Without injured quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, the Chicago Bears’ offense needed assistance for point production.
For the second straight game, safety Eddie Jackson provided some.
Jackson stepped up in a tie game Thursday with six minutes left for a 41-yard touchdown on an interception return, and the Bears escaped the Detroit Lions 23-16 for their fifth straight win.
“We knew it was going to be four quarters, we knew it was going to be tough,” Jackson said. “In our mindset, all we were saying was we’ve got to come out and dominate and keep swinging.”
The Bears’ sixth defensive touchdown this year and a solid effort by backup quarterback Chase Daniel led to three divisional wins in a period of 12 days, as they took command in the NFC North at 8-3.
“That was a difference in the game today, winning by that touchdown with Eddie,” Bears head coach Matt Nagy said. “He’s had an unbelievable season so far, one that I don’t know if I’ve ever seen.”
Jackson had an interception and 27-yard touchdown return with 8:30 remaining five days earlier to help secure the Bears’ 25-20 victory over the Vikings.
“We were ready for a bullfight and that’s what we got,” Daniel said. “And listen, our defense stepped up. Those last two drives with turnovers, two takeaways, that’s why they’re the best in the league.”
The Lions (4-7) kept the game tight by avoiding mistakes and playing it close to the vest until the fourth quarter. It forced the Bears to play from behind in a first half for the first time in five games, and it was tied in the fourth quarter at 16-16.
Then came Jackson’s interception on a Matthew Stafford pass to tight end Michael Roberts.
“It was just a good read,” Jackson said. “We disguise coverages real well.
“I caught it and I just looked to the side to make sure there weren’t any flags.”
Kyle Fuller followed Jackson’s interception with another pick in the end zone on third-and-nine from the Bears’ 11-yard line to lock up Chicago’s first divisional road victory since Thanksgiving Day in 2015.
“Especially coming into today, there could have been a lot of excuses and feeling sorry for themselves — they didn’t do that,” Nagy said. “They accepted my challenge of going 3-0 in 12 days against division foes. And they did that.”
With Trubisky suffering from a shoulder injury, Daniel spread it around all game with throws to eight different receivers. The touchdown pass on a lob across the field to running back Tarik Cohen with 13:40 left put the Bears ahead 16-13, but the Lions tied it on Matt Prater’s 20-yard field goal to end a 73-yard drive.
“We didn’t change anything,” Cohen said. “We knew Chase was definitely capable of handling everything Mitch handles.”
Daniel, who played in the Bears’ current offense with the Chiefs, even caught a pass himself. He helped ignite an 82-yard drive — capped with Cohen’s touchdown catch — by hauling in an 8-yard pass from Anthony Miller for a first down.
“No matter how much experience he has in this offense you really truly don’t know how it’s going to go,” Nagy said. “So for him to be able to come out here and do what he did, protect the football and be a leader when he needed to be a leader, I thought he did a great job.”
Stafford completed 28-of-38 passes for 236 yards and the Lions’ LeGarrette Blount pounded the ball for 88 yards on 19 runs, but the Bears’ defense made the plays needed to win it.
“Jackson made a really good play on the first one,” Stafford said. “I’ve still got to see him a little better than I did.
“Second one [to Fuller], I know we got four chances at it there. Put it in where I thought was going to be a good spot, and just wasn’t.”
The Bears had a second-quarter Cody Parkey 40-yard field goal and Taquan Mizzell’s first career score on a 10-yard pass from Daniel in the first half to offset the first of two 4-yard touchdown runs by Blount. Blount’s second score came in the third quarter for a 13-9 Detroit lead.
“Well, I think we need more out of everybody, to be honest with you,” Lions head coach Matt Patricia said. “There were a lot of plays in there where all of us have to do more, whether it’s preparation or coaching or playing, whatever it is. There are a lot of plays that we can all point to.”