CHICAGO - For a month now, Matt Nagy has promoted the idea that one win can provide the kind of spark his team needs to turn the season around.
As much as the Bears coach would have liked to speak it into existence, his team had to go out and find a way to capture success after losing four straight games, each seemingly more frustrating than the last. The slide challenged faith in the direction of the franchise and led to weekly questions about the job status of the quarterback.
Sometimes the schedule sets up just right, and on Sunday at Soldier Field, the Bears found an opponent with more issues than them.
The Bears (4-5) held on for a 20-13 victory against the Lions (3-5-1). It wasn't final until Lions backup quarterback Jeff Driskel attempted a fourth-down pass - after crossing the line of scrimmage - at the Bears 25-yard line as time expired.
The Lions, who had lost four of their previous five games, came in with injury issues. They discovered late in the week that quarterback Matthew Stafford would be sidelined with broken bones in his back. It's not too soon to begin wondering if he'll be available for the Nov. 28 rematch at Ford Field.
Fill-in running back Ty Johnson, who was starting with Kerryon Johnson on injured reserve after knee surgery, left in the first half with a concussion. Right tackle Rick Wagner also went out in the first half with a concussion.
Driskel, a sixth-round pick out of Louisiana Tech in 2016 by the 49ers, said he was informed Sunday morning he was starting. A journeyman, he was cut as a rookie and spent three seasons with the Bengals, starting the final five games of last season. The Bengals cut him in September and the Lions added him in Week 3 before pitting the inexperienced quarterback against a defense that should feast on such opportunities.
Add it up and it was a game the Bears needed in the worst possible way to keep alive any hope of turning things around.
"Well, starting quarterback didn't play," right tackle Bobby Massie said. "And the starting running back didn't play. And they're the 31st-ranked defense in the league. We were at home. There was going to be a lot of (negative) talking if we didn't win. Y'all were going to (really) crucify us if we didn't win."
Style points don't matter when you're trying to climb out of a rut. The Bears got it done by scoring touchdowns on three consecutive possessions. It started just before halftime as tight end Ben Braunecker, playing ahead of benched former second-round pick Adam Shaheen, made a diving 18-yard touchdown grab on Mitch Trubisky's pass ahead of Lions safety Will Harris.
It came 25 seconds before halftime and put the Bears ahead 7-6 and in the position Nagy envisions every time the team wins the coin toss and defers to the second half. The idea is to swing the momentum of the game with a score just before halftime and then one again on the first possession of the third quarter.
The Bears turned two possessions into 14 points as Allen Robinson beat Darius Slay for a 33-yard gain and then drew a 22-yard pass-interference penalty on the cornerback to set up a 9-yard swing pass to Tarik Cohen for a touchdown.
Inside linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski, filling in for Danny Trevathan, who left with a gruesome-looking left elbow injury, made an athletic interception of Driskel three plays later. That set up a 24-yard touchdown pass from Trubisky to Taylor Gabriel and the Bears led 20-6.
"I thought that we did get some rhythm in that (Braunecker) drive," Robinson said. "We came in at halftime and we stuck together. We talked about things that we were doing well, some looks that we got, stuff like that. We made some adjustments. We got the ball back and it was a two-for-one pretty much. Those are always big."
It's always easier to make corrections after wins, and that is what the team gets to do now as they prepare for Sunday's prime-time game against the Rams in Los Angeles.
It has to be concerning that the Bears, who entered third in the NFL with three-and-outs on 39.5% of their possessions, went three-and-out on three of their first four series. After the three touchdowns, it was three-and-out on four of their final five series. That's how you wind up with the familiar situation of the Bears running 52 offensive plays to the Lions' 75. How many weeks has that been an issue?
Trubisky didn't turn the ball over and finished 16-for-23 for 173 yards with the three touchdown passes and five sacks. The offense committed to the running game enough for 21 handoffs.
We'll see if this turns into some kind of spark. The Bears are at a favorable spot in the schedule, hosting the Giants after the trip to Los Angeles and then playing in Detroit on Thanksgiving. They have a chance to gain some ground.
But it's worth wondering if a healthy Stafford pulls this game out, especially considering Driskel completed 27 of 46 attempts for 269 yards and one touchdown. The Bears had only 226 yards of offense against a defense that hasn't been stopping anyone.
"Playing well, playing a little bit better and kind of fixing those mistakes that we've been making, just finding ways to get in the end zone on offense and then coming up with a W is always big," Trubisky said. "It feels good. We've just got to build off it and keep getting better."
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