CHICAGO -- Despite what the record might tell you, the Bears believe they are better than the NFC North-leading Detroit Lions. The Bears believe they are the more physical team and have outplayed Detroit in two of their last three contests.
They've just let them off the hook in the fourth quarter.
Three weeks ago, the Bears blew a 12-point fourth-quarter lead in Detroit. They were champing at the bit to get another shot at the Lions on Sunday at Soldier Field.
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The Bears jumped on the Lions early but let them crawl back to take the lead heading into halftime.
But Sunday's game was not going to be the latest in a line of Bears' letdowns against the division-rival Lions.
Chicago's defense bowed up in the second half, and quarterback Justin Fields struck with his arm and legs in the second half to lead the Bears to a 28-13 win that moved them to 5-8 on the season and was the first time they have won consecutive games under head coach Matt Eberflus.
Fields went 19-for-33 for 223 yards and one touchdown while also adding 58 yards on the ground. Meanwhile, the Bears' defense suffocated a normally potent Lions offense, holding them to 267 total yards and forcing three turnovers.
The Bears were confident coming into the game. They were adamant not only that they were better than the Lions but that they could go on a late run to the playoffs. A statement win Sunday was the first step in that plan.
Fields and the defense made sure that box got checked. Now, they move on to Step 2.
Here's what we learned in the Bears' 28-13 win vs. the Lions:
The Bears won the opening toss and elected to take the ball against a Lions defense that has been struggling mightily for over a month.
On third-and-3 from their own 38-yard line, Fields dropped back and felt pressure. The quarterback stepped up in the pocket and took off for a gain of 13.
Fields entered the game having rushed for over 100 yards in each of his last three games against the Lions. He ripped off 28 yards on the ground on the opening series before offensive coordinator Luke Getsy busted out a new wrinkle inside the red zone.
The Bears split Fields out wide and brought wide receiver DJ Moore in to take the snap. Moore took the snap and ran left. He faked a pitch back to Fields, hit the corner, and raced 16 yards untouched for an opening touchdown.
The Bears dominated the first quarter-plus of Sunday's game. They led 10-0 and had the chance to add to it after Jaylon Johnson picked off Jared Goff on fourth down.
Fields and the Bears' offense moved the ball down to the Lions' 40-yard line, where they faced a critical third-and-3. The Bears opted for a quarterback draw, but Fields was stopped after a gain of 2.
The Bears rolled the dice on fourth-and-1, but the play-call left a lot to be desired. The Bears lined Moore up in the backfield and opted to pitch it to him, but Lions cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu sniffed it out and popped Moore short of the line.
With the momentum pendulum starting to swing back their way, the Lions' offense marched 61 yards on nine plays, with running back Jahmyr Gibbs capping off the drive with a 12-yard touchdown run. A missed PAT made it 10-6 Bears midway through the second quarter.
The Bears' offense needed to string a drive together before half to halt the Lions' momentum. That didn't happen.
The Bears went three-and-out, and the Lions' offense closed the half with an 11-play, 53-yard touchdown drive to take a 13-10 lead at halftime.
Chicago flushed a brilliant quarter-plus of play down the drain in the final 7:04 of the half, and it all started with a failed fourth-and-1 pitch to Moore.
Free play magic
The Bears entered the second half down 13-10 but tied up early in the third quarter.
After the two teams exchanged a few punts, Fields and the Bears' offense retook command.
On third-and-3 from the Lions' 43, Fields dropped back and fired left toward a covered Cole Kmet. The Bears tight end climbed the ladder and made an impressive catch to move the chains.
The Bears went backward on the following three plays but lined up to go for it on fourth-and-12.
Fields got the Lions to jump offsides and then took advantage of the free play. Fields saw Moore had a step on his man and ripped a dot to the star receiver for a 38-yard touchdown.
The Lions blocked the Bears' point after attempt, but Chicago's defense quickly got the ball back when linebacker T.J. Edwards recovered a fumbled snap by Goff.
The Bears took over at the Lions' 29-yard line, and Fields punched it into the end zone with an 11-yard run five plays later to give the Bears a 25-13 lead.
The ballad of Justin Fields
Sunday was the full Fields experience.
The third-year quarterback tormented the Lions with his legs early but could not get the passing game in a flow in the first half. At halftime, Fields had four completions and had been sacked three times on 13 dropbacks.
In the second half, Fields made several anticipatory throws to move the chains and struck on the free play to give the Bears the lead.
There was no better encapsulation of Fields' ups and downs than on the Bears' drive after the Goff fumble. Fields missed a wide-open touchdown throw in the flat, then turned around on the next play and raced 11 yards for a scoring strike.
With these final five games potentially setting the tone of the Bears' offseason quarterback plan, Fields' second half was a window into what is possible. If the Bears can get that to be the four-quarter norm -- Getsy owns a big role in that -- that will open up a multitude of options this offseason with Fields entrenched as the starting quarterback.
If they can't, then tough decisions loom.