Chase Daniel, Bears Beat Lions on Thanksgiving with Mitchell Trubisky Injured

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistNovember 22, 2018

DETROIT, MI - NOVEMBER 22: Quarterback Chase Daniel #4 of the Chicago Bears looks to pass against the Detroit Lions during the first quarter at Ford Field on November 22, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Leon Halip/Getty Images

Despite playing without starting quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, the Chicago Bears defeated the Detroit Lions 23-16 on Thursday in a Thanksgiving Day NFC North clash at Ford Field in Detroit. 

Chicago improved to 8-3 and maintained its spot atop the division, while Detroit fell to 4-7 and further damaged its already-faint playoff hopes.

The Bears made two key defensive plays late in the fourth quarter to win the game, including a 41-yard interception return for a touchdown by safety Eddie Jackson to break a 16-16 tie with six minutes left:


PICK SIX! @EJackson_4. To the house. Sweeter than Nanna's pumpkin pie. #DaBears 📺: #CHIvsDET on CBS https://t.co/dybMYpcDjn

Cornerback Kyle Fuller then foiled Detroit's comeback attempt by intercepting Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford in the end zone with 1:11 remaining.

Veteran Chase Daniel made his third career start Thursday in place of Trubisky, who was out with a shoulder injury.

The 32-year-old Daniel finished the game having completed 27 of 37 passes for 230 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.

Detroit was also without some key players on offense, as rookie running back Kerryon Johnson and wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr. sat out with knee injuries.

The Lions also traded veteran wideout Golden Tate to the Philadelphia Eagles at the end of October.

That placed much of the offensive burden on the shoulders of Stafford, and he was unable to make many big plays against Chicago's dominant defense, finishing 28-of-38 for 236 yards with no touchdowns and two picks.

Detroit secured a 7-0 lead in the second quarter on a four-yard touchdown run by LeGarrette Blount, but the Bears pulled ahead 9-7 shortly before halftime when Daniel found running back Taquan Mizzell for a 10-yard touchdown with 40 seconds remaining in the quarter:


Your uncle: Pass the sides. 🥘 @ChaseDaniel: Pass the touchdowns! 🏈 @ChicagoBears for six! #DaBears 📺#CHIvsDET on CBS https://t.co/1IfOMgoDyR

Blount gave the Lions the lead back late in third quarter when he scored from four yards out to make it 13-9.

The veteran running back was Detroit's offensive star, with 88 rushing yards and two touchdowns.

A 14-yard touchdown pass from Daniel to running back Tarik Cohen put Chicago back on top by three in the fourth quarter, and Jackson put the game away for the Bears after Detroit tied it with a field goal.


Bears Are Only Average Without Trubisky

Daniel put up solid numbers Thursday, but it was clear that Chicago sorely missed Trubisky's dual-threat ability in a tight game.

The second-year quarterback led Chicago to a 7-3 start and has impressive stats on the season with 2,469 yards, 20 touchdowns and nine interceptions through the air, along with 363 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.

Head coach Matt Nagy clearly favors throwing the ball over running it, as pointed out by Matt Eurich of 247Sports:

Matt Eurich @MattEurich

Matt Nagy when thinking about the running game: "Nah"

As a team, the Bears rushed just 15 times for 38 yards Thursday, which put the offense mainly in Daniel's hands.

That game plan has worked well for Trubisky this season, but Daniel isn't the type of quarterback who can win games on his own.

Daniel primarily did his damage with underneath passes against the Lions, and Jason B. Hirschhorn of SB Nation suggested Chicago would've been better off incorporating more of the ground game:

Jason B. Hirschhorn @by_JBH

Matt Nagy might as well run the Wing T during the fourth quarter. The Bears can't do much worse with Chase Daniel at quarterback.

The Bears have a supremely talented defense that allowed just 333 total yards and 17 first downs, but in order to compete with elite NFC teams such as the Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans Saints come playoff time, Chicago needs to put points on the board offensively.

Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported the Bears may have to play without Trubisky for the next few weeks:

Jason La Canfora @JasonLaCanfora

Trubisky could be out a few weeks. Bears are in good hands with Chase Daniel. He knows system inside out. Has extreme trust from teammates and coaches

While La Canfora is confident the Bears can win with Daniel at the helm, there is far less margin for error with Trubisky out, especially if Nagy refuses to establish the ground game with Jordan Howard.

The Bears have built a bit of a cushion for the playoff spot over the first 11 weeks of the season, but an extended absence from Trubisky could shrink or eliminate the separation both in the NFC North and in the wild-card race.

Chicago can hang with middling teams like the Lions, but if Trubisky isn't back within two weeks, the Bears may be in for a rude awakening when they face the NFC-leading Rams on Dec. 9.

Johnson, Not Stafford, the Key to Lions' Offensive Success

Much of the blame for Thursday's loss will fall on Stafford's shoulders in the coming days due to his late-game failures.

While he nearly bounced back from the pick-six to Jackson, his game-ending interception to Fuller prevented him from redeeming himself:


ANOTHER PICK! That @ChicagoBears defense wants seconds. #DaBears 📺: #CHIvsDET on CBS https://t.co/YuqCfyBSdh

The biggest issue for Stafford was the fact that he was unable to make plays down the field with only Kenny Golladay to count on as a quality, trusted receiver.

Also, with the exception of a 27-yard rumble by Blount in the fourth quarter, Detroit was unable to get much going on the ground.

The Lions clearly missed Johnson, who has been one of the best rookies in the NFL this season.

Andy Benoit of Sports Illustrated is so impressed by Johnson that he sees many years of big-time production in his future:

Andy Benoit @Andy_Benoit

Kerryon Johnson will be one of those RBs who has at least 1,100 yards rushing, 500 receiving every season. That's his baseline.

Johnson has rushed for 641 yards and three touchdowns this season, and he is averaging 5.4 yards per carry. He has also caught 32 passes for 213 yards and one score.

Per Chris Emma of 670 The Score, Johnson has been directly responsible for the Lions' four wins this season:

Chris Emma @CEmma670

Kerryon Johnson's top four rushing games helped the Lions to their four wins. They are 0-6 in the others. Detroit has a major void to fill on offense, and against one of the league's top defenses.

In addition to his statistical production, Johnson is hugely important to the Detroit offense in terms of keeping opposing defenses honest.

The Bears were able to focus primarily on shutting down Stafford and the passing game, which resulted in poor numbers for the veteran quarterback.

Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk was disgusted by how conservatively Stafford had to play Thursday:

Michael David Smith @MichaelDavSmith

I mean it's just preposterous for Matthew Stafford to ever be 17-for-23 for 92 yards. The Lions are now two seasons into the huge contract they gave him and they've accomplished nothing toward putting together an offense that takes advantage of his big arm. https://t.co/UXlYcRhn6Q

While Detroit's system is partly to blame, Johnson's absence meant there were few opportunities to take advantage of the extra defensive players in the box.

The Lions offense has long been predicated on Stafford and the passing game, but if Detroit is going to take advantage of a fairly easy schedule down the stretch, it will need a healthy Johnson in the lineup and leading the offense with his dual-threat ability.


What's Next?

Provided Trubisky is healthy enough to return, the Bears will likely be a heavy favorite when they face the 3-7 New York Giants on the road next week.

Meanwhile, the Lions will have a major challenge on their hands when they host the 10-1 Rams, who boast the best record in the NFL this season.