The Detroit Lions didn't make it easy on themselves, but they picked up their first road win against the Chicago Bears since 2007 on Sunday. It came down to the wire, as the Bears scored a late touchdown to nearly tie the game. However, the Lions held tough and stopped Chicago on two 2-point conversion attempts (yes, two thanks to a penalty on the first one), giving them a 21-19 win and a season sweep of the Bears.
The Lions shocked the football world at the start of this game by deferring after winning the coin toss. This gave the Bears the ball, and the decision ended up backfiring with Chicago going right down the field and scoring a touchdown. The Bears got a good kick return from Devin Hester, and Brandon Marshall caught passes for 17, 12 and 32 yards on three consecutive plays. The 32-yard gain went for a touchdown over Darius Slay, who was in and out of the game in the first half after being benched a couple times.
The Lions responded with an outstanding first drive of their own. Detroit moved the chains on third-and-2, third-and-4 and third-and-4 again before finding the end zone on first-and-goal from the 5-yard line. Kris Durham made a nice move to get open, and Matthew Stafford found him in the end zone for a touchdown, making this a 7-7 game.
At this point in the game, it seemed like we had the makings of a shootout, but neither team was able to score again in the first half. The Bears answered the Lions' touchdown with a 36-yard punt, for example. The punt came after a pair of stops on third down by the Lions. The first stop was negated by an Ndamukong Suh face mask penalty, but the second one did actually count.
The Lions were unable to capitalize on their great field position by going three-and-out thanks to a couple passes that were deflected. They were also unable to pin Chicago deep in its own end thanks to a bad punt that was caused by a bad snap. The Bears still only took over at their own 23, but they quickly got down the field with more success on third down. Eventually, thanks to an outstanding tackle by Chris Houston on Matt Forte on third-and-1, the Bears faced fourth-and-short at the Detroit 27. They elected to go for it, and Rocky McIntosh stuffed Michael Bush for no gain.
The same situation played out for the Lions after they took over the ball at their own 27. They quickly got into Chicago territory (thanks to a 23-yard pass to Brandon Pettigrew), but after a botched handoff resulted in a loss of 4 yards, they eventually had fourth-and-1 at the Bears 31. They decided to go for it, but Stafford's pass to Calvin Johnson was batted down at the line.
The Bears followed up their fourth-down stand with a very promising drive. It went 12 plays and 65 yards, and it included conversions on third-and-8, third-and-8 again and third-and-7. All of the conversions featured the same basic play: Alshon Jeffery making a catch on Slay. This led to Slay being benched again in favor of Don Carey, and Chicago ended up with the ball at the 4-yard line. On second-and-goal, Cutler's pass was tipped by Suh and intercepted by -- who else? -- DeAndre Levy in the end zone. This led to the end of the half and a 7-7 tie after two quarters.
Deferring didn't initially work out because the defense allowed a touchdown on the game's opening drive, but it turned out to be a fine decision for the second half. I say that because the Lions got the ball first and marched right down the field for a touchdown. Micheal Spurlock had a nice 34-yard return to get things started, and Reggie Bush found a hole and picked up 39 yards on just the third play of the drive. There was also a horse collar penalty at the end of the run, putting the ball at the 4-yard line. A fade to Joseph Fauria didn't work on first down, but a fade to Johnson went for a touchdown on second down. This gave the Lions a 14-7 lead.
The Lions defense came up with a big three-and-out, giving the offense a chance to pad its lead. They weren't able to, though, as the Bears forced a three-and-out of their own. It looked like this was going to lead to the Bears tying up the game after Cutler found Marshall for 44 yards and Jeffery for 18 yards, but the Lions forced a stop. As a result, Chicago had to settle for a 25-yard field goal, cutting the Lions' lead down to 14-10.
Following Chicago's field goal, the Lions again were unable to extend their lead. They did go for 14 yards on the next drive's opening play, but it was three-and-out and a punt after that. The Bears had a similar sequence on their next drive. They moved the chains once (on an illegal contact penalty), but the Lions forced a stop right after.
It was more of the same on the next two drives in this game. The Lions managed to get one first down before having to punt, and the Bears did the exact same thing after taking over at their own 14. They moved the chains on third-and-6, but that was it.
The string of punts finally ended on the next drive, but not because the Lions managed to score. Instead, they turned the ball over. Stafford sailed a pass over Johnson and it was picked off by Chris Conte and returned to the Detroit 9-yard line. On the very next play, Forte scored a touchdown, but it was called back because of a holding penalty. Fast forward to third-and-14 and the Bears had another touchdown, this time on a ridiculous catch by Jeffery in the corner of the end zone. Upon further review, however, the play was overturned and ruled incomplete, as Jeffery did not -- wait for it -- complete the process of the catch. The "Calvin Johnson Rule" worked out in the Lions' favor, as Chicago only got a field goal to make this a 14-13 game.
In need of something positive on offense, it looked like the Lions' scoring drought was finally going to come to an end on their next drive. Stafford found Fauria for 25 yards, and Johnson picked up 19 yards and a Chicago face mask penalty a couple plays later. Unfortunately, Fauria was flagged for a face mask penalty of his own on the next play, killing the Lions' drive in the process. They were unable to move the chains after facing first-and-25, and David Akers pushed a 45-yard field goal attempt wide right. The score remained 14-13 in the Lions' favor.
Luckily for the Lions, Cutler remained in this game. He was clearly bothered by his groin injury in the second half, as evidenced by him missing a wide open receiver on second down on the next drive and bouncing it short of a receiver on third down. The Bears went three-and-out as a result, and the Lions took over at their own 26-yard line.
Needing a score to truly take control of this game, the Lions offense finally managed to extend their lead. Stafford found Jeremy Ross for 17 yards to get things going, and he later found Johnson for 14 yards. Back-to-back runs of 11 yards by Bush put the Lions in the red zone, but they went nowhere on the next two plays. On third-and-10, however, Stafford threw a perfect pass to the back left corner of the end zone. Johnson ran under it and made the catch for a touchdown, putting the Lions on top by a score of 21-13.
Blaming an ankle injury, the Bears finally took Cutler out of this game. Josh McCown entered with 2:22 on the clock and the Bears needing a touchdown and 2-point conversion. He managed to get half of that thanks to a sequence of events that included a late hit by Nick Fairley, a fourth-and-1 conversion and passes of 12, 14, 13 and 11 yards. The 11-yarder went to Marshall in the end zone on third-and-6, and it gave the Bears a chance to tie this game.
The Lions actually ended up having to stop Chicago twice on the 2-point try. The first time, McCown threw it out of the end zone, but Willie Young was flagged for roughing the passer because he launched at McCown. On the second try, from the 1-yard line, the Bears elected to run it out of the shotgun. Fairley made up for his earlier penalty by taking down Forte for a loss. After the Bears' onside kick was recovered by Joique Bell, the Lions were able to take a knee and run out the clock to seal a nail-biting 21-19 win.
It certainly wasn't pretty, and at times it wasn't easy to watch. However, the Lions won at Soldier Field, and that's all that matters. They are now 6-3 on the season, and they are in first place in the NFC North all by themselves going into Week 11. Now the Lions have to keep winning games to ensure they stay at the top of this division. Next up for them: a trip to Pittsburgh to play the Steelers next week.
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- This Lions game day in history: Nov. 10