Oh, Romeo! Strip sack, late TD lift Lions to 'amazing' triumph over Bears
Chicago — Under Matt Patricia, the Detroit Lions had a knack for blowing double-digit leads in the fourth quarter. But in Darrell Bevell’s first game as the team’s interim coach, they pulled off a rare double-digit rally in the final frame to stun the Chicago Bears on Sunday, 34-30.
"It's amazing," Bevell said. "I'm still on cloud nine right now. I'm not quite over it. These guys responded in there. It's just amazing. There was excitement. There's hugs. All that stuff going on in (the locker room). I couldn't be more happy for them and how they played and for them to get that win."
After struggling to slow down the Bears offense all afternoon, the Lions defense came up with a critical turnover late in the fourth quarter to turn the tables on their divisional foe.
Down three in the closing minutes, defensive end Romeo Okwara dove to knock the ball away from Chicago quarterback Mitchell Trubisky on third down. The loose ball was recovered by rookie defensive tackle John Penisini at the 7-yard line, setting up Adrian Peterson’s go-ahead, 5-yard touchdown run with 1:37 remaining.
"I honestly don’t remember what I did," Okwara said. "I just remember the ball was there and I reached for it. I don’t know if I jumped. I’ll have to watch the film. I saw the ball in front of me and I tried to knock it out of there."
Coming into Sunday's contest as the league's 31st-ranked offense, the Bears carved up Detroit both through the air and on the ground in the first half, jumping out to a 23-13 lead at the half.
And the 30 points matched a season-high for Chicago, but it wasn't enough to snap the team's losing skid, which extended to six.
Bevell's tenure got off to a rocky start when his first decision backfired. After swapping in Matt Prater for Jack Fox on kickoff duties, the Bears' Cordarrelle Patterson returned the opening effort 45 yards, setting his team up to grab an early 3-0 lead on a 45-yard Cairo Santos field goal.
The Lions looked poised to at least match the opening volley, but after driving in Bears territory, wide receiver Jamal Agnew was stuffed on a fourth-down, end-around call, giving the ball back to Chicago.
The Bears turned the stop into six points, brutalizing the Lions on the ground. After back-to-back runs of 12 and 13 yards by Patterson, running back David Montgomery took a handoff up the gut, bounced out to the left where he stiff-armed safety Duron Harmon before extending the ball across the goal line.
The Lions would block the extra point, leaving the Bears up 9-0 in the early going.
Detroit managed to respond before the end of the first quarter with a 12-play, 72-yard touchdown drive. After an inauspicious start to the series left the Lions facing third-and-10, quarterback Matthew Stafford connected with Marvin Jones to extend the possession.
Gains of 14, 15 and 14 yards set the Lions up first-and-goal from the 4, leaving Peterson to punch it in from 3 yards out three plays later. Matt Prater missed the extra point despite relatively calm Chicago conditions, keeping it 9-6 after one quarter.
Starting with the ball to begin the second quarter, the Bears continued to effortlessly move down the field, scoring for the third consecutive possession to open the game. Trubisky completed all three of his throws on the drive for 44 yards before the Bears pounded it into the end zone with three straight runs in the red zone.
This time it was Patterson putting the finishing touches on the action, racing around the right edge from five yards out to put the Bears up, 16-6.
After the two sides exchanged punts, the Lions cut the deficit to one score. Stafford again connected with Jones on third down, this time for 25 yards, to keep the offense afloat. Then, on the ensuing play, the quarterback was flushed from the pocket. While on the run, he motioned for Quintez Cephus to go deep before hitting the rookie receiver for a 49-yard touchdown.
But the Bears managed to respond before the half, driving 68 yards in under two minutes. Trubisky put together another perfect series, connecting on all four of his throws before Montgomery plowed in for a 4-yard score with 36 seconds remaining in the half.
"I thought I went out there and I played efficient today," Trubisky said. "I thought our offense was efficient today. I thought we did a good job of mixing up the run with the pass and I thought we were balanced and I thought the O-line did a great job of protecting, and establishing the run game. I thought our backs ran really hard. David and C.P. ran their tails off.
"We had one mistake at the end," Trubisky continued. "...That was my goal today to go out there, play efficient and try to be mistake-free, and we had one at the end that hurt us."
After trading punts out of the locker room, the Lions again cut into the Bears' lead. Stafford was sharp on the possession, connecting on five of his six throws and successfully converting a sneak on fourth down in Bears territory.
After the conversion, Stafford hit tight end T.J. Hockenson for a 24-yard gain on a back-shoulder ball. Then, on second-and-goal from the 9-yard line, the quarterback evaded the pass rush and found Jesse James — who utilized all of his 6-foot-7 frame to box out Bears rookie cornerback Jaylon Johnson — in the back corner of the end zone.
That touchdown made it 23-20 heading into the fourth quarter.
With the Bears facing third-and-long just across midfield, the Lions sent two extra defenders on a blitz, but Trubisky was able to dump a throw to receiver Darnell Mooney on a crossing pattern for a 21-yard gain. Five plays later, the Bears were back in the end zone when Trubisky hooked up with rookie tight end Cole Kmet, who motioned behind his offensive line on a play-action look, catching Detroit’s defense sleeping for the 9-yard score.
Trying to keep pace with Chicago's suddenly high-octane attack, Stafford was intercepted by a defensive lineman for the second consecutive week. Trying to feed a sidearm throw to James, 313-pound defensive tackle Bilal Nichols stepped in front of the pass for the pick, giving the Bears offense the ball back in Lions territory.
"We were kneeling the ball at the end of the game and I was talking to him, I went and patted down his left arm looking for a foreign substance, see what kind of pine tar he had on that left arm," Stafford said with a smile. "It was a great play by him. I thought worse case, he bats it down. He made the pick, kudos, tip your hat to him, keep moving."
Chicago couldn't capitalize on the turnover, but ate valuable time off the clock and flipped the field position, pinning the Lions at their own 8-yard line with a punt. And with the deficit still 10, they did it again on their next punt, downing it at the 4-yard with 4:33 remaining.
With little time to waste, the Lions managed to quickly drive 96 yards. After starting the series with an incompletion, Stafford completed six straight throws, finishing the aerial barrage with a 25-yard strike to Jones that made it 30-27 with 2:18 remaining.
"Marv ran a great route and got behind them, kinda lulled them to sleep and I was able to step up and throw it to him for a big one," Stafford said.
Stafford finished 27 of 42 for a season-high 402 yards, three touchdowns and the one interception. Jones paced Detroit's pass-catchers with eight grabs for 116 yards and the touchdowns, while Peterson had 57 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries.
After the fumble and Peterson's go-ahead touchdown, Chicago had one more shot to regain the lead, but Montgomery was stopped on fourth-and-1 at the Lions 20 by linebacker Reggie Ragland and defensive tackle Kevin Strong with 11 seconds remaining.
"The last time I remember having a stop like that was in I was in little league," Ragland said. I shot the gap and I got the last tackle for the game, and coach took everybody out to get ice cream. So, that was exciting."
With the victory, the Lions moved to 5-7 on the season, while the Bears fell to the same mark.