despite the gift, the offense couldn't do anything with the short field, quickly punting the ball away.
The two teams traded punts before the Bears marched into Lions territory in the second quarter. But back-to-back penalties turned a first-and-10 from the Lions 36 into a first-and-32 from their own 42.
Instead of attempting a long field goal, Chicago went for it on fourth-and-6 and couldn't convert, turning the ball back over to the Lions.
A 34-yard pass from Blough to Golladay put the Lions into the red zone, but that was as far as the Lions got, settling for a 25-yard Prater field goal to go up 10.
The Bears responded with a field goal before the half, sending them to the locker room down 17-10.
The Lions started the second half with a pair of three-and-out possessions, wasting an interception by Darius Slay. With the Bears driving, the Pro Bowl cornerback undercut a pass from Trubisky to Robinson to end the threat.
"It was a great feeling," Slay said. "Shoot, that is like the only route people can catch on me really — overs — and I finally got one and I picked it. It felt good."
After Detroit's second punt, Trubisky caught fire, completing all six of his throws for 84 yards on a long scoring drive. The capper was an 18-yard connection with rookie tight end Jasper Horsted, who had previously played just four offensive snaps coming into the day. That tied the game at 17.
"Jesper ran a good route, beat his guy that was covering him, and I just put it in a spot where he could make a play," Trubisky said. "He made an awesome catch, so it was pretty cool that he got his first touchdown today."
Horsted beat the man coverage of Lions safety Will Harris. In the first meeting between the teams, the Bears similarly went after Harris with tight end Ben Braunecker catching his first career touchdown in Chicago's victory.
The Lions responded with a 15-play possession that carried into the fourth quarter.
Behind chain-moving carries by running back Bo Scarbrough, the Lions had a third-and-1 at Chicago's 5. But change-of-pace back J.D. McKissic was tripped up by Bears corner Kyle Fuller short of the marker, leading to a 24-yard Prater field goal that put the Lions back up three, 20-17, with 10:51 remaining.
"(I was) looking for the touchdown," McKissic said. "I liked what I saw."
After exchanging punts, the Bears put together the game-winning drive, moving the ball 90 yards in nine plays.
Trubisky's touchdown pass to Montgomery was the quarterback's third of the game. He finished 29 of 38 for 338 yards. Blough was 22 of 38 for 280 yards, two touchdowns and the late interception.
Golladay caught four passes for 158 yards and Scarbrough led the Lions' ground game with 83 yards on 21 carries
The loss was Detroit's fifth straight and eighth in their past nine games, dropping them to 3-8-1 on the season and officially eliminating the team from postseason contention. Chicago kept their faint playoff hopes alive, moving to 6-6 with the victory.