Coach Matt Eberflus sees Sunday’s win as ‘proof’ the Chicago Bears are making progress. The defense showed it.

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As the buzz began to build on the Chicago Bears sideline when they went up by two scores at Soldier Field, the players had the ultimate reminder to stay focused lurking in the back of their minds.

That 12-point lead the Bears took over the Detroit Lions at the beginning of the fourth quarter Sunday? The Lions easily overcame the same deficit in just four minutes in the teams’ last meeting on Nov. 19 at Ford Field.

“You definitely get that feeling where you’re up two scores, you’re kind of getting a little happy,” Bears defensive end Montez Sweat said. “We’re like, ‘Hold on, back up, because we just got humbled two, three weeks ago.’ So we wanted to finish on a good note this time.”

This time, the Bears’ defensive second-half performance in a 28-13 win qualified as finishing on a good note.

After falling behind 13-10 at halftime, the Bears didn’t allow the Lions a second-half point.

In seven second-half drives, the Lions and quarterback Jared Goff went three-and-out on three of them. Two ended in Bears takeaways. And the other two were turnovers on downs. That included when Sweat and Gervon Dexter shared a sack for a loss of 7 yards on third down and then Goff threw incomplete to Amon-Ra St. Brown on fourth-and-17 on the Lions’ second-to-last drive.

“The way we lost that last game in Detroit, that kind of left a bad taste in our mouths,” defensive lineman Justin Jones said. “So we came out here and knew we had to pay attention to details and make sure that we homed in on what exactly we had to do this game. We just came out with energy and played all four quarters, played 60 minutes.”

Bears coach Matt Eberflus, who is likely coaching for his job over this final stretch of the season, called the complete-game performance “proof” for players, coaches — and even fans, he said — that the team is making progress.

The defensive turnaround under Eberflus as the coordinator — with a healthier group and with Sweat rushing opposing passers — has shown up in the stats. Sunday was the second straight game and the third time in four games the Bears have held an opponent to fewer than 14 points. With three takeaways Sunday, the Bears also upped their total to 11 in three games.

And in this one, the contributions came from all over the Bears defense.

There was cornerback Jaylon Johnson’s fourth interception of the season, on a pass intended for Sam LaPorta in the second quarter.

“We saw them come back with that same route concept, where they run a three-level out route,” Johnson said. “You’ve got a short route, one in the middle and then you had a deep one. Considering the pressure, I sunk on the ball, thought I might have seen him looking toward the second one, so I just came off and I made a play.”

The Bears held LaPorta and St. Brown — the Lions’ top two targets this season — in check. LaPorta had two catches on six targets for 23 yards and St. Brown had three catches on nine targets for 21 yards. Goff threw for just 161 yards, and the Lions netted 267.

There were a handful of big plays by Bears linebackers, including Tremaine Edmunds’ interception of Goff to seal the game with 2 minutes, 39 seconds to play in the fourth quarter. It was the Bears’ ninth interception in the last three games — and fifth against Goff this season.

T.J. Edwards got in on the Bears’ takeaway party with his third in three games. He recovered a fumbled snap between center Graham Glasgow and Goff late in the third quarter, and the Bears went up by 12 points five plays later on Justin Fields’ 11-yard touchdown run.

Jack Sanborn had another drive-ending play in the second half when he and Tyrique Stevenson stopped Jahmyr Gibbs for a loss of 4 yards on fourth-and-1 in the fourth quarter.

“That was a call we really liked in that situation,” Eberflus said. “It’s kind of a slanting line. We actually end up slanting right into it.”

There were safety Jaquan Brisker’s 17 tackles, of which Eberflus said, “Isn’t that crazy? Sounds like my college stats for crying out loud.”

Brisker, who also had two passes defended and a forced fumble, said “it felt like five or six for real.”

“I was just trying to stay focused every single play, just trying to focus on one single play at a time,” he added.

And there were the Bears’ four sacks of Goff, including three in a span of six plays during two fourth-quarter drives, starting with the Sweat and Dexter sack. Then on the Lions’ last drive, Sweat and Jones combined for a sack for a loss of 10 yards and Jones had another two plays later for a loss of 9 yards.

That pushed the Lions into the fourth-and-long situation that resulted in Edmunds’ interception.

“I would just say we found our swagger,” Jones said. “They came out with looks that were different from what we practiced all week. So we had to come out in halftime and adjust to it. … We adjusted to it pretty good.”

Eberflus also complimented the Bears’ halftime routine to make adjustments after they allowed the Lions to score two second-quarter touchdowns for the halftime lead.

“Our coaches do an unbelievable job getting the pictures right. They’re all drawn up. It’s like looking at a playbook,” Eberflus said. “They do a great job making the adjustments, and we all gather together. Everybody is sitting in there, we talk about what happened, where were the breakdowns, and then what are we going to do going forward, and what’s going to be the calls, and I tell them how we’re going to adjust, what we’re going to do differently on third down in situations.”

Eberflus called the Bears’ performance and two-game winning streak against two NFC North teams “a big deal,” especially because his team won the turnover margin and finished in the fourth quarter.

But Bears players also seemed to be grounded in not getting too high over back-to-back wins.

“It’s a great divisional win, but we didn’t do nothing yet,” Brisker said. “The defense has to get better. We’re 5-8 right now. We have to find a way to keep stacking them one game at a time, one day at a time.”


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