Safety Eddie Jackson’s third defensive touchdown of the season provided the winning points in the Bears’ 23-16 victory over the Lions and added to his legacy of making big plays.
With six minutes left in a tie game, Jackson jumped a Matthew Stafford pass intended for TE Michael Roberts and went 41 yards for the final points of the game. It was his fourth interception of the season, one behind CB Kyle Fuller for the team lead. The Bears lead the NFL with 20 interceptions.
“Winning by that touchdown with Eddie, he’s had an unbelievable season so far,” Bears coach Matt Nagy said. “(It’s) one that I don’t know if I’ve ever seen. The players feed off of each other on that.”
In just 27 NFL games, Jackson, a 2017 fourth-round pick out of Alabama, already has scored five times. Last year as a rookie, he had a 75-yard fumble return for a touchdown and a 76-yard interception return for a score – in the same game. Last Sunday night against the Vikings, the 6-foot, 202-pound Jackson went 27 yards with his third interception of the season, and he returned a fumble 65 yards for a score against the Bills in Week Nine.
“He’s a highlight waiting to happen,” Bears CB Prince Amukamara said. “He’s our own version of (RB) Tarik (Cohen). You think of all the greats who know how to play the ball like Eric Reid, Assante Samuel, guys who just go after the ball. For this being Eddie’s second year, and him playing at the level he’s playing at, if he keeps playing like this, he’s going to be recognized as one of the greats.
I’m not saying he’s there yet, but if he keeps playing like he’s playing, he’s definitely going to be there.”
Jackson’s five defensive touchdowns are tied for the most in NFL history by a player in his first two seasons.
The short turnaround from Sunday night to Thursday morning didn’t seem to bother Jackson, but he said it wasn’t easy.
“We were gasping, but we didn’t want to feel sorry for ourselves,” he said. “We knew (it would) take everything we got; we knew it was going to be fourth quarter. We knew it was going to be tough. Nagy told us early in the week. So in our mindset, you’ve got to come out and dominate and keep swinging. If they make a play, we’ve got to come back and stop them from making it the next time.”
Grinding it out
The Bears became the first team to play a Thursday day game following a Sunday night game since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger.
They won both games, defeating the Vikings 25-20 Sunday night and the Lions 23-16 in the early Thanksgiving Day game. That also capped a clean sweep by the Bears of a grueling stretch of three NFC games in 12 days, and it left them at 8-3 on the fast track to the playoffs.
“It wasn’t easy,” coach Matt Nagy said. “We ended up challenging our guys a couple weeks ago, knowing that we were going to have a three-game stretch here, three games in 12 days. We looked at the big picture, three division games, and we stepped back and honed into playing each game one at a time in a short period of time. Our guys took that as a challenge, and they finished it off today.”
Now the Bears get some time to regroup, since they won’t return to work at Halas Hall until next Tuesday, a well-deserved respite for a team that could’ve whined about the schedule.
“There could’ve been a lot of excuses and (they could have) felt sorry for themselves,” Nagy said. “They didn’t do that. I’m starting to learn as a head coach with this team who we are, and it’s special. I like where we’re at. There’s a challenge every week, and they accepted my challenge of going 3-0 in 12 days against three division opponents. They did that. They can check that off.
Now they deserve to go get some rest. For everybody who was a part of this, I want them to enjoy every bit of this (Thursday) night.”
The return of Mitch
The Bears hope to get starting QB Mitch Trubisky back next Sunday against the Giants in East Rutherford, N.J.
“It was really hard for him when we knew that this is the route we’re going to go,” coach Matt Nagy. “He was bummed out because he really wants to (play). We have to be smart with him. He has to understand that. Once he got past that part, he was good.”
For now, Trubisky remains day-to-day, and he’ll be re-evaluated next week after weekend of rest. His situation next week will be much as it was last week.
“Just communication with him,” Nagy said. “‘Where you at with your pain, with your trainers? What’s the best thing to do?’ And like I said before, this was a day-by-day thing. It still is. We have to figure out the best way to get him back on track. I don’t know when that is, but I know that he’s going to do everything he possibly can to get ready as fast as he can.”
Sitting it out:
Because of the shoulder injury that kept starting QB Mitch Trubisky out of Thursday’s victory, No. 3 QB Tyler Bray was promoted from the practice squad on Wednesday to back up Chase Daniel. The 6-foot-6, 215-pound Bray threw his first and only pass last year in five seasons with the Chiefs, where he spent most of his time on the practice squad, injured reserve or the non-football-injury list.
OLB Aaron Lynch and TE Adam Shaheen were also inactive for the Bears. Neither player traveled to Detroit, as both remain in the concussion protocol after being injured Sunday night. The Bears’ other inactives were FB Michael Burton, OL Rashaad Coward, DT Nick Williams and WR Javon Wims. WR Kevin White is active for the first time in four weeks.
The Lions’ inactives included their No. 1 ball carrier, Kerryon Johnson, and starting WR Marvin Jones, both of whom are dealing with knee injuries. Also inactive for Detroit are CB Teez Tabor, LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin, DE Kerry Hyder, WR Brandon Powell and OL Andrew Donnal.