The last time the Lions beat a division opponent was back on Oct. 20, 2007. Detroit defeated the Bears, 16-7, to complete the season sweep of Chicago. Since then, the Lions have racked up 19 consecutive losses to teams from the NFC North. Loss No. 19 was delivered today by Rod Marinelli, Mike Martz and the Bears, who beat Detroit by a score of 24-20.
Today's game was back and forth for three quarters. In the first quarter, for example, Drew Stanton scored on a three-yard touchdown run to put the Lions on top, 7-0. He celebrated the play by doing quite possibly the worst version of the Dougie I have ever seen. Nonetheless, Detroit led thanks to the score, until Chester Taylor punched it in from a yard out on the ensuing Chicago drive, tying things up at seven early on.
In the second quarter, the Lions got more points from a former Spartan when Dave Rayner connected on a 50-yard field goal, giving the lead back to Detroit. Just like the sequence in the first quarter, however, the Bears answered Detroit's score with a touchdown. This time Matt Forte scored for the Bears, getting into the end zone from 14 yards out and putting Chicago on top for the first time in this game.
Unlike the first meeting between these two teams earlier this season, the Lions got a big boost of momentum at the end of the first half. Detroit was backed up on its own nine-yard line with only 53 seconds left, but Jahvid Best and Calvin Johnson made two big plays to completely change the outlook of this game. First Best ran for 45 yards after disappearing into the pile and breaking outside for the big gain. Then, on the very next play, Johnson caught a pass and stiff-armed a couple defenders as he ran down the field and into the end zone for a 46-yard touchdown. Just like that the Lions went 91 yards in two plays and took a 17-14 lead into halftime.
The theme of the second half for the Lions was not capitalizing on good plays and excellent opportunities. The first example of this came in the first two minutes of the third quarter. Jay Cutler fumbled on the second play of the quarter and the ball was recovered by Turk McBride on the Chicago nine-yard line. Although the Lions lead the NFL in converting red zone appearances into touchdowns, they were unable to do so after the fumble, settling for a 25-yard field goal. It was still nice to make it a 20-14 game, but the Lions really could have used a touchdown after starting the drive on the nine-yard line.
After trading punts, the Bears got a 54-yard field goal from Robbie Gould to cut the lead down to three points. Detroit looked like it was going to answer with points of its own as the fourth quarter got underway, but a failed fourth-down conversion prevented that from happening. The Lions did convert a 4th and 1 once on this drive, but the second time 4th and 1 came up a Stanton pass to Nate Burleson was incomplete. The Lions originally were going to run the option and probably would have picked up the first down, but Jim Schwartz called timeout right before Stephen Peterman would have been flagged for a false start.
The Bears took over with good field position and quickly moved down the field, getting 20 yards on a pass to Forte, six yards on a Taylor run and 12 more yards on a pass to Earl Bennett. The next play was a scramble by Cutler that went for eight yards. But wait, there's more! Chicago got a gift of seven extra yards on one of the worst calls I've seen all season. Ndamukong Suh ferociously pushed Cutler from behind to stop his run and was flagged for unnecessary roughness. The explanation was that Suh threw a forearm shiver into the back of Cutler's head, but that was not what happened at all. Suh pushed Cutler in the shoulder pads and although it was a hard hit, it was not worthy of a penalty. As one of you pointed out, this would have been a legal play in two-hand touch, yet Ed Hochuli threw his flag and gave the Bears free yards. On the very next play, Cutler found Brandon Manumaleuna for seven-yard touchdown, putting the Bears on top, 24-20.
Stefan Logan showed yet again why he should be a Pro-Bowler on the ensuing kickoff, taking it back 60 yards to the Chicago 40. Although the last couple of plays went poorly for Detroit, Logan's great return should have served a spark to retake the lead. Instead, after Stanton was sacked for a loss of nine and the Lions eventually were faced with 4th and 16 at the 40, the great return led to only a punt, which went into the end zone for a touchback.
Chicago got the ball back with 5:17 on the clock and like the Packers game earlier this year, that was all she wrote for Detroit. The Bears moved the chains three times and were able to simply run out the clock. The Lions never got a chance to touch the ball the rest of the game, allowing Chicago to leave Ford Field with a 24-20 victory.
This game followed a similar script to many of the Lions' losses this season. The Lions kept things close and led for much of the game, but in the end the opponent took the lead and never looked back. That was what happened today and it's a shame because Drew Stanton played extremely well. I have criticized him plenty in the past, but allow me to eat my crow, because he looked good today, completing 16 of 24 passes for 178 yards and one touchdown. He also rushed for one touchdown, and most importantly today he gave the Lions a chance to win. They didn't, but it wasn't because of Stanton.
On defense, Cliff Avril deserves some love for the game he had. He was credited with three sacks and wreaked havoc with the Bears' offensive line all day long. His play also helped Turk McBride get a sack and a forced/recovered fumble that led to points early on in the second half. He has shown his explosiveness in the past and it was especially on display today, as he now has seven sacks this season despite missing three games.
Next up for the Lions is another chance to end this NFC North losing streak, as the 8-4 Packers are coming to town. The Lions lost a close one at Lambeau earlier this season, but hopefully at home they will be able to finally get a win against an NFC North foe.