The Bears won their third division game in 12 days and their fifth straight overall Thursday in Detroit. Here are three things that stood out in their 23-16 victory over the Lions:
(1) As has been the case all season, an opportunistic defense generated key takeaways and even scored the game-winning touchdown.
Stingy in the first half, a Bears defense that was playing its third game in 12 days allowed the Lions to string together some lengthy drives in the second half. But the unit produced clutch plays when they were needed most, highlighted by interceptions on Detroit's final two possessions.
With the score tied 16-16, Eddie Jackson made a great read and an even better break on the ball, picking off a Matthew Stafford pass and returning it 41 yards for a touchdown with 6:00 left in the game. "Eddie did a great job of reacting to the quick game and made a great catch and run afterwards," coach Matt Nagy said Friday at Halas Hall. "Obviously, that was the turning point in the game."
After the Jackson interception, the Lions—who had marched 80 yards for a touchdown and 73 yards for a field goal earlier in the second half—advanced 64 yards to the Bears' 11. But on third-and-nine, Kyle Fuller picked off Stafford's pass intended for tight end Michael Roberts in the end zone with 1:07 remaining, icing the victory.
The Bears now lead the NFL with 20 interceptions after registering eight in each of the previous three seasons. "That whole back end is playing really well together," Nagy said. "They're playing with confidence right now. They're trusting their front seven to get to the quarterback, so they know they can take chances if they need to."
Another key stop occurred midway through the fourth quarter when the Lions trailed 16-13 and faced second-and-two from the Bears' 3. Akiem Hicks stuffed LeGarrette Blount for a 1-yard gain, Stafford threw an incomplete pass on third-and-one from the 2 and Detroit settled for Matt Prater's 20-yard field goal, tying the game 16-16.
(2) After not getting any full-speed reps during the short week, quarterback Chase Daniel excelled in his first NFL start since the 2014 season finale when he was with the Chiefs.
Replacing the injured Mitchell Trubisky, Daniel completed 27 of 37 passes for 230 yards with two touchdowns, no turnovers and a 106.8 passer rating. What made the performance even more impressive is that the Bears did not conduct a regular practice during their short week, preparing instead in walkthroughs and in the classroom.
"The timing was going to be the biggest concern, just with him not having that with the guys since the preseason, and at that time it wasn't even with those guys," Nagy said. "It's a trust factor with Chase. It's a comfort level that you have. We didn't change anything [with the offense] because he was in there. That's why we brought him in, is for these type of situations where you feel comfortable knowing that if you get into a situation where he's got to play, you're able to keep playing the way you play."
Daniel's timing was slightly off early—he barely missed connecting with Anthony Miller on a deep ball on the Bears' first possession and with Tarik Cohen in the end zone in the second quarter—but the quarterback rebounded to make several excellent throws. Two of the best resulted in touchdowns—of 10 yards to running back Taquan Mizzell in the left corner of the end zone late in the first half and 14 yards to Cohen in the right corner of the end zone early in the fourth quarter.
"The two touchdown throws, they're not easy throws," Nagy said. "You saw Tarik with the first one was looking over his right shoulder and turned back inside and tracked the ball pretty well. That was a good throw. And then the other one, to ‘Smoke' (Mizzell), was another good throw."
(3) Jackson is emerging as one of the NFL's top defensive playmakers.
For the second time in five days, Jackson returned an interception for a key second-half touchdown in a one-score win over a division opponent. His 27-yard TD return helped lift the Bears to a 25-20 victory over the Vikings last Sunday night and his 41-yarder Thursday in Detroit snapped a 16-16 tie.
Jackson has now scored five defensive touchdowns in two seasons with the Bears—three more than any other NFL player. Since the start of the 2017 season, he has returned more interceptions for TDs than 25 NFL teams and has scored more defensive touchdowns than 21 NFL clubs.
"He's playing on another level right now," Nagy said. "He's very instinctual. He's playing with a lot of confidence. I haven't been around too many guys—safeties and defensive backs—that have the awareness and instincts that he has. And then he's got great ball skills. A lot of times we always joke that these DBs are back there because they can't catch. Well, he doesn't fall into that category. This guy could be playing some wide receiver."
The last NFL player with pick-sixes in back-to-back games was the Dolphins' Reshad Jones in 2015. The last Bears to accomplish the feat were Charles Tillman and Lance Briggs, who both did it in back-to-back wins over the Cowboys and Jaguars in 2012.
Jackson's five defensive touchdowns are tied for the most by a player in his first two NFL seasons, matching the Jets' Erik McMillian in 1988-89.
Prime Photos: Bears at Lions 11.22.18
Bears photographer Jacob Funk selected his best photos from Thursday's Thanksgiving matchup with the Lions at Ford Field in Detroit.