The Bears roared into Ford Field on Sunday, and looked primed to come away with their biggest win of the season. But the team let a victory slip away over the last five minutes of the game, as they have too many times in recent memory. The loss was no fault of Justin Fields, who was electric in his return to action after he missed four games due to a dislocated thumb. Fields was dominant both as a passer and a runner, and played a key role in putting the team in a position to win. It obviously was not enough. Here are the best and worst Bears performances from Week 11.
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Fields was a man on a mission in his return to the lineup on Sunday. From the first play of the day, Fields looked sharp, decisive and effective, despite having been sidelined for the past four weeks. He did not appear hampered at all by his dislocated thumb and ran without hesitation. Two particularly impressive throws both came on the move. The first came on the team’s first drive of the game. Fields bought time by moving to his left, spotted DJ Moore, stopped and flipped his hips, then delivered a beautiful sidearm pass for a first down. Late in the second quarter, Fields was outside the pocket again and lasered a ball to Darnell Mooney for a 24-yard gain. Fields was just as effective as a rusher, both on designed runs and scrambles. He ran without fear and helped to keep the team ahead of the sticks on their most successful drives. Fields best play was his deep touchdown to Moore in the third quarter. Fields felt pressure, climbed the pocket and threw an absolutely perfect pass to Moore for the score. Big time performance from QB1.
Stevenson will be the first to tell you, he’s gone through ups and downs over the course of his rookie campaign. His Week 11 performance was a new high. The two takeaways will lead the highlight reels, but he did the little things well too. First, Stevenson came down with the first interception of his career thanks to a nifty grab on an errant Jared Goff throw. Stevenson showed good concentration and ball skills to make the play. Then, Stevenson gave the offense excellent field position by forcing a fumble on a kickoff. The Bears took advantage by scoring a go-ahead touchdown on the ensuing possession. Stevenson also did the dirty work with some great tackles in run support. He was strong both near the line of scrimmage and in the open field. It was a complete game that illustrated why the Bears were high enough on Stevenson to trade up to select him in this year’s draft.
TREMAINE EDMUNDS AND T.J. EDWARDS
Earlier in the year, it looked like a mistake to invest so heavily in the linebacker corps before addressing the defensive line since Edmunds and Edwards weren’t making high-impact plays. Now, with Montez Sweat in the fold and the pass rush much improved, each linebacker has started to shine. Both guys racked up tackles, as usual (17 total). Both guys also came down with an interception. Edwards got his first by nimbly undercutting a throw intended for Donovan Peoples-Jones. Edmunds took advantage of a Gervon Dexter tipped pass and easily sidestepped in his zone in the middle of the field for the catch. Edmunds did have one critical missed tackle late in the game as part of the team's fourth-quarter collapse and allowed himself to be boxed out on Amon-Ra St. Brown's touchdown catch, but on the whole he looked solid in his return.
Johnson has been one of the team’s most consistent players all season, but Sunday was not one of his better days. The most glaring moment was midway through the second quarter when the Lions were in the red zone. Jared Goff made an ill-advised throw, Johnson had a bead on the ball and nothing but green grass ahead of him, but Johnson let the ball slip through his fingers for a harmless incomplete pass. A pick-six would’ve put the Bears up 14-0. Instead, the Lions scored one play later to tie the game 7-7. Johnson hurt the Bears again earlier on that same scoring drive when he was flagged for a long defensive pass interference that gave the Lions an instant scoring opportunity. Finally, Johnson let Jahmyr Gibbs slip through his fingers for a missed tackle.
The defense did a great job of creating takeaways, but they struggled to get off the field under more conventional means, as they have for most of the year. The Bears entered the game allowing opponents to convert 45.5% of their third downs, which was tied for second worst in the NFL. They allowed the Lions to convert 8-11 third downs in Week 11 (72.7%). There wasn’t any one issue that led to the repeated let downs. In some cases it was a poor tackle. In others the Lions beat a Bears soft zone. Sometimes the Bears brought the blitz and Jared Goff simply placed the ball over the extra rushers’ heads. The defense has played much, much better over the past month or so, but if they want to take the next step towards developing into an elite unit, they’ll need to address this weakness.