DETROIT – The Bears entered the fourth quarter of their Thanksgiving battle in Detroit Thursday trailing the Lions 13-9 after yielding an 80-yard touchdown drive.
Playing their third game in 12 days—and second in just over 80 hours—the Bears easily could have limped to the finish line, content with winning two of three division games.
But these resilient Bears simply refused to lose, rallying to beat the Lions 23-16.
"We ended up challenging our guys a couple weeks ago, knowing that we were going to have three games in 12 days," said coach Matt Nagy. "We looked at the big picture, three division games, and we stepped back and honed into playing each game one at a time in a short period of time. Our guys took that as a challenge, and they finished it off today."
With the score knotted 16-16, Eddie Jackson intercepted a Matthew Stafford pass and returned it untouched for a 41-yard touchdown with 6:00 left in the game. It was Jackson's fifth defensive TD in two seasons with the Bears and his second in five days.
"That was the difference in the game today, winning by that touchdown with Eddie," Nagy said. "He's had an unbelievable season so far, one that I don't know if I've ever seen."
On their ensuing drive, the Lions (4-7) marched to the Bears' 11 before Kyle Fuller iced the win by picking off a Stafford pass in the corner of the end zone with 1:07 remaining.
In recording their fifth consecutive victory for the first time since they won six straight in 2012, the Bears (8-3) extended their first-place lead in the NFC North over the Vikings (5-4-1), who host the Packers (4-5-1) Sunday night in Minnesota.
"I want to give credit to everybody in our organization—the players, our coaches, the football staff, everybody—whoever was a part of it in this short week we had, it wasn't easy. All in all, [it was] a fun day. They're never easy, but we'll take it for sure."
Making his first start since 2014 and just the third of his nine-year NFL career, quarterback Chase Daniel excelled in place of the injured Mitchell Trubisky, who sat out Thursday's game with a right shoulder injury. Daniel completed 27 of 37 passes for 230 yards with two touchdowns, no turnovers and a 106.8 passer rating.
The impressive performance by the career backup capped a short week during which the Bears did not conduct any regular practices or run any full-speed plays.
"You have no idea how this kid prepares," said Nagy, who served as Daniel's position coach with the Chiefs from 2013-15. "Every week, how he prepares. And since the day I met him in 2013, those days don't change. He's very consistent.
"He takes this very seriously. Every game, he prepares like he's the starter. So, whenever he gets the call that he's going to start, whenever that is, he's never shell-shocked and nothing changes."
The Lions took a 7-0 lead on LeGarrette Blount's 4-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter. The score came after cornerback DeShawn Shead forced a Trey Burton fumble that linebacker Jarrad Davis returned 21 yards to the Chicago 40.
The Bears cut the deficit to 7-3 on Cody Parkey's 40-yard field goal with 3:58 left in the second quarter. The drive was sustained by Daniel's 29-yard pass to Allen Robinson II down the right sideline on third-and-13.
After Roquan Smith's third-down sack of Stafford resulted in a three-and-out, the Bears took a 9-7 lead on Daniel's 10-yard touchdown pass to Taquan Mizzell Sr. with :40 left in the first half. Daniel completed passes on all five plays for 65 yards on the drive, highlighted by a 26-yarder to Anthony Miller.
The Bears attempted a two-point conversion, but Daniel's pass along the line of scrimmage intended for Robinson was just out of the receiver's reach.
The Lions regained a 13-9 lead on Blount's second 4-yard touchdown run of the game late in the third quarter. But Daniel followed by engineering an eight-play, 82-yard drive capped by a 14-yard TD pass to Tarik Cohen in the right corner of the end zone, giving the Bears a 16-13 lead early in the fourth period.
The Lions tied the score 16-16 on Matt Prater's 20-yard field goal with 7:44 to play, marching 64 yards but settling for the kick after Stafford threw an incomplete pass in the end zone on third-and-one from the 2.
Jackson and Fuller then intercepted Stafford on Detroit's final two possessions, enabling the Bears to win their third straight division game for the first time since they won five in a row over NFC North opponents in 2010.
"I'm starting to learn as a head coach with this team who we are, and it's special, it really is, and I like where we're at," Nagy said. "There's a challenge every week and they accepted my challenge of going 3-0 in 12 days against three division opponents.
"They did that. They can check that off. Now they deserve to go get some rest. They earned that. So, get some rest. Be smart. Come on back and now we go for the next challenge."