DETROIT (670 The Score) — After the Bears collapsed in a 31-26 loss to the Lions on Sunday, it seemed as if head coach Matt Eberflus was addressing a different game than his players were.
The Bears blew a 12-point lead in the final minutes, extending their losing streak to 12 games against NFC North foes and leaving them still without consecutive victories in the Eberflus era.
Losing seems to be taking its toll on everybody on the Bears except for Eberflus, who's 6-22 in his tenure in Chicago.
“I accentuated the positives with those guys because there was a lot of good football,” Eberflus said.
Here are the observations from the Bears’ heartbreaking loss.
Eberflus’ message is falling flat
After Eberflus delivered his postgame remarks to the Bears in which he detailed the positives he saw, the message sure didn’t seem to resonate with his team.
“Obviously, it doesn’t feel good,” said rookie tackle Darnell Wright, who allowed Lions pass rusher Aidan Hutchinson to seal the game with a strip-sack that resulted in a safety.
Quarterback Justin Fields stepped to the podium after Eberflus and was blunt in what had just occurred for his team.
"If I'm being real, we should've won that game," Fields said.
The Bears' spirits were crushed in a way that they hadn’t experienced across the past two years. They've lost 22 games since the start of the 2022 season, but none quite like this. Kicker Cairo Santos booted a 39-yard field goal with 4:15 remaining to give the Bears a 26-14 lead, and fans began filing out of Ford Field. The last-place Bears then collapsed in a stunning turn of events as the resilient Lions earned a triumph.
In the fourth quarter, Eberflus coached not to lose rather than seeking a knockout blow after his inspired Bears had shown fight.
Rather than staying aggressive defensively with a 12-point lead, Eberflus dropped the Bears into soft coverages with two-minute mode play-calling. Quarterback Jared Goff quickly marched the Lions on a six-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that took just 1:16 off the clock, capping it with a 32-yard scoring pass to receiver Jameson Williams.
Eberflus’ defense bent and then also broke.
“They just went down the field too fast,” Eberflus said.
Though the Bears still led 26-21 with 2:59 remaining, the fate of the game seemed inevitable to many. With the chance to secure a victory, quarterback Justin Fields and the Bears offense went three-and-out. Goff then led the Lions on an 11-play, 73-yard touchdown drive as Detroit took the lead with 29 seconds left.
Lions running back David Montgomery, a beloved player over four years with the Bears, put the dagger in his former team with the winning touchdown run.
The Lions' eight wins in 10 games this season match the most that Montgomery ever won in a single season in his Bears tenure.
“David is my brother, no matter where we are in life or our football careers,” Fields said. “As much as it sucks seeing him win, I’m happy for him.”
In Montgomery's view, the only way to win was by leaving the Bears. He saw opportunity with the upstart Lions, whose culture is thriving under head coach Dan Campbell's leadership.
On the other side, Eberflus tried to sell his players on the silver linings he saw in an improbable loss. A disappointed team didn’t seem to be buying in to what its coach was selling. At 3-8, the Bears are in last place in the NFC North and the embattled Eberflus is trying to make a case to save his job.
Eberflus could be at risk of losing the Bears entirely. The collective buy-in from his team dwindles with the absence of results.
From a team perspective, there was nothing positive to take from a horrific loss like that.
Fields drops a dime
Fields seemed to call his shot on his 39-yard touchdown strike to receiver DJ Moore in the third quarter.
Late in the first quarter, Fields missed on a similar deep ball to the end zone with Moore as the intended target. He approached Moore on the sideline afterward and said he wouldn’t miss the next time. With 4:41 left in the third quarter, Fields unleashed one of the best throws of his career and Moore caught it in stride.
“I told him I wasn’t going to miss him twice,” Fields said.
In his first game back from a dislocated right thumb, Fields was 16-of-23 for 169 yards and that sensational touchdown throw to Moore. He also added 104 rushing yards on 18 carries. The Bears used a game plan that took advantage of Fields’ dual-threat ability and one that recognized the Lions’ struggles to slow down mobile quarterbacks.
Fields surpassed 100 rushing yards for the first time this season. The last time he had accomplished the feat was near the end of last season when he rushed for 132 yards against the Lions at Ford Field on Jan. 1.
The closing stretch of this regular season is a referendum on Fields’ future and whether the Bears should commit to him going forward. Sunday was a showcase of his promise, a checkmark in the "yes" column for the looming offseason decision.
There for the taking
Early in the second quarter, Goff dropped back, looked to his left and targeted top receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown near the goal line. Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson read the play all the way and jumped the route. He did everything but catch it, as the ball hit off his hands and fell incomplete.
One play later, Lions running back Jahmyr Gibbs had a two-yard touchdown run and the ensuing extra point tied the game at 7-7. Johnson's would-be interception was a potential 14-point swing in the game, as he almost certainly would’ve taken it the distance for a 98-yard pick-six.
Beyond being a significant swing in the outcome of the game, the play could’ve bolstered the 24-year-old Johnson's case at the negotiating table. Johnson is still seeking a long-term contract extension from the Bears, and he has been candid in acknowledging that he needs to produce more game-changing plays. Johnson has just three interceptions over four NFL seasons, including with two of them in a Bears win on Oct. 22.
Johnson knows he let one slip away Sunday.
-- The city of Detroit is buzzing for its Lions, who at 8-2 are off to their best start in the Super Bowl era. For a franchise starved for success, this has been one of the greatest seasons in its history. That feeling was palpable throughout downtown and certainly inside Ford Field.
-- The Bears marched 10 plays and 75 yards for a purposeful opening touchdown drive, which “was the plan," as Eberflus put it. But the offense reached the end zone just once more in the game.
-- Bears rookie cornerback Tyrique Stevenson hauled in his first career interception, one of three the Bears had off Goff.
-- Goff was close to his second career four-interception game. The only time that occurred for him was when his Rams lost to the Bears at Soldier Field in December 2018.
-- Veteran center Lucas Patrick was forced out of action after a Lions player blindsided him with a cheap shot after a play was blown dead. There should’ve been a penalty flag thrown. Fortunately, Patrick wasn’t seriously injured.
-- While on the topic of late hits, what does Fields have to do to get a flag thrown when he's popped at the end of plays?
-- For all the Bears’ instability, you should take a moment to appreciate the consistency of kicker Cairo Santos, who has converted 19 of 20 field-goal attempts and 21 of 22 extra-point attempts this season. Santos had four field goals Sunday.
-- Saturday will mark two years since the Bears’ last NFC North win, a 16-14 victory over the Lions on Thanksgiving Day in 2021 that was capped by Santos' game-winning field goal in the final seconds. Since then, Chicago has lost 12 straight games to division foes.
-- It’s becoming more clear that an offseason of great change is coming to Halas Hall.
-- There are still six more games remaining in this season.
Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.