DETROIT (AP) — No matter what happens for the rest of his tenure as Detroit’s interim coach, Darrell Bevell has a memory he can treasure.
The Lions won in dramatic fashion in Bevell’s first game in charge, rallying for a 34-30 victory at Chicago on Sunday with two touchdowns in the final 2:18.
For much of this season, holding leads has been Detroit’s problem — so rallying from a late deficit seemed cathartic for the Lions.
“It was truly an amazing day. I don’t know if I could have written the script any better, for the challenges that we faced in the game, how the guys played,” Bevell said. “I think the thing that made me the proudest was the people that were sending me texts and phone calls and those kind of things just talked about what it looked like on TV, and how much fun that the guys were having.”
Having fun was a point of emphasis for the Lions (5-7) after what seemed like a mostly joyless two-plus seasons under coach Matt Patricia. Detroit struggled early against Chicago but didn’t give up. Matthew Stafford drove the Lions 96 yards in 2:15 to cut the deficit to three. Then Romeo Okwara forced a fumble that gave Detroit the ball at the Chicago 7.
Adrian Peterson punched it in from 5 yards to put the Lions ahead.
“I thought if I could get those guys playing for the love of the game and like they were 10-year-old kids again, that would make an impact,” Bevell said.
The Lions actually have some stakes to play for now with four games remaining. Detroit is only one game behind a postseason spot in the NFC, although it’s hard to put too much stock in the Lions’ chances based on their performance so far.
Detroit’s last four games are against teams currently at .500 or better, but a win like last Sunday’s should have the Lions feeling a lot better about themselves.
“After that really long drive, it was like, ‘OK, we’re not going to lose this thing. We got faith in the defense,’” tackle Matt Nelson said. “Then when Romeo got that huge turnover, it was like, ‘OK, we’re definitely winning this thing, right now.’”
Stafford threw for 402 yards and three touchdowns. The firing of Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn raised questions about how much longer Stafford will remain Detroit’s centerpiece, but this game was another reminder that this season, he’s the team’s best hope of moving the ball.
“He’s been here a long time, and he’s a well-respected player on this team,” said Bevell, who was Detroit’s offensive coordinator before taking over as interim coach. “I think from the first day that I got here, thought it was important to build a good relationship with him, with clean, clear communication. You have to build that trust. You have to work on it for him to really open up. I think it’s at a good place right now. I’m super excited about that.”
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Detroit’s defensive front came up with the big turnover at the end, but the Lions also allowed 23 points in the first half to a nondescript Chicago offense. The Bears outrushed the Lions 140-60 and had three touchdowns on the ground.
Quintez Cephus caught a 49-yard pass for the rookie receiver’s first career touchdown reception. Detroit released Marvin Hall the day before the game, so there’s room for another deep threat to emerge for the Lions.
Bevell also singled out Nelson for his performance.
“I think we need to make sure we talk about Matt Nelson stepping in, a converted defensive lineman,” Bevell said. “To step in there and — Khalil Mack, to block him, and really not show up on the stat sheet, him or Robert Quinn, is a big deal.”
Kerryon Johnson had only three carries for 3 yards as the Lions relied on Peterson in the running game. Johnson, now in his third season, hasn’t been a big part of the offense of late.
Wide receiver Kenny Golladay (hip) missed his fifth straight game, and running back D’Andre Swift (illness) did not play either. Tackle Tyrell Crosby (ankle), cornerback Mike Ford (back) and safety C.J. Moore (ankle) were hurt as well.
KEY NUMBER — 31. That’s the number of fourth-quarter comebacks for Stafford, the most in the NFL since 2009.
The Lions host NFC North-leading Green Bay this weekend, and that’s followed by a matchup with a Tennessee team that’s tied for first in the AFC South.