The Chicago Bears ran out to an early lead, but 21 straight points in the second quarter helped the Detroit Lions to a 34-17 victory in the teams’ Thanksgiving showdown.
The Lions got the ball to begin the game, and the Bears’ defense promptly stopped them on a three and out. Marc Mariani returned the ensuing punt to the 45-yard line, and Jay Cutler took it from there. He found Brandon Marshall for a first down and two plays later hit Martellus Bennett for another one. A screen pass to Matt Forte brought the Bears to within shouting distance of the goal line, and two plays later another screen pass to Alshon Jeffery finished the drive off as the Bears grabbed an early 7-0 lead.
Matthew Stafford came onto the field for Detroit’s second drive, and he started hitting a bit of a groove. A bootleg play to Eric Ebron resulted in a first down (and a highlight reel hurdle over Kyle Fuller), and Calvin Johnson got involved with two first down catches of his own. Ultimately though the Bears’ intense pass rush forced Stafford to throw an incompletion on third down, and Matt Prater booted through a field goal to make it a 7-3 game.
The Bears were forced to punt on their second drive of the game, but Pat O’Donnell pinned Detroit deep in their own territory. Jared Allen thanked him by getting to Stafford and forcing a fumble, and the defensive end also recovered the loose ball to put the Bears at the five-yard line. Two plays later, Jeffery went up for a jump ball and hauled in his second touchdown catch of the afternoon, and the Bears seized a 14-3 lead with three and a half minutes to go in the first quarter.
The Lions’ offense got moving again as the first quarter came to an end, with Johnson snaring two more first down catches to help spark the offense. When the second quarter started, that trend continued as Stafford stepped up in the pocket and delivered a strike to Johnson near the goal line, and the receiver went up between Kyle Fuller and Brock Vereen to haul in a touchdown to narrow the deficit to 14-10.
Jeffery got the Bears’ offense to a good start by picking up a first down reception, and then Martellus Bennett grabbed a pass and bulldozed his way for another one. A Roberto Garza holding penalty erased another big gain by Bennett, and after Marshall dropped a pass over the middle of the field on third and long, the Bears were forced to punt the ball away.
Stafford picked up two quick first downs for the Lions as they looked to take the lead, with Johnson and Golden Tate each making solid catches. Jeremy Ross extended the drive a few plays later as he gained 31 yards on third down, and on a Tate catch, Tim Jennings was flagged for hitting a defenseless receiver to give the Lions a first and goal opportunity. A holding penalty erased a Joique Bell touchdown on second down, but he got his revenge on fourth and goal as he dove over the pile and extended the ball past the goal line to give the Lions a 17-14 lead with about three minutes remaining in the first half.
The Bears were forced to punt the ball away at the two-minute warning, and the Lions continued their all-out assault by marching down the field and scoring just before the half. Theo Riddick hauled in a pass to get things going, and then with 30 seconds remaining, Johnson got one-on-one coverage against Kyle Fuller, and he made an excellent catch in the corner of the end zone to give the Lions a 24-14 lead just before halftime.
Opening the second half, the Bears’ offense got the ball back, and Cutler teamed up with Jeffery to push up the field. The receiver picked up a big first down after a sack to extend the drive, but it soon sputtered out and Robbie Gould was forced to kick a field goal, making it 24-17.
The Bears’ defense came out for their first drive of the second half and immediately made an impact, forcing a quick three-and-out for the Lions. Unfortunately that momentum wasn’t enough to push the offense forward, as a drop by Bennett forced the Bears to punt the ball back to Detroit.
Stafford once again made the Bears’ secondary pay for their poor play on Detroit’s next drive, completing passes to several different receivers to move the team down the field. Demontre Hurst whiffed on an interception attempt, allowing Tate to make a catch for a first down. Then Riddick got one of his own, and Tate beat Fuller and Vereen downfield for another one. A roughing the passer penalty on Willie Young gave the Lions a first and goal, and three plays later Bell trotted into the end zone to open the fourth quarter with a 31-17 Detroit lead.
Both teams exchanged unsuccessful drives after the Bell touchdown, but the Bears ended up making the big mistake as Cutler’s badly underthrown pass to Marshall was intercepted by the Lions. Bell was able to catch a screen pass and get near the first down marker, but Stafford barely missed Johnson in the end zone on the third and short play. Prater had to come in to kick the 40-yard field goal, and when he hit it he put the Lions up 34-17.
Cutler and the Bears came back on the field needing to string some plays together, but the Lions’ pass rush had other ideas. Ezekiel Ansah sacked Cutler on first down, and then the quarterback was forced to throw the ball away on second down as the pass rush descended on him again. A screen pass to Bennett on the next play, and the Bears were forced to punt away again.
Bell picked up several good rushes on the next drive, but the Lions weren’t able to finish the game off as they were stopped on fourth down just after the two minute warning. The Bears managed to move the ball down the field on their final drive, but it wasn’t enough in the end as Marshall attempted a forward lateral on the last play of the game, negating a Ka’Deem Carey touchdown, and then Cutler threw an interception on an extra play caused by offsetting penalties.
After a short week heading into the game, the Bears won’t have any extra rest going into their next game, as they’ll be battling the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday.