Bears Dig Deep for Key Plays in Win Over Lions
Nick Kwiatkoski and Ben Braunecker aren't exactly the names on the tip of anyone's tongue when they're thinking about players to help the Bears end a four-game losing streak.
At this point, the Bears will take help any place they can get it.
Kwiatkoski came on for injured Danny Trevathan and produced a sack and then his first career interception to set up a decisive touchdown, while Braunecker got more playing time at tight end and made the most with his first career touchdown catch in the 20-13 victory Sunday over the Detroit Lions.
"Preparation. I've said it before, but as a linebacker room, we were all prepared to play," Kwiatkoski said.
Trevathan went out late in the first quarter with what looked to be a bad arm injury and Kwiatkoski came in to play the same way he did earlier this year when Roquan Smith had a personal issue and wasn't in the lineup.
"It's not the way I wanted to get in, and he is a close friend of mine," Kwiatkoski said. "I will talk with him and try to move forward."
Kwiatkoski wound up second in tackles for the Bears with nine and had a sack of Jeff Driskel, who played for injured Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford. The most impactful play was an interception when he snuck in back behind the line on third-and-2 from the Lions 26 and Driskel didn't detect him as he looked for receiver Kenny Golladay.
Kwiatkoski made the interception and it set the Bears up for Mitchell Trubisky's 24-yard touchdown pass to Taylor Gabriel for a 20-6 lead in the third quarter.
"Kwik has been doing this all year long," Bears coach Matt Nagy said. "You hate to lose a guy like Danny like that because he's such a leader for us. We look at him for so many different intangibles. But with Ryan and his personnel guys, they created this depth chart throughout our team where when guys go down you're able to have guys step up.
"Kwik has done that, and that's when it's all about. Sweeping the sheds, not being too big to do the little things. He's a pure example of that."
The Bears defense is now without two of its key field leaders, as well as play makers. They won't get defensive end Akiem Hicks back until December. So Kwiatkoski has big shoes to fill, but teammates have come to know they can count on him.
"It's huge," cornerback Prince Amukamara said. "We all know Kwit could be a starter with any team in this league. He's like a little hidden gem, our 2A guy. He's always ready."
Braunecker was playing extensively at tight end because the Bears decided they could do without Adam Shaheen at least for Sunday. Shaheen has struggled much of the year.
He caught an 18-yard strike toward the sideline in the end zone while lunging for the ball. It was his third reception this season.
The Bears had worked on the play special for this week.
"Just something we schemed out this week," Trubisky said. "We liked our matchup with Ben Braunecker, and he ran an excellent route, got open. O-line did a great job giving me time, and I just put it in a spot where he could make a great play, and he made an awesome catch."
The depended on the defensive look and probably wouldn't have been run against a zone.
"It was man coverage, it was something I had been visualizing for the whole week," Braunecker said. "That was my play, and I was just doing what I had done all week.
"It was just such an amazing rush, it heightened all my senses. I didn't even know what was going on."
It may have provided a kick start to the offense because they quickly followed in the third quarter with two more touchdowns.
"It felt like a boost of energy across the stadium, both on the sidelines and from the fans," Braunecker said.
Nagy didn't offer much on whether this will continue with Shaheen being inactive.
"Yeah, just a team decision for us with where we're at right now," Nagy said. "We appreciate the way that Ben stepped up."