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Bernstein: Competent-Enough Bears Finally Get One

By Dan Bernstein-- senior columnist

(CBS) An eventual six-win team needs to find those when it can, and sometimes a sloppy opponent comes to town and plays just enough of a patsy to temporarily warm some hearts.

They tried their best to give themselves a chance to lose it late with by allowing a punt return score and a two-point conversion and then nearly botching the recovery of an onside kick, but the Bears actually stayed out of their own way as much as they had to for three hours.

Good for them. They avoided blowing a gimme and got one in the other column for 2016, finally providing something on which to build that doesn't come off as wishful thinking. Many Bears people did things right in the 17-14 victory over the Lions on Sunday afternoon at Soldier Field to stop two dubious streaks – a six-game skid at the hands of Detroit and a run of six consecutive losses at home.

Brian Hoyer was well-protected and efficient in an offense that was nicely sequenced by coordinator Dowell Loggains. Misdirections worked to free receivers, and a healthy Eddie Royal continued his resurgent play with seven catches for 111 yards and a flashy early touchdown, while Kevin White was aggressive if still not sudden before he left with an ankle injury.

Hoyer will invite the inevitable and mostly meaningless medium-term quarterback questions after posting a gaudy statistical line of 28 completions in 36 attempts for 302 yards, two touchdowns and no picks, all for a passer efficiency rating of 120.1. And you can hear them now stirring, the subterranean hordes of long-dormant Ortonites and McCownians rousing groggily from hibernation, grasping for their phones and keyboards to groan out paeans to their latest savior.

The defense announced itself early with physical play and stayed at the kind of arousal level it will need at a minimum against better teams. Interceptions by Jacoby Glenn and Deiondre' Hall took advantage of Matthew Stafford's inconsistent ball placement even when not under pressure, both John Timu and Nick Kwiatkoski were occasionally noticeable for good reason and Vic Fangio's use of Akiem Hicks inside helped supplement Will Sutton with Eddie Goldman still out.

We shouldn't get one-game-silly about Jordan Howard, especially remembering such Bears greats as Brock Forsey, Robert Green and Kahlil Bell, but the kid looked good in gaining 111 yards on 23 carries for a 4.8-yard average. He runs with power through arm tackles with good forward lean while showing the patience to set up blocks, some awareness as an outlet receiver and good balance on contact. Howard's not a burner but appears to play faster than timed. He's worth a much longer look and many more attempts, at least a genuine positive in a season that has featured so few.

This isn't a rekindling of playoff hope or a casting aside of everything else that has happened in getting the Bears to 1-3 in a year that held little promise from the outset. This is merely acknowledging the fact that they backed up some of what they have said about getting better and now deserve the chance to prove any of it can be sustained.

It's a start. Of what, exactly, it's probably best not to consider.

Dan Bernstein is a co-host of 670 The Score's "Boers and Bernstein Show" in afternoon drive. You can follow him on Twitter  @dan_bernstein and read more of his columns here. 

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