The Bears shocked everyone by erasing a 17-point deficit Sunday to beat the Detroit Lions in the 2020 season opener. Quarterback Mitch Trubisky was the hero and his 27-yard game-winning touchdown pass to receiver Anthony Miller was a thing of beauty.
As they say: The Bears are back.
And so is Bear Down, Nerd Up, our statistical look at the week that was for the Chicago Bears. Prepare for all the useless Bears info you never knew you needed.
Don’t call it a comeback: The Bears trailed by 17 points in the fourth quarter. It marked their first fourth-quarter comeback of 10 or more points since Oct. 11, 2015, against the Kansas City Chiefs. The Bears trailed, 17-6, in that game before coming back to win, 18-17, on a Jay Cutler 7-yard touchdown pass to Matt Forte.
The Bears’ 21 fourth-quarter points matched their most in a game’s final 15 minutes since they scored 21 in a 41-28 loss to Dallas on Dec. 4, 2014.
Sunday’s win tied for the fourth-largest comeback in team history. These are the largest comebacks in Bears history:
20 – Oct. 16, 2006, Bears beat Cardinals, 24-23
20 – Oct. 25, 1987, Bears beat Buccaneers, 27-26
19 – Oct. 28, 2001, Bears beat 49ers, 37-31
17 – Sept. 13, 2020, Bears beat Lions, 27-23
17 – Sept. 14, 2014, Bears beat 49ers, 28-20
17 – Oct. 4, 1998, Bears beat Lions, 31-27
17 – Nov. 13, 1977, Bears beat Chiefs, 28-27
Trubisky talk: Let’s take a minute to talk about the quarterback.
One of Trubisky’s glaring holes in 2019 was his unwillingness to throw the ball down field. You can’t make big plays if you don’t attempt them. You aren’t going to create first downs if you’re consistently throwing behind the sticks.
In 2019, Trubisky’s “air yards to the sticks” ranked 26th out of 39 qualified quarterbacks. The metric from NFL Next Gen Stats measures how far in front of or behind the first-down marker a quarterback throws the ball. Trubisky’s 2019 average was minus-1.2 yards. For context, he actually threw the ball farther than the likes of Drew Brees (-2) and Tom Brady (-1.6), while Matthew Stafford led the NFL with an average of 1.8 yards past the sticks.
Through one week of 2020, Trubisky is second in the league in air yards to the sticks at 2.7 yards. He trails only Tyrod Taylor (3.4) of the Los Angeles Chargers (it’s worth noting Taylor and Trubisky both had completion percentages below 60%). Yes, it’s a small sample size, but here’s the eye-popping part: It was better than every single Trubisky performance in this metric in 2019.
Only four times in all of 2019 was Trubisky in the positive in air yards to the sticks. His season high was a positive 1.3 against Detroit in Week 10. Trubisky threw to, or past, the first-down marker more consistently on Sunday than he has since a 2018 win over the Lions (sensing a trend here) in Week 10 of that season.
Trubisky is also fifth in the league, through one week, in average intended air yards (10.5), which measures how far he threw the ball down field on all attempts. He also ranked 26th overall last year in that metric.
Fat chance: According to ESPN’s win probability, the Lions had a 98.3% chance of winning Sunday’s game with a 10-point lead at the 4:56 mark of the fourth quarter.
Not so fast.
The Bears are now 5-0 against the Lions since Matt Nagy became coach. Since George Halas retired, the only other Bears coach to win his first five games against an opponent was Mike Ditka, who won his first six against the Philadelphia Eagles from 1983 to 1989.
Tough task: Next Gen Stats estimated that Trubisky’s game-winning touchdown throw to Miller had just a 30.5% completion probability. It was the 18th most difficult completion of the weekend in the NFL, out of more than 700 completions, and it came in the final two minutes with the game on the line.
For a deep ball, it’s a little bit of a tough angle because Miller wan’t on the outside. He was the middle receiver of three on the right side of the play.
I’ll let Bears quarterback coach John DeFilippo explain it:
“That ball’s thrown on a little bit more of a line than it would be a lot of times than in the open field,” DeFilippo said. “So the receiver, you’ve got to be able to trust that receiver that he’s gonna win, and Anthony did a great job of stacking [cornerback Tony McRae] and went in, and Mitch made a play, and it was obviously a great throw and catch by those guys.”
Cordarrelle Patterson is a speed demon: Bears receiver-turned-running back Cordarrelle Patterson went from zero to 20.23 miles per hour in a hurry.
According to Next Gen Stats, Patterson’s 4th-and-1 run on the first play of the fourth quarter was the 16th-fasts run of the week in the NFL. Patterson took a pitch out to his left and turned on the jets, getting just enough for a first down before being pushed out of bounds.
It went down as a 3-yard gain in the stat sheet. But it was a pivotal play (the Bears were down 23-6 at the time), and that speed burst, in such short amount of time, is impressive.
Defensive breakdown?: The Bears defense allowed 426 yards of total offense. That hasn’t happened since Week 6 of 2018, when the Bears lost in overtime against the Miami Dolphins. They allowed a whopping 541 yards that day.
The Bears allowed 424 against New Orleans last year, but hey, that's not 426.
Zero snaps: Only three active players in Sunday’s game did not play a single snap on offense, defense or special teams. One was the only former Super Bowl MVP in uniform: Nick Foles.
The others were Bears offensive lineman Jason Spriggs and Lions backup QB – and Trubisky’s former backup – Chase Daniel.
Welcome to the league: Rookie Jaylon Johnson became the first Bears rookie cornerback to start the season opener since Walt Harris in 1996. He is the first rookie not drafted in the first round to start at cornerback in Week 1 since Mike Richardson in 1983.