(670 The Score) There will be a time to worry about how mediocre Mitchell Trubisky looked before his fourth-quarter heroics and wonder how differently the Bears might feel if Lions rookie running back D’Andre Swift hadn’t dropped a potential game-winning touchdown pass in the end zone with six seconds left.
There will be a time to remember that the opponent was the Lions, who have a not-so-proud tradition of getting in their own way.
But not now.
Now isn't that time for the Bears, not fresh off a thrilling 27-23 comeback victory Sunday at Ford Field in Detroit that included 21 unanswered points in the final 14 minutes.
Not after the Bears found a way to win a game on the road they had no business winning on a day they too often resembled a team that sorely needed preseason.
Now is the time for Bears coach Matt Nagy to accentuate the resilience his flawed team displayed, applaud the resourcefulness his beleaguered quarterback demonstrated and acknowledge a defense softer than expected creating the big takeaway.
Now is the time to turn briefly away from the videotape to look at the big picture and realize that the Bears are 1-0 for the first time in seven years.
Now is the time of the season to address the negatives but focus on the positives, like the chance for Trubisky and the defense to build off big plays made near the end of a long day.
“These types of wins are the ones you remember,’’ Nagy told reporters postgame.
For three quarters, it sure seemed like one the Bears would want to forget. The 2020 season opener was masquerading as the 17th game of the 2019 season with the offense plodding and Trubisky regressing. Trubisky too familiarly struggled with his footwork and accuracy, displaying none of the confidence he talked so openly about since winning the job over Nick Foles.
The running game worked surprisingly well behind an offensive line that successfully opened holes for David Montgomery – who had 13 carries for 64 yards – and Tarik Cohen, but the passing game stalled due mostly to Trubisky’s iffy right arm. At halftime, Trubisky had been so underwhelming that Fox Sports studio analyst Tony Gonzalez – a Hall of Fame tight end – called for Nagy to bench the starter for Foles in the second half.
All over Chicago living rooms, heads nodded in agreement. It was that uninspiring.
Not surprisingly, Nagy stuck with Trubisky to start the second half, but little changed. After three quarters, Trubisky had completed only 12 of 26 passes for 153 yards against a Lions defense he historically had dominated.
“Nobody panicked,’’ Trubisky explained.
Perhaps because everybody remembered that the term “Lionsing” was in the NFL lexicon for a reason.
A 45-yard kickoff return by Cordarrelle Patterson after the Lions opened up a 23-6 lead provided a spark. On the same series, Patterson later converted on a fourth-and-1 pitch that kept an 11-play, 59-yard scoring drive alive. It ended with a two-yard touchdown pass when tight end Jimmy Graham boxed out a Lions defensive back and caught his first touchdown as a Bear.
“Unbelievable, the character of this team,’’ Graham told reporters. “Mitch led us. The kid wants it. He believes.’’
A few doubters across Bears Nation emerged after Trubisky lost 18 yards and fumbled on third-and-13 with about nine minutes left in the game instead of either taking a sack or throwing the ball away. It was a case of Trubisky trying to do too much, resulting in the cardinal sin of nearly turning the ball over in the fourth quarter.
But the Lions failed to take advantage, and Trubisky justified the faith his teammates still had in him with two more touchdown drives in the closing minutes. On those drives, in those moments, Trubisky was the quarterback the Bears see at practice but the rest of us have seen too infrequently in 42 NFL starts.
Trubisky’s go-ahead 27-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Miller with 1:54, delivered in the perfect spot, capped a most unexpected comeback by the unlikeliest of sources. Trubisky was 8-of-10 for 89 yards and three touchdowns in the fourth quarter, finishing the day 20-of-36 for 242 yards and a passer rating of 104.2.
It gave Nagy ample reason this week to reinforce his faith in Trubisky as his starter. It also put the Bears defense in position to thank Trubisky for bailing them out instead of the other way around, a fact underscored by the Lions' 426 total yards. The Bears played without injured pass rusher Robert Quinn, the marquee free-agent addition who missed the game with an ankle injury and remains an unknown in these parts.
Without Quinn or a consistent pass rush, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford had too much time to throw and running back Adrian Peterson shredded the Bears front seven the way he has been doing for more than a decade. The Bears’ tackling and conditioning left much room for improvement.
But just when you started to wonder what happened to the Bears defense, they created the kind of takeaway they failed to get last year to affect the outcome.
With 2:45 left, Eddie Jackson broke up a pass across the middle intended for Marvin Jones, and the ball popped into the air. It came down in Kyle Fuller’s arms at the Lions' 42, and he returned it five yards to the 37. Two plays later, Trubisky dropped it in the bucket to Miller, and the Bears seized the lead.
“You saw that tipped ball and just felt that energy go up,’’ Nagy said of the lift.
Undeterred, Stafford still led the Lions down the field on the potential game-winning drive with surprising ease. With six seconds left on second-and-10 from the Bears’ 16-yard line, Swift got behind linebacker Danny Trevathan. But the ball slipped right through Swift’s hands and a winnable game slithered through the Lions’ grasp after Stafford missed Jones on the final play of the game.
The Bears had escaped the Motor City, feeling good about their drive but knowing they needed some work.
“We’re not going to let this win deodorize any of the stuff on offense, defense or special teams that wasn’t good,’’ Nagy said.
Still smells like progress.