The Chicago Bears made it interesting with Josh McCown leading a scoring drive in the closing seconds, but Nick Fairley made a great play to tackle Matt Forte on the two point conversion try, and the Detroit Lions barely held on for a 21-19 victory on Sunday afternoon at Soldier Field.
Matthew Stafford threw for 219 yards and three scores, and Calvin Johnson caught six passes for 83 yards and two touchdowns. Jay Cutler looked good early, but started hobbling around the field in the late stages of the game, and ended up being replaced by Josh McCown in the final minutes of the game. To his credit, Cutler did throw for 250 yards and a score in the game, and Brandon Marshall caught five passes for 114 yards and a score.
The Bears got off to a great start on offense on their first drive, and Cutler was a big part of the reason why. Given all day to throw by his offensive linemen, Cutler was able to scan the field and made several accurate throws. He ended the drive emphatically with a 32 yard touchdown pass to Brandon Marshall, and just 2:15 into the game, the Bears had a 7-0 lead.
Not to be outdone though, Stafford and the Lions responded with a 12 play, 85 yard touchdown drive of their own. They spread the ball out well with their running and passing game, and when Kris Durham burned Tim Jennings with a nice swim move at the goal line, he ended up wide open, and Stafford found him with a pass to tie the game up at 7-7.
Despite the early appearances of a rout, the defenses of both teams stiffened up as the first quarter ended and the second quarter. First, it was the Lions who stepped up, as Michael Bush couldn’t find a hole and was tackled at the line of scrimmage on an aggressive 4th-and-1 conversion attempt called by Trestman.
Then, it was the Bears’ turn, with Charles Tillman making a diving pass deflection on a ball intended for Calvin Johnson on third down. Then, on fourth down, Jim Schwartz opted to go for it, but Stafford failed to convert as he threw an incomplete pass into the flat to turn the ball over on downs.
The Bears had an excellent drive as the second quarter wound down, with Cutler completing three straight passes on third downs to keep it alive. Unfortunately for Cutler, the drive ended up stalling out at the goal line, as N’Damukong Suh deflected a pass at the line of scrimmage, and it was intercepted to send the game to halftime tied at 7-7.
The second half began with some drama concerning whether or not Cutler would return to the game, as he was on the bench wearing a baseball cap while Josh McCown had his helmet on. Not paying attention to that situation though, the Lions’ offense came out firing on their first possession, with Reggie Bush making a great run deep into Bears territory after Jon Bostic filled into the wrong gap in the line and Chris Conte took a bad angle at Bush. Two plays later, the Lions capitalized on the chance, and Johnson caught a pass in the end zone to give Detroit a 14-7 lead.
After exchanging unsuccessful drives, the Bears finally got some good offensive momentum going. Third down passes to Jeffery and Marshall pushed the Bears into Lions territory, but the Detroit offense held strong, hitting Cutler repeatedly and forcing Chicago to settle for a field goal by Robbie Gould to cut the Lions’ lead to 14-10.
Fortunately for Chicago, the Lions’ offense continued to have issues. Stafford seemed to lose his touch as the second half went on, underthrowing receivers and not disguising run plays very well. Things hit a low point for him on a third down pass to Johnson, as Stafford overthrew his receiver and had the pass intercepted by Chris Conte. Conte returned it to Detroit’s 9-yard line, and the Bears were set up with tremendous field position.
After a potential Matt Forte touchdown was negated by a holding penalty on Matt Slauson, the Bears appeared to take the lead on a grab in the end zone by Jeffery. Unfortunately, the officials ruled that he was juggling the ball as he went to the ground and slid out of bounds, and the touchdown was overturned. The Bears did get a field goal out of it from Gould, and they got to within one point at 14-13 with 9:17 left in the fourth quarter.
The Lions began marching down the field on their next drive, with Johnson making a big catch over the middle and getting 15 yards tacked onto it when Tillman was flagged for a facemask. Fortunately for the Bears, the Lions got tagged with a facemask on the next play, pushing the ball back out of the red zone.
That lost yardage proved to be crucial, as Stephen Paea batted down a pass on second down and then Conte prevented Johnson from making a catch in the end zone to force the Lions to attempt a field goal. David Akers then hooked the kick wide right, and the Bears were given new life with 6:20 remaining in the game. The Bears were unable to capitalize on the chance though, with incomplete passes to Jeffery and Marshall resulting in a three-and-out.
On the ensuing drive, the Lions made some questionable decisions, stopping the clock on several occasions with incomplete passes, but on a third down play, Stafford put a perfect ball right into Johnson's hands in the end zone and Detroit took a 21-13 lead with a little over two minutes to play in the game.
Marc Trestman made an interesting decision as the Bears got the ball back, inserting McCown into the lineup in place of Cutler, who was reportedly dealing with an ankle injury. McCown ended up leading the Bears down the field, with Jeffery making several first down catches, but it was his spectacular third down play stepping up in the pocket that allowed Marshall to come down with a touchdown catch, and the Bears moved the score to within 21-19.
On the two point conversion try, the Bears were unable to pick up the points, but Willie Young drilled McCown with a helmet to helmet hit to give Chicago another chance. Nick Fairley blew through the line as soon as the ball was snapped on the second attempt though, and tackled Forte for a loss to keep Detroit in front.