And you thought the Los Angeles Chargers game last week was intense?
In their Week 11 tilt, the Detroit Lions were staring down the barrel of a brutal divisional loss to the Chicago Bears. The Lions, however, were never going down quietly. Detroit stole the game thanks to a pair of last-minute touchdowns and a pair of defensive stops, resulting in one of the greater comebacks in recent Lions history.
It was a heart-stopping game, so let’s examine some takeaways.
Can’t count out the Cardiac Cats
The Lions certainly know how to make things exciting:
Just rolling in it like catnip pic.twitter.com/tp15Qa4auo— Chris Perfett (@chrisperfett) November 19, 2023
Despite being outplayed for most of the game, the Lions still walked away with a victory. The Lions have won in multiple fashions this season: blowouts, defensive struggles, offensive shootouts, and now a late game resurrection. Detroit’s play isn’t always pretty, but the pieces are there to give them a fighting chance until the final minutes.
The Lions are becoming must-watch television, capable of phenomenal football at any moment—I totally didn’t have to re-write a large section of this takeaways article.
Jared Goff picked an awful moment to return to his 2021 form. The Lions quarterback had three costly interceptions that nearly wound up sinking the Lions offense. The first one can be written off as Sam LaPorta collided with a defender during his route, but the next two were inexcusable. Goff missed Tremaine Edwards in coverage and threw it right into the arms of the linebacker. Later on in the third quarter, Goff threw an ill-advised pass into double coverage—even if you factor in that it was tipped, it was still a high-risk pass. This doesn’t even include two near interceptions: a dropped pick-six in the first half and a duck on third-and-13 in the fourth quarter.
The Lions also suffered a brutal special teams turnover, as Craig Reynolds had a kickoff dislodged in the third quarter. This immediately led to a Bears touchdown thanks to a short field. On defense, the Lions were tagged with multiple penalties at critical junctions, keeping Bears drives alive.
Before the dying minutes of the fourth quarter, it looked like these turnovers and mistakes were going to crush the Lions. Thankfully, miracles can happen.
A Tale of Two Goffs
The Lions would not have pulled off their comeback win without Jared Goff. This statement is a double-edged sword, both a compliment and critique. The Lions would not have been in a comeback situation in the first place if it weren’t for Goff’s interceptions. The first three quarters were among his worst in a Lions uniform, and many people were moving on to Thanksgiving as the fourth quarter ticked down and a loss looked inevitable.
Instead, he rallied the offense to a stunning 15 points in the final four minutes to secure the win. After looking bewildered to start the game, Goff was crisp when it counted, orchestrating two clutch drives. Goff will certainly garner blame for this near-loss, but he deserves a mountain of credit for his resilience.
A rough outing for Jack Campbell
Jack Campbell has had an up and down rookie season thus far, but his Week 11 performance was arguably his worst. For as quick and explosive as he is, it matters little if his tackling is off. On Sunday, it was definitely off. Campbell experienced multiple missed tackles, allowing Bears ball carriers to break sizable gains. The rookie linebacker is expected to be their long-term answer at linebacker, but his performance against the Bears highlighted some growing pains.
This is in contrast to Alex Anzalone, who has been one of the best Lions defenders all season long. Anzalone himself had a solid outing against the Bears, leading the way in tackles and securing a fumble. Campbell is viewed as Anzalone’s heir, but today it was the veteran looking like the star.
Justin Fields continues to run—and lose—against Detroit
The Lions have had no answer for Justin Fields since he entered the league. Fields had his third-straight 100-yard rushing game against Detroit, and he and D.J. Moore were the only parts of the Bears offense posing any threat. The Bears certainly benefited from the Lions’ numerous turnovers as Chicago dominated the time of possession and, in turn, the game. That did not translate to a victory for Chicago, however. The one time the Lions got to Fields, it resulted in the rare strip sack safety.
In those three 100-yard games, Fields is 0-3. Whether Fields can be a good passer is still up for debate, but the fact remains that the Bears let him down on Sunday.
A gold star for Jamo
A week after delivering a touchdown-sealing block, Jameson Williams delivered again. He only finished with two receptions, but they were valuable ones. His first was a mere 12-yarder on third down, but he absorbed a tough hit to secure the catch—a positive sign for Williams, highlight that he isn’t just a deep threat. His next reception was a classic Jamo play, flying past defenders and catching a bomb.
Williams is slowly becoming more and more involved in the offense, and he is building trust with Goff and the coaching staff. Look for him to continue his growth.
The Dan Campbell difference
We have already gushed about how the Dan Campbell era in Detroit feels different from previous coaching tenures, but this game perfectly exemplified that sentiment. The Lions under Matt Patricia rarely won in general, let alone in such a dramatic comeback fashion. Even though Jim Caldwell was beloved, this type of fight was a rarity. The Lions got their teeth kicked in for 50 minutes, yet Campbell continued to instill confidence in his team. Lesser teams would have checked out.
John’s Turning Point: The Bears settle for field goals in the fourth quarter
Credit to Jeremy Reisman for pointing this out in the moment:
Just an absolutely horrible decision to kick a FG, even it makes it a two-score game.— Jeremy Reisman (@DetroitOnLion) November 19, 2023
I'll take it.
The Bears were in total control of the game at this point. The field goal made it 23-14, but the Lions were rattled, coming off back-to-back turnovers (a fumble and interception).
It would have been a risk to go for it, but the Lions defense had not put up much resistance against Justin Fields. Even with their struggling run game, a fourth-and-1 deep in Lions territory should have been a no-brainer moment. The opportunity to go up 27-14, while not a game-sealing moment, would have hindered Detroit’s comeback chances. Continuing the drive could have bled additional time.
The Bears would have another chance to make up for their mistake. Bleeding time was the name of the game for their 14-play marathon drive that ate up nearly nine minutes of the clock in the fourth quarter. Yet once again, the Bears opted for a field goal in the Lions territory. This time, the field goal came on fourth-and-5 from the Lions’ 21. While that yardage is far from automatic, the Bears settling for a field goal to push the score to 26-14 was another missed opportunity to bury their opponents.
Stopping the Bears offense—even for field goals—gave the Lions a glimmer of hope. That extra time and those extra points proved crucial as well to the Lions comeback, something that would not have been possible if the Bears were more aggressive. Those six points were the only points they scored in the fourth quarter.