For those who weren't rooting for draft position, Sunday went about as poorly as it could have for the Detroit Lions. Not only did they lose to the Chicago Bears by a score of 26-24, giving them their eighth consecutive loss and a 0-6 record in the division, but Calvin Johnson came up short of 2,000 yards receiving. What's more, Matthew Stafford came up short of 5,000 yards passing. The Lions couldn't even pad their stats enough to soften the loss with some big-time personal feats.
In any case, Sunday's game was really the latest case of all of the Lions' issues being summed up in one game. The Lions didn't take care of the ball, couldn't put together consistent drives on offense, gave up big plays on defense, made mistakes on special teams and still had a chance to win only to come up short in the end. The entire season pretty much played out in one afternoon at Ford Field.
The very start of the game got this theme of the same problems striking again started with the Lions going three-and-out on the day's opening drive. The Lions then proceeded to allow a 55-yard pass to Alshon Jeffery on Chicago's first play of the game. Thanks to Jay Cutler fumbling the ball on third down, the Lions actually didn't allow any points, but they missed an opportunity to have great field position when Kyle Vanden Bosch failed to recover the fumble. As a result, they got the ball at their own 9-yard line instead.
The Lions were able to quickly correct their field position with passes of 28 yards to Tony Scheffler and 18 yards to Johnson. Johnson then moved the chains on third-and-5, putting Detroit in position to threaten for a touchdown. As usual, that didn't happen, and the Lions instead had to settle for a 44-yard Jason Hanson field goal. At least they had the lead, I suppose.
The lead didn't last for long, as the Bears quickly answered with a 60-yard touchdown pass to Earl Bennett. It was a simple bubble screen, but the Lions defense completely failed, allowing Bennett to run down the sideline for the score. The Bears now were on top, 7-3.
It went from bad to worse for the Lions on the ensuing kickoff. Joique Bell, who stepped in to return kicks in place of Stefan Logan, fumbled the ball away to the Bears after taking a big hit. The return itself was pretty good up until the fumble, but the turnover gave the Bears a short field to work with for the first time on Sunday. (And this would happen a few more times.)
The Lions defense stepped up to the challenge after the turnover and came up with a stop on thrid-and-2. This forced the Bears to settle for a field goal, and Olindo Mare connected from 33 yards out to give the Bears a 10-3 lead.
After the two teams traded punts the next few drives, the Bears used runs of 11 and 13 yards by Matt Forte to get into field goal range. The Lions were able to stand tough on the next few plays, forcing the Bears to try a field goal from 43 yards out. Mare didn't even come close to making it, as it sailed wide right, keeping the score 10-3.
Unfortunately for the Lions, Stafford quickly gave the ball right back to the Bears when he was stripped on a sack. Julius Peppers recovered the fumble, which was the result of some really bad blocking, and he returned it to the Lions 10-yard line. The Lions defense nearly came up with another big stop after this turnover, but a Don Carey pass interference penalty extended the drive, and Forte scored from a yard out on the very next play.
The Lions' turnover woes continued two plays into the next drive. This time Stafford made an awful pass that sailed by Scheffler and was picked off by Tim Jennings. He returned it to the Lions 23-yard line, but the defense did come up with a stop this time around. As a result, the Bears settled for a 40-yard field goal that gave them a 20-3 lead.
You sort of got the feeling that the Bears were going to pay for failing to pull away from the Lions, especially after Detroit added a touchdown just before halftime to cut into the lead. Stafford looked sharp on this drive, and he threw a perfect pass to Kris Durham on third-and-10 for a 25-yard touchdown. The Lions went into halftime down 20-10, and it really could have been a lot worse.
After getting a stop to open the second half, the Lions offense picked up where it left off with another great drive. Stafford again looked sharp, and this time he found Will Heller for a 10-yard touchdown on third down. A 24-yard pass to Johnson set up the score, and this was suddenly a 20-17 game.
The Lions defense came up with another big stop after stuffing the Bears on third-and-1, and Detroit seemed ready to go down the field and at the very least tie things up. Instead, they allowed another turnover to derail their offense. Yet again, the Lions gave the ball away on the second play of a possession, and this time it was a botched handoff between Stafford and Mikel Leshoure. The Bears fell on the fumble, and although the defense made yet another stop on a short field, Chicago now led 23-17 after getting a 28-yard field goal.
The Lions didn't turn the ball over on their next drive, but they did go three-and-out. The Bears got the ball with good field position and went all the way down to the 2-yard line before the defense came up with a stop. The Bears actually had first-and-goal from the 4-yard line, but the Lions managed to keep Chicago out of the end zone. Following another Mare field goal, the Lions trailed 26-17.
The Lions answered back with a strong drive on offense. A third-down conversion to Scheffler got things going, and then an unnecessary roughness penalty on Lance Briggs kept the drive alive after a failed scramble by Stafford on third-and-10. Following a 21-yard pass to Brian Robiskie, Stafford found Heller for 19 yards. He then went to Robiskie again, this time for a 9-yard touchdown. Just like that, the Lions were again within one possession.
At this point, the big question for the Lions revolved around whether the defense could finally come up with a big stop in the fourth quarter. The defense had failed in this position many times before, but not this time. The Lions forced a punt, giving the offense the ball with a chance to take the lead.
For the Lions, it was the offense that failed in the fourth quarter with the game on the line. A three-and-out resulted in them having to punt, and Chicago got the ball back with 3:40 left in the game. The Lions couldn't afford to allow first downs, but that's exactly what they did. The defense couldn't put together two big stops in a row, and Chicago was able to simply run out the clock thanks to a 19-yard scramble by Cutler on third down and a 13-yard run by Forte a couple plays later. This gave the Bears a 26-24 win and dropped the Lions to 4-12 on the season.
At this point, there's really not much else to say about Sunday's game. It was more of what we've seen all season long out of the Lions, and it was a fitting way for the season to come to an end.
Now that the offseason is here, we can all take a deep breath and start to worry about something other than how the Lions will find a way to lose. Instead, the status of the coaching staff and front office becomes the main concern for now. The next week should be very interesting for the future of this team.