The only thing that could have derailed a classic comeback by Chicago, was Matthew Stafford’s performance in the two-minute offense late in this game. D’Andrew Swift saw the game winning catch with six seconds left slip in and out of his grasp on third and ten. The ensuing fourth down attempt fell harmlessly incomplete to seal a victory by the Bears. The 27-23 win seemed as improbable given the rough start by Mitch Trubisky, who a week ago won the starter’s job over challenger Nick Foles.
Trubisky completed 12 of his last 16 attempts after a lackluster 8/20 first half. His team awoke from hibernation and poured in three touchdowns during drives in the final eighteen minutes of the game. They were aided by a Kyle Fuller interception with less than three minutes to go. Trubisky hit Anthony Miller with a 27-yard strike down the right sideline to take the first lead of the game with a mere 1:54 left in the contest. The excitement down the stretch was a far cry from a less than inspired first half performance by both teams. Certainly, it could be chalked up to the long layoff from game action and no preseason games.
We knew we were only down because of us (the offense.) We weren’t leaving without the ‘W.’ We just had to find what plays would work for us. I knew we had a chance to make a big play. I had to concentrate and catch the ball. It was electric.-Anthony Miller
“We just want to keep teams off balance,” noted Trubisky. “That comes from us being in balance, then never knowing what comes next. Hitting them with the pass, hitting them with play action, screens, runs. When you’re a balanced offense, then everything just starts to open up. The o-line did a great job creating lanes for the running backs to run. It was creating rhythm for our offense.”
Considering the offseason downtime for both squads, it is surprising that there was only the one turnover. Trubisky did fumble the ball, but it was recovered by teammate Charles Leno, Jr. Even the fourteen combined penalties didn’t seem critical or crucial to the outcome. Trubiusky’s heroics overshadowed the return of Adrian Peterson to the NFC North. The former Viking star racked up 93 yards on just 14 carries, at times slicing through the Bears rushing defense.
What I love about our guys and our team is they’re coming over and telling me, ‘I can beat this guy. I can beat that guy.’ When you have that confidence from your players, you just love that as a coach. Of course, you got to make the throw. I just appreciate their willingness to keep fighting. No one ever had their head down. They didn’t care about the score. They just know they wanted an opportunity to get the ball. When you get that opportunity you got to make the most of it. When we needed the most, guys stepped up.-Matt Nagy
What a break!” Matt Nagy said after the game. “I saw that ball on the corner route go right in his hands. You could feel the whole sideline for Detroit jumping up and down going crazy. That’s the breaks. It is what it is. What I want to make sure we do. We’ve been doing so much situational football. How about that? To come down with eleven seconds left, with them having no timeouts, and us trying to figure out what we want to be in. I think a lot of teams will use that scenario to see what you will do there. We just feel very lucky and fortunate that we were able to get out of it.”
Both teams had to adjust to a mostly empty stadium. “It’s very different right now down on that sideline down there with no fans there, noted Nagy. “What we started noticing was that the only way the energy was going to jump was if we created our own. There were times where it reminded me of was a high school basketball game when the fans in the stands get loud. That was happening that last drive, just to try to make some crowd noise from the sideline. There was nothing magical said. It was just us being able to move the ball in chunks offensively and get a quick score. Once we got that touchdown on offense, it just propelled the defense to say, ‘OK, now we’re down two scores.’ Now they went out and they did their job. And we got that tipped ball, and you just felt the energy go crazy on the sidelines. That fed the offense. It’s contagious.
“Unbelievable finish,” said Jimmy Graham. “For us it’s a big difference. We had to knock some of that rust off. Mitch led us. He made some huge, huge throws. The kid believes. There was never a moment on that sideline where he wasn’t completely positive about he could do, and what we were going to do.”
The outcome was not lost on Akiem Hicks. “The game of football is pretty wild. There’s things that happen that you don’t have any control over. Maybe due to a bad situation. Stuff happens. Right? Both ways. throughout the course of the game. You never know when fate is going to be on your side. But we’re thankful that is was on your side.”