Quarterback Jay Cutler led the way with a perfect second half, completing 8 of 8 passes and a touchdown in the Chicago Bears (9-3) 24-20 win over the Detroit Lions (2-10). The Bears have won five consecutive games and continue to cling onto a one game lead over the Green Bay Packers (8-4) in the NFC North with just four games remaining.
Playing with their third-string quarterback Drew Stanton (16/24, 178, 1 TD, 1 rush TD) and without defensive leader Kyle Vanden Bosch, the Lions gave the Bears all they could handle, and thanks to a 2-play 91 yard attack just before the half, the Lions led 17-14 lead at the break and head coach Lovie Smith delivered a message that was heard loud and clear in the locker room at the half.
“Sometimes it is good to get a slap in the face so we wake up,” defensive end Israel Idonije told the Chicago Tribune. “Of course, (Smith) was pissed. He is a defensive guy. Did he raise his voice a little bit? Of course. He wasn’t happy. He knows how good we are so to see us play down to that level, it had him fired up. That’s how to finish. That’s our defense.”
Cutler did have a miscue that resulted in the game’s only turnover. On Chicago’s first possession of the second half, Cutler was sacked and stripped and Lions defensive end Turk McBride recovered at the Bears 9. Fortunately for the Bears, the defense held the Lions to just a 25-yard field goal, putting them up 20-14.
Detroit’s lead was cut to 20-17 when Robbie Gould hit a career best 54-yard field goal. The kick came after Devin Hester nearly returned a punt for a touchdown that would have broke an NFL record for career returns for touchdowns. Fielding the ball at the Bears 39, Hester made an aggressive burst up field and with only the punter, Nick Harris to beat, he seemed to have a clear path to the lead and history. With Hester making a move and attempting to leap over a falling Harris, he was tripped up and down at the Detroit 31.
“(Punters) get in the way, they are always tripping you up,” Hester told theTribune. “It’s crazy, man. He fell down and I tried to jump over him and he grabbed my foot. It’s just lazy tacklers that get in the way every time…They just fall down and grab the leg. It’s frustrating.”
Ahead and perhaps reaching a bit to put the Bears away, the Lions showed why they have only won two games. Rather than punting, head coach Jim Schwartz decided to put the game into the hands of his third-string quarterback on a 4th and 1. Stanton’s pass attempt to Nate Burleson was broken up by D.J. Moore and the Bears took over at their own 41 with 11:55 remaining, still trailing 20-17.
Cutler (21/26, 234, 1 TD) completed passes to Chester Taylor (9 rush, 33 yds / 5 rec, 31 yds) and Earl Bennett (7 rec, 104 yds) to give Chicago a 1st and 10 at the Detroit 22. Then, the game’s most controversial play happened – under pressure, Cutler used his legs and escaped the pocket and seemed to be angling to run out of bounds but instead cut up field making two Lions defenders miss before rookie defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, chasing in pursue from behind used his forearm to slam Cutler to the turf, resulting in a 15-yard personal foul penalty by referee Ed Hochuli.
“I’m not going to justify,” Suh said to the Tribune. “I really don’t care what he called or whether it’s a penalty or not. I’m just going out there to make a play, get the ball out. We’re in a tight situation in the red zone. We’ve got to stop them some way, somehow, from getting a touchdown… Obviously, (Cutler) broke the tackle. Had a great angle to make the play, get the ball out. That’s what I went after.”
Cutler hooked-up with Brandon Manumaleuna (2 rec, 23 yds, 1 TD) for a 7-yard touchdown on the very next play to put the Bears ahead, and eventually the 24-20 victory.
The Bears return home next Sunday to face Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots (9-2). Meanwhile, the Lions will try to help the Bears, as they face the Green Bay Packers at Ford Field.
Bears Bits: Brian Urlacher led the Bears defensive with 17 tackles and registered ½ sack… Running backs Matt Forte and Chester Taylor combined to run for 97 yards and two scores … Bears LB Nick Roach started for the injured Pisa Tinoisamoa, but hurt his hip in the first half and didn’t return… Cliff Avril, making up for DE Vanden Bosch (neck) being out, had a career-high three sacks… Lions OT Jeff Backus has now started 156 consecutive games (Dick LeBeau holds the franchise record at 171)… The loss officially eliminated the Lions from the NFC playoffs.