Matt Nagy was more of a spectator than a participant when Club Dub reopened Sunday for the first time since Sept. 29. But the Bears coach was thrilled to soak in the celebration after watching his team snap a four-game losing streak with a gritty 20-13 win over the Lions at Soldier Field.
"It was a long four weeks for us, but I'm proud of our players and our coaches for sticking together until the end of the game there," Nagy said after the Bears improved to 4-5. "We were completely tested and challenged, and these moments that you just have in that locker room that we just had together is what it's all about."
It may have not been a breakout performance, but the Bears offense rebounded from another slow start to turn a 6-0 deficit into a 20-6 lead by scoring touchdowns on three straight possessions in the second and third quarters.
Mitchell Trubisky generated all three TDs with passes of 18 yards to Ben Braunecker, nine yards to Tarik Cohen and 24 yards to Taylor Gabriel. The third touchdown was set up by inside linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski's first career interception.
The three-TD outburst began late in the first half after the Bears had mustered just 25 yards and one first down on 15 plays while punting on their first four possessions.
"Early on we had a couple three-and-outs, didn't have a lot of yards," Nagy said. "But then you saw we picked up the tempo a little bit, got going there towards the end of the second quarter and [Trubisky] made some really, really good throws. He had great protection with the line. Wide receivers, tight ends stepped up, the backs. It's just one of those things. It becomes contagious. You feel it."
Trubisky completed 16 of 23 passes for 173 yards and a 131.0 passer rating that was the third highest of his career. But he was sacked five times and led an offense that converted only 2-of-12 third-down opportunities.
"What I really appreciate about Mitch today was the fact that he never got rattled [during the offense's slow start]," Nagy said. "He really didn't. It's hard for everybody to see in those moments because there were some mistakes today that weren't his fault. It's easy to become unraveled, and he didn't do that. He stayed composed the whole time and it would have been easy to go the other way."
"It felt good," Trubisky said. "I think that's what this offense can be when all 11 guys are on the same page, guys getting open, o-line protecting really well and just making some big plays to stay on the field.
"It wasn't pretty. It was a tough, hard-fought battle, but it felt good to just stick together and kind of get through this and find a way to win, and you've got to enjoy these, so we definitely are. I'm proud of the way we stuck together and continued to grind and work hard and work through all this adversity."
Scoring three touchdowns was certainly a major positive, especially in light of the slump the offense has been in. But it was an all-or-nothing performance for the unit. All nine of the Bears' other possessions resulted in punts, including seven three-and-outs.
After taking a 20-6 lead, the Bears went three-and-out on four of their final five drives, including their last three of the game. That enabled the Lions to cut the deficit to 20-13 with 5:53 remaining and then threaten to tie the score in the final seconds.
Backup quarterback Jeff Driskel, who started in place of the injured Matthew Stafford, threw a 47-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Golladay to make it 20-13. The Lions later took over at their own 10 with 1:41 to play and marched to the Bears' 25. But Driskell's pass into the end zone fell incomplete as time expired.
Nagy almost didn't remember what the joy of victory felt like, but the feeling came back to him in a hurry when he watched his players celebrate the win in their locker room.
"You almost forget sometimes," Nagy said. "Four games is a long time. Just to be able to watch the guys, what we were so used to doing … is pretty neat. It's exciting. We enjoy it. It brings you together, and then you're able to coach off of wins a lot easier. There's still a lot of things that we need to get better at. We understand that. But you step back in those moments and you say, 'This is why we do what we do.'"