Where were Montez Sweat, Tremaine Edmunds on Chicago Bears’ final drive vs. Detroit Lions?

Matt Eberflus explains key absences during Lions’ game-winning drive

Chicago Bears linebacker Tremaine Edmunds and teammates react after Edmunds' interception during the second half against the Detroit Lions, Sunday, Nov. 19, 2023, in Detroit.

LAKE FOREST – With the game on the line, Bears top defenders Montez Sweat and Tremaine Edmunds disappeared.

Edmunds, the team’s highest-paid linebacker, quite literally was not on the field. Sweat, the team’s highest-paid pass rusher, stepped off the field for three plays on Detroit’s 11-play, game-winning touchdown drive.

The Lions drove 73 yards in 2:04 of game time. Trailing by five points, they moved the length of the field and scored on a 1-yard touchdown run by running back David Montgomery. Edmunds, who made his return after missing two games with a knee injury, did not enter the game on that possession. All in all, Edmunds played 41 of 62 defensive snaps (66%) in Sunday’s game.

His 11-play absence on the deciding drive was notable. Linebacker Jack Sanborn was on the field for the entire drive next to regular starter T.J. Edwards.

“So for [Edmunds], he was on a pitch count,” Bears head coach Matt Eberflus said Wednesday at Halas Hall. “We’re working through [it with] him. I commend him. He worked out before the game, and then the trainers came to us and said, ‘Hey, we need to have him rotate with [Sanborn].’ And then we just did that, and that was the rotation.”

Edmunds injured his knee Oct. 29 against the Los Angeles Chargers. He did not play against New Orleans or Carolina. He returned to practice Friday ahead of the Lions game.

This is a player the Bears gave a four-year, $72 million free agent contract in March. Edmunds was on the field for the previous possession, when the Lions scored to cut it to a one-possession game.

“Whatever was my role on Sunday, I just wanted to help my team the best I can,” Edmunds said. “Unselfishly, I just wanted to be out there and contribute, no matter what it looked like. That was very important to me just to be out there with the guys. Get my feet wet again and just to move around.”

Eberflus said Edmunds didn’t aggravate his knee injury during the game. Eberflus said the Bears felt “great” about having Sanborn in the game in that situation.

“We’re dealing with human beings, and they’re coming off of injury and their endurance sometimes isn’t where it needs to be,” Eberflus said. “They need to get back in game shape, so to speak. You have to have that balance. You’ve got to meet with our performance staff, our training staff. They do an excellent job of getting guys back. We’ve just got to listen to their feedback.”

Sweat’s absence wasn’t as lengthy, but he exited the game midway through that possession. The Lions went with their hurry-up offense, which didn’t allow the Bears to substitute Sweat back into the game. Sweat missed three plays. Montgomery picked up 9 yards on a short pass up the middle and 10 yards on a carry up the middle. Then Amon-Ra St. Brown picked up 8 yards on a pass from quarterback Jared Goff.

At that point the Lions used a timeout, which allowed Sweat to re-enter the game. For the game, Sweat played 39 of 62 defensive snaps (63%). Eberflus said Sweat came off the field in that situation because he needed a breather.

Eberflus is going to trust his players in that situation.

“These are pro athletes, and they’ve played a lot of football,” Eberflus said. “So you leave it [up] to him. When he’s exhausted and needs to take a play or two, you let him, then get back in there as fast as you can. When there’s a stoppage in play, get back in there. I think that’s always been best practice.”

These are pro athletes and they’ve played a lot of football. So you leave it [up] to him. When he’s exhausted and needs to take a play or two, you let him, then get back in there as fast as you can. When there’s a stoppage in play, get back in there. I think that’s always been best practice.”

—  Matt Eberflus, Bears head coach

The Bears traded a 2024 second-round draft pick to the Washington Commanders in exchange for Sweat at the Oct. 31 trade deadline. Days later, general manager Ryan Poles signed Sweat to a four-year, $98 million contract extension. The deal made Sweat the fifth-highest paid pass rusher in the NFL, according to annual salary.

Sweat did return to the field for the final couple of plays, including Montgomery’s 1-yard touchdown run. Of his three games as a member of the Bears, the Lions game marked the fewest snaps Sweat has played, although it was only two snaps fewer than his Bears debut.

“Generally, I want to be there every play, but the body and the heart doesn’t really work like that,” Sweat said. “As fresh as I can be out there, that’s what I want to do.”

The Bears envision Sweat as a defensive end who is just as good against the run as against the pass. Presumably, that means he will be on the field most of the game.

“The way we practice and the way we do things, I think he will be in there more as we get going, and of course we want him in there on critical downs,” Eberflus said.

Injury notes: Because they play on “Monday Night Football” in Week 12, the Bears were not required to release an injury report Wednesday.

During the portion of practice that was open to members of the media Wednesday, running back D’Onta Foreman (ankle), center Lucas Patrick (back), linebacker Noah Sewell (knee) and fullback Khari Blasingame (unknown) did not appear to be participating.

Sean Hammond

Sean Hammond

Sean is the Chicago Bears beat reporter for the Shaw Local News Network. He has covered the Bears since 2020. Prior to writing about the Bears, he covered high school sports for the Northwest Herald and contributed to Friday Night Drive. Sean joined Shaw Media in 2016.