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10 thoughts after the Chicago Bears broke into the win column with a 17-14 victory over the Detroit Lions on Sunday, snapping a six-game losing streak to their NFC North rival and winning at Soldier Field for the first time in 52 weeks.1. Jimmy Johnson was...

10 thoughts on the Bears' 17-14 win over the Lions

10 thoughts after the Chicago Bears broke into the win column with a 17-14 victory over the Detroit Lions on Sunday, snapping a six-game losing streak to their NFC North rival and winning at Soldier Field for the first time in 52 weeks.1. Jimmy Johnson was...

10 thoughts on the Bears' 17-14 win over the Lions

10 thoughts after the Chicago Bears broke into the win column with a 17-14 victory over the Detroit Lions on Sunday, snapping a six-game losing streak to their NFC North rival and winning at Soldier Field for the first time in 52 weeks.

1. Jimmy Johnson was five days ahead of the official hiring in January 2013 when he announced on Twitter that Marc Trestman would be the Bears’ next coach. Now, Johnson says Jay Cutler, the quarterback Trestman was hired to fix and didn’t, is likely done playing for the Bears.

During halftime, the Fox analyst cited the leadership difference between fill-in Brian Hoyer and Cutler in suggesting the Bears will not return to Cutler when his injured right thumb is healed. He said Hoyer was “auditioning” for the job.

“I think there is a good chance Jay Cutler has seen his last snap as a Bear,” Johnson said.

Asked to clarify what will happen at the position if Cutler is cleared next week to play against the Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium, coach John Fox sidestepped the matter following the first victory of the season.

“We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it,” Fox said. “I’d like to enjoy this win at least for a few hours.”

Brian Hoyer leads Bears to 1st win, but backup role still suits him best David Haugh

Nothing during Sunday's 17-14 victory over the Lions at Soldier Field demonstrated Bears quarterback Brian Hoyer's savvy more than the smile he suppressed answering a question after it.

After completing 28 of 36 passes for 302 yards and two touchdowns, Hoyer knew to expect speculation over who...

Nothing during Sunday's 17-14 victory over the Lions at Soldier Field demonstrated Bears quarterback Brian Hoyer's savvy more than the smile he suppressed answering a question after it.

After completing 28 of 36 passes for 302 yards and two touchdowns, Hoyer knew to expect speculation over who...

(David Haugh)

You will recall last week that Fox was evasive in talking about Cutler reclaiming his job when he was healed, the kind of dismissive answer that usually doesn’t mean a whole lot. In this instance, there is evidence adding up in support of a permanent quarterback switcheroo.

“I don't think there are any givens. And that's no indictment on anybody,” Fox said last Monday after the bad loss at Dallas. “This is a day-to-day, week-to-week, what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league, and so we're just trying to get the best 11 guys out there regardless of the position to where we can play a full 60 minutes and get a victory.”

Where does this leave Cutler? Is Johnson patched into Halas Hall like he was Trestman, who worked for him as a quarterbacks coach at the University of Miami? I’m not going to pretend to have the answers to that right now but let’s first recognize Hoyer was extremely efficient, completing 28 of 36 passes for 302 yards and two touchdowns without a turnover. Hoyer’s final stats looked hollow in the loss at Dallas because he dropped back to chuck it 49 times and completed a lot of passes and picked up some worthless yardage against soft zone coverage when the Cowboys had a large lead.

Hoyer was pretty sharp against the Lions but we need to consider a few things. First, the Bears scored only 17 points, although they were in position for 20 had Connor Barth not pushed a 50-yard attempt wide right. The Lions have a weak defense that was made weaker by the absence of defensive end Ziggy Ansah and linebacker DeAndre Levy. Had the Bears put up 34 points, maybe it’s an easier change to explain.

Hoyer has done a better job of spreading the ball around in the last two games than Cutler did in the first two, involving tight end Zach Miller, who has three touchdown catches since Hoyer took over, and wide receiver Kevin White.

Photos of Bears quarterback Jay Cutler.

Ultimately, the conversation with Cutler eventually leads back to turnovers. He’s got 180 of them (143 interceptions, 37 lost fumbles) in 136 career games. What’s most fresh in the minds of Fox and offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains are the turnovers Cutler had in the Week 2 loss to the Eagles. The players surrounding the quarterback are not good enough for the Bears to win many games in which they lose the turnover ratio.

If the Bears do stick with Hoyer when Cutler is healthy, it would mark the second time he has been benched in three seasons. Remember, before Trestman was fired, his staff benched Cutler in favor of Jimmy Clausen.

Lions linebacker Tahir Whitehead said there really isn’t much difference between the choices.

“Hoyer is a veteran guy,” Whitehead said. “We expected him to run the offense just as if we expected Cutler to. They came in, they ran the ball, ran screens, ran play action and picked up big plays. They ran exactly the offense we expected them to run. I don’t necessarily think one guy is better than the other.”

Cutler remains a popular target and is low hanging fruit for those locally and nationally. He’s 50-49 as the starter for the Bears in the regular season and ultimately the fact that this is a discussion leads you to believe the chances of Cutler being the quarterback of the future – as in the quarterback in 2017 – are reducing.

It’s an easy leap for Johnson to make and analysts are paid to stir it up from time to time but Johnson has never struck me as a guy who slings stuff against the wall and waits to see what sticks. Cutler’s contract runs through 2020 but he doesn’t have any guaranteed money in the deal beyond this season and that, combined with those turnovers, might ultimately doom him after eight seasons.

2. That was an impressive outing by Jordan Howard, the fifth-round pick from Indiana, as he became the Bears’ fourth rookie back to top 100 yards in his first NFL start since 1960 anyway. Howard gained 111 yards on 23 carries and joined Matt Forte, Anthony Thomas and James Allen as backs to hit triple-digits in their first start. See the chart below.

It's not the win that matters, it's that Bears players such as Jordan Howard starred Steve Rosenbloom

That’s what last-place football looks like, boys and girls.

The Lions and Bears, two bad teams fighting to stay out of the NFC North basement showed Sunday at Soldier Field how each deserved to own it.

They also showed how far away they are from a playoff spot, and you can forget about a Super...

That’s what last-place football looks like, boys and girls.

The Lions and Bears, two bad teams fighting to stay out of the NFC North basement showed Sunday at Soldier Field how each deserved to own it.

They also showed how far away they are from a playoff spot, and you can forget about a Super...

(Steve Rosenbloom)

I don’t know that Howard will help Bears fans forget Forte anytime soon, but he was smooth and could very well be a better option than Jeremy Langford, who is sidelined with an ankle injury. Howard still has work to do as a receiver out of the backfield, and few backs are as skilled at that as Forte, but he ran hard and brings a dimension to the offense that really has been missing for a while. If you’ve been reading this column, you will recall I had a scout tell me weeks ago that he believed Howard was the best back on the roster and it was only a matter of time until the team reached that conclusion.

“He runs behind his pads,” Lions linebacker Tahir Whitehead said. “He runs downhill. He doesn’t give up the yardage trying to run east and west. He ran straight downhill.”

One observer I was chatting with recently compare Howard to Thomas, who was a second-round pick in 2001.

“Howard is thicker and has better bend and flexibility,” said one scout when I asked him how Howard and Thomas stacked up against each other. “A-Train was quicker, better long speed and vision. Howard’s legs are thick. Thomas’ were not like that. I like Howard but he has to improve his vision and hands.”

Howard looks like he fits what the Bears want to do blocking-wise on the offensive line and that’s another reason for him to carry the bulk of the work when Langford is back in the mix.

“We will ride him pretty good moving forward,” said coach John Fox, intimating that decision to go with Howard has already been made.

Jordan Howard Jose M. Osorio / Chicago Tribune

Jordan Howard tries to avoid Lions cornerback Nevin Lawson at the end of a 17-yard gain in the third quarter at Soldier Field on Sunday, Oct. 2, 2016.

Jordan Howard tries to avoid Lions cornerback Nevin Lawson at the end of a 17-yard gain in the third quarter at Soldier Field on Sunday, Oct. 2, 2016.

(Jose M. Osorio / Chicago Tribune)

It’s certainly a good reminder of why running backs have been de-valued in the draft. The Bears picked up Howard in the fifth round and you can get productive runners in the later rounds. Let’s see how Howard is running at the end of the month. You get a good read on rookie running backs after they’ve taken a pounding for three or four games. Defenses get a feel for what hole they like to hit and opponents learn to adjust. If Howard is still running well when we turn the calendar to November, that will be a good sign.

Here is that chart of Bears rookie running backs to go over 100 yards in their first NFL start:

  • Dec. 20, 1998 James Allen 23 carries, 163 yards, one touchdown in 24-3 win over Ravens
  • Oct. 28, 2001 Anthony Thomas 27 carries, 127 yards, one touchdown in 37-31 overtime win over 49ers
  • Sept. 7, 2008 Matt Forte 23 carries, 123 yards, one touchdown in 29-13 win over Colts
  • Oct. 2, 2016 Jordan Howard 23 carries, 111 yards in 17-14 win over Lions

3. How about that stuff by linebacker John Timu at the goalline? If you’re looking for big plays that made a difference, that is one. The Bears were leading 7-3 when the Lions took the opening kickoff of the third quarter and went 12 plays to the 1-yard line where they had third-and-goal.

Detroit brought in running back Zach Zenner and what makes this interesting to me is Timu was able to diagnose a play going to a back that was yet to carry the ball this season. Timu blitzed and crossed the line of scrimmage just after the ball was snapped to quarterback Matthew Stafford. I asked him if he was guessing the snap count and he said no.

Bears defense shows spark in victory over Lions Brad Biggs

The formula for complementary football isn't difficult to understand but until Sunday had proven terribly elusive for the Bears.

John Fox's team controlled the action nearly the entire way in defeating the Lions 17-14 at Soldier Field, their first victory after a grisly 0-3 start and first win...

The formula for complementary football isn't difficult to understand but until Sunday had proven terribly elusive for the Bears.

John Fox's team controlled the action nearly the entire way in defeating the Lions 17-14 at Soldier Field, their first victory after a grisly 0-3 start and first win...

(Brad Biggs)

“It was part of the call. Vic (Fangio, the defensive coordinator) dialed it up,” Timu said. “We kind of knew what they were about to do. He’s a chessmaster and that’s what he does. We saw the formation and that told us what play was coming. I just had to time it right. Even if the timing wasn’t right, it would have been good to go for the Bears.

“It was no guess. We knew the indicator of when they were about to snap it. I had to make sure I timed it perfect and it held true to that play. I’m supposed to cause a pile and make sure there are no run-through lanes.”

Timu crashed into the backfield before right tackle Riley Reiff could reach him with a down block and both of them wound up at Zenner’s feet making it an easy 2-yard loss. That forced the Lions to kick a field goal.

What was the tell for Timu?

“That’s classified information right there,” he said. “We play those guys twice. I can’t be giving that to you.

You wonder if Danny Trevathan will return this week from surgery on his right thumb. That would push Timu to the bench but it was a crafty play and worth remembering that Fangio had the defense well prepared for what was coming.

4. A week after Logan Paulsen was on the field for only 10 snaps in the loss at Dallas, the Bears got a lot of use out of the backup tight end and that led to a lot of variety in the personnel groupings for offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains. I tracked the personnel groupings and in the non-kneel down plays (including those with penalties), I had Zach Miller on the field for 51 of 67 snaps and Paulsen in action for 44 of 67 snaps.

The Bears were in 12 personnel (one running back, two tight ends, two wide receivers) for 28 snaps by my count and Loggains did a nice job of mixing it up. There were 15 running plays (13 to Howard and two to Joique Bell) and 13 passes. Howard only gained 32 yards on 11 carries as two of the runs were wiped out by holding penalties on wide receiver Deonte Thompson and center Cody Whitehair.

But the Bears mixed it up and this commitment to two tights ends and running the ball didn’t take anything away from the productivity of wide receiver Eddie Royal. I had Royal for 37 snaps unofficially and he caught all seven passes targeted for him for 111 yards and one touchdown. Loggains did a nice job of keeping the Lions off balance and that might be one reason why Detroit’s defensive coordinator Teryl Austin had what appeared to be a vanilla look. He is usually pretty creative but there wasn’t a lot thrown at an offensive line that has struggled in previous games.

Rich Campbell, Brad Biggs on the Bears' first win of the season

The Tribune's Rich Campbell and Brad Biggs break down the Bears' 17-14 win over the Lions at Soldier Field.

The Tribune's Rich Campbell and Brad Biggs break down the Bears' 17-14 win over the Lions at Soldier Field.

See more videos

Personnel groupings can really vary from week to week and game situations can dictate things change in a hurry. But for the Bears to play complementary football and really commit to running the ball and keeping their defense fresh, they need to go with more two tight end action moving forward. To keep opponents honest, Paulsen was targeted three times and caught two balls for 10 yards.

5. You felt like the Bears were turning the corner this season on special teams with a young roster, something that can be challenging to do, and then they make a mess of the end of the game by allowing Andre Roberts to return a punt 85 yards for a touchdown. Fortunately, the Bears corralled the ensuing onside kick effort but the punt return was bad.

For starters, the Bears were penalized on the play for not having enough men on the line of scrimmage, an infraction the Lions declined. More concerning is the Lions had 10 men on the line going for a block. They were not setting up a return there. They wanted to create a big play. It looked like Thurston Armbrister might have blocked Chris Prosinski in the back and that is certainly what the Bears safety is saying.

“I will have to look at the film but I was pretty sure I got a block in the back,” Prosinski said.

Still, there should be someone else to bring Roberts down, especially when the Lions have not set up a return. Sam Acho and Logan Paulsen missed after Prosinski was wiped out and it was off the races, a race in which Deonte Thompson looked pretty slow. Makes you wonder if Thompson was dinged a little in the game.

The Bears have now allowed a punt return for a touchdown in three consecutive seasons. Consider that in nine seasons under former special teams coordinator Dave Toub the team allowed only two punt return touchdowns.

Eddie Royal's return a jewel for Bears passing game Rich Campbell

Alshon Jeffery was showcasing his potential as one of the NFL's most dangerous receivers Sunday against the Texans when he noticed their secondary make an adjustment.

It was one play after his 54-yard catch late in the first half. The Texans called time out just before the snap, but both teams...

Alshon Jeffery was showcasing his potential as one of the NFL's most dangerous receivers Sunday against the Texans when he noticed their secondary make an adjustment.

It was one play after his 54-yard catch late in the first half. The Texans called time out just before the snap, but both teams...

(Rich Campbell)

6. In my Bear Essentials column on Sunday, I wrote about how the team was making a youth movement in the secondary and it’s really not something that’s been done by choice. Those young players looked good. It was a really lousy effort by Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, but part of that is the defense playing well against him. Bryce Callahan was really physical with Golden Tate, who wound up eventually being benched. Tate knows all the tricks of the trade to get open and is a very physical player. Callahan matched that and more and that was really good to see. Jacoby Glenn was in the right place at the right time when Stafford and Tate had a mixup at the end of the second quarter. That’s kind of been the book on Glenn, who has logged more playing time than any cornerback but Tracy Porter so far.

“I liked Glenn coming out of college (Central Florida) last year,” said one scout I reached out to this week. “He was always around the ball. He got killed in the draft because he was ‘slow.’ He’s got good instincts and that is the key to making plays. I’m glad he is balling.”

Glenn was projected to be a late-round pick but when he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.64 seconds at the scouting combine, that did him in. The nice thing is Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio has lauded him for playing some deep balls.

Look for more of Callahan, Glenn and rookies Deiondre’ Hall and Cre’Von LeBlanc in coming weeks. If the Bears can find a starter for the future out of this collection of players, that will be a big boost for general manager Ryan Pace.

Photos of the Bears general manager Ryan Pace.

7. The offensive line looked good again and you felt better about how that unit pass blocked a week ago at Dallas. But you have to reserve judgment a little when you consider the Lions are bad on defense and were lacking their only true edge rushing threat in Ziggy Ansah, out with a high ankle sprain. Yes, I know Kerry Hyder has five sacks for the Lions but he’s more of a high-effort guy than a threat off the edge. The good thing is the Colts, who the Bears will face on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium, only have seven sacks and Erik Walden, the former Packer, has four of them. This might represent a nice stretch in the schedule for the offensive line to grow without having to face a menacing threat. Last week, Dallas’ leading career sacker coming into the game was Orlando Scandrick. He’s got 10 1/2 and he missed the game with a hamstring injury.

8. As much as the Bears would love to see it, the NFL is no doubt hoping the Colts do not look jet lagged on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium. The NFL is pushing the envelope hard in London and the Colts played there Sunday, losing to the Jaguars. They are the first team to play overseas and not have a bye the following week. The Colts made the 3,987-mile flight from London to Indianapolis and they will begin preparation for the Bears. Reports are the Colts preferred not to have a week off so early in the season. They got their wish as their bye comes in Week 10. What we don’t know is how that trip will affect the players. The Colts left on Thursday evening and practiced in London on Saturday in advance of the game, a 30-27 win for the Jaguars. They arrived back in Indianapolis before they would have had they been playing on Sunday night somewhere else. They probably made it home earlier than they would have had they played a road game on the West coast. We’ll see how they look early this coming Sunday.

Colts vs. Jaguars Ben Hoskins / Getty Images

A general view during the NFL International Series match between Colts and Jaguars at Wembley Stadium on Sunday, Oct. 2, 2016, in London.

A general view during the NFL International Series match between Colts and Jaguars at Wembley Stadium on Sunday, Oct. 2, 2016, in London.

(Ben Hoskins / Getty Images)

9. Back to Eddie Royal. That was a nasty route he ran on his 64-yard reception. Royal faked an out route after about 9 yards and then turned it upfield on a shake route. He shook Lions cornerback Quandre Diggs in a big way. It’s a route you see more often in the red zone by tight ends. Tony Gonzalez ran it really well in his prime. It’s hard to pull off when the middle of the field is closed but Royal has the quickness to really sell it. That was fun to watch and in the first four games of this season we’ve seen why the Bears guaranteed Royal $10 million in his three-year contract. He’s got 18 catches for 241 yards. Royal had 18 catches for 120 yards through the first four games last season.

10. The Bears are surely hoping it’s nothing serious for wide receiver Kevin White, who left the game in the fourth quarter with a sprained ankle. White hobbled off after a 1-yard reception and coach John Fox said afterward there wasn’t an update. Brian Hoyer targeted White 23 times in the last two games and he’s had 12 catches for 117 yards, showing signs of coming to life. His development is paramount for the franchise this season so any missed time will be a real blow although I think Cameron Meredith offers some upside as a fill-in.

Bears vs. Lions: The most important plays Ryan Marx, Chad Yoder Learn more: What is win probability? The Bears got their first win of 2016 behind two Brian Hoyer touchdown passes, but one of the biggest plays of the game may have been Eddie Royal's 64-yard catch in the third quarter. That play was the Bears' longest play from scrimmage so far this season. Lions... Learn more: What is win probability? The Bears got their first win of 2016 behind two Brian Hoyer touchdown passes, but one of the biggest plays of the game may have been Eddie Royal's 64-yard catch in the third quarter. That play was the Bears' longest play from scrimmage so far this season. Lions... (Ryan Marx, Chad Yoder)

10a. It was a 50-yarder that Connor Barth pushed to the right but if the kicker misses many more chances, the Bears are going to have to take a look at the situation. Some fans wondered about the release of Robbie Gould and Barth is now 2 for 4.

10b. Three passes broken up for Lions cornerback Darius Slay. He’s a good one.

10c. The Bears leaned on tight end Ben Braunecker’s smarts as they had him active on all four special teams phases despite the fact the rookie missed the entire preseason with an ankle injury.

10d. Rookie defensive end Jonathan Bullard dressed for the game but was inactive. The guess here is his toe injury played a factor. Bullard was ready for emergency use only.

Our editors found this article on this site using Google and regenerated it for our readers.

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