By Chris Emma–
CHICAGO (CBS) — No matter the circumstances, the taste of victory is always sweet.
John Fox knows well after 36 years of coaching to savor each win. His Bears weren’t pretty in their 17-14 victory over the Lions on Sunday afternoon at Soldier Field, just his second home win as the team’s coach. His group is just 1-3 on the season, struggling for consistency and now come questions to whether Jay Cutler or Brian Hoyer is the starting quarterback, but none of that was on Fox’s mind in the moments after.
“I’d like to enjoy this one for at least a few hours,” Fox said in reply to the quarterback question.
Brought to the Bears with the hopes of redirecting the franchise’s losing trends, Fox has faced deserved heat after his team started 0-3 for a second consecutive season.
Better is expected of the Bears in Year 2. Sunday brought better.
Hoyer made a case to be the Bears’ starter with a 28-of-36, 302-yard performance. He was smooth in the pocket and spread the ball all over the field.
Rookie Jordan Howard certainly claimed his place as the Bears’ starting running back, rushing for 111 yards on 23 carries.
“He practices hard, plays hard, is focused,” Bears guard Kyle Long said. “He’s a pretty mature guy and obviously runs very hard. It’s great to see a guy finish runs like that.”
The Bears’ effort was even better defensively. They held the Lions without an offensive touchdown and flustered quarterback Matthew Stafford all game.
Credit defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, whose game plan refused to let the Lions get their offense flowing. The young Bears defensive backs always seemed to be in the right place, with Jacoby Glenn and Deiondre’ Hall nabbing interceptions to put a stamp on the effort.
Chicago’s defensive play of the day came in the third quarter on a third-and-goal from the 1-yard line for Detroit, when Fangio sent second-year linebacker John Timu on a blitz. Timu beat the snap and hurdled through the line to stuff Lions short-yardage back Zach Zenner for a loss. Detroit settled for a field goal, with those four points left on the field proving to be the difference in the game.
It seemed that Fangio’s defense was in full control all game.
“It feels great, just knowing we’re continuously getting better,” Bears linebacker Jerrell Freeman said.
“If we continue to do that, the sky’s the limit.”
One win doesn’t change a season, but don’t tell that to the winning locker room. With just 16 games guaranteed in a season, there’s a stark difference between a winning and losing locker room.
Bears players were walking through the room to congratulate each other Sunday, but many owned up to what they could’ve done better. Chicago registered 408 total yards of offense, but the unit posted just two touchdowns.
Even Fangio would admit that his Bears defense can be better. It was a sound performance, though there’s always something to improve.
When the victory seemed to be in grasp, Detroit’s Andre Roberts returned a punt for a touchdown. Stafford tacked on the two-point conversion, and Soldier Field grew nervous.
But Sam Acho recovered an onside kick, and Hoyer took a knee. The victory formation is the best play in football. The Bears hadn’t run that play in a while.
“Winning is so much fun,” Acho said. “It’s a lot more fun when you’ve gone through a little adversity, which we’ve gone through. It means so much more. We went through some adversity, but we also learned how to rely on each other. We learned that once we play together, the sky’s the limit.”
A new day awaits Monday in Lake Forest. Those few hours for Fox to savor go quickly, and then it’s Week 5.
The Bears have just one win on the campaign, and if they finish in the NFC North cellar again, Fox will face much more criticism. Even in a victory, the Bears showed they’re not good enough just yet.
Fox’s search for improvement begins Monday. Finally, the coach has a few hours of victory to savor.