CHICAGO -- There's a difference between being surprised and being unprepared.
That difference was highlighted Sunday on the most critical play of the Bears' 28-13 win over the Detroit Lions at Soldier Field.
With the game tied at 13 midway through the third quarter, the Bears lined up to go for a fourth-and-13 at the Lions' 38-yard line.
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"I don't think so," left tackle Braxton Jones said after the game when asked if the Bears were planning to run a play.
"No, it was supposed to be a freeze play," wide receiver DJ Moore echoed.
Quarterback Justin Fields walked to the line and called out a protection change. Left guard Teven Jenkins started making protection calls. Tight end Cole Kmet looked over to wide receiver Darnell Mooney and made a check.
All fake. Improv.
“I thought the line did a good job selling the protection adjustment," Kmet said. "I looked out to Mooney like we were going to switch routes or whatever, and they bought it.”
Sure enough, Lions defensive end Aidan Hutchinson came across the line, and that's where the preparation took over. Once Hutchinson crossed the line, center Lucas Patrick snapped the ball, and Moore beelined for the end zone.
“Fourth-and-13, hell of a cadence," Kmet said. "I thought, no way in hell they are jumping. They jumped. I don't know how you could jump in that situation, but they did.
"I was shocked."
Moore beat his man off the line, and the safety that was over the top didn't come over initially. The line gave Fields good protection, and the quarterback threw a rope to Moore for a 38-yard touchdown to give the Bears a lead they wouldn't relinquish.
"They bit on it," Jones said. "I mean, it was cool to see. Tev had great communication there, ‘Go to this guy. Go to that guy,’ calling different things. We just got them to jump and then just got DJ to do DJ. You know, ‘Go DJ.’”
"Based off what they do, you either win or you go win," Moore said.
Fields' strike to Moore on the free play allowed the Bears to recapture the momentum they lost early in the game.
Chicago jumped out to a quick 10-0 lead, but a failed fourth-and-1 play in the second quarter swung things back in the Lions' favor. Detroit ripped off 13 points in a row to take a 13-10 lead into the half.
The game ground to a halt in the third quarter, with neither team able to gain an edge.
Prior to Fields' free-play dart to Moore, the Bears' quarterback converted a critical third-and-3 with an anticipatory throw to Kmet on the left sideline. The Bears lost 2 yards on the next three plays and were prepared to take a delay and punt from Lions territory.
But their preparation -- and a Lions mistake -- presented the Bears with an opportunity they couldn't waste.
“We practice that all the time. I think it kind of comes second nature now," Kmet said. "In a walk through and one of our scout team guys accidentally jumps, we’re always going into that. It’s something we’ve practiced a lot that has just kind of become second nature. I thought [Fields] had a hell of a cadence on that play. It sounded really good but I’m still shocked that they jumped.”
"We practice that each and every week. It was great execution by everyone," Fields added.
The touchdown pass to Moore gave the Bears a 19-13 lead after a blocked PAT, and the defense did the rest, holding the Lions' offense to 267 total yards while pitching a second-half shutout.
“Us hitting that shot to DJ, that was a big momentum-shifter," Eberflus said after the win.
Everyone from Jenkins to Patrick and Moore gets credit for the seamless free-play execution.
But it was high-level quarterbacking from Fields to see Hutchinson jump and execute a play that wasn't supposed to be without flinching.
"DJ is hard to cover," Eberflus said. "He’s hard to cover when you got a guy over the top of him or when it’s just one guy on him like that. Really good throw. Really good catch. Really good reaction."
"It was a hell of a cadence and a hell of a throw to DJ," Kmet said.
Fields said the key to the play was approaching everything, from cadence to protection calls, like a normal play.
Once Hutchinson came across, the rest was easy.
“When he jumped, I was like, ‘Shoot, I’m out," Moore said. "I'm like, 'meep meep.'”
Moore cruised into the end zone, delivering a right hook that staggered the Lions -- one the NFC North leaders never recovered from.
The win marked the first time the Bears have won back-to-back games in the Eberflus era. At 5-8, the Bears believe they are firmly in the playoff picture.
But they had to win Sunday.
Preparation, execution, and a dime from Fields knocked the Lions out and gave the Bears a statement win they hope can be the springboard for more.