Thanks to a perfect storm of mistakes on offense and special teams on Sunday, the Detroit Lions suffered their third loss in four games by falling to the Chicago Bears, 37-13. Detroit somehow managed to get blown out despite only surrendering one defensive touchdown, which pretty much tells you how bad the offense and special teams performed in the Windy City on Sunday afternoon.
This game was doomed from the first drive of the game for the Lions. Although they did move the ball with a couple passes to Calvin Johnson and a run with Nate Burleson, a fumble by Johnson would turn out to be a huge miscue. He was nailed by Julius Peppers and fumbled the ball after a catch at the Detroit 46-yard line. Brian Urlacher quickly scooped it up and returned the fumble recovery 17 yards, giving the Bears offense outstanding field position. Chicago wasted little time in capitalizing on the turnover thanks in part to an unnecessary roughness penalty on Kyle Vanden Bosch. On only the fourth play of the possession, Matt Forte ran into the end zone from six yards out for a touchdown.
On the Lions' second drive of the game, they were once again moving the ball well for the first few plays. On the fourth play of the drive when it was third-and-eight, Burleson picked up 20 yards and Detroit appeared to be in business. Then Burleson was stripped of the football and Chicago once again fell on it. The Bears started the ensuing drive in their own territory, but a 15-yard face mask penalty helped move them into field goal range. After the Lions defense came up with a stop, Chicago settled for a 43-yard kick by Robbie Gould to make it 10-0 Bears.
After the Lions picked up one first down and proceeded to go nowhere on the new set of downs, new punter Robert Malone came out and kicked the ball right to Devin Hester. This would prove to be another mistake by the Lions, as Hester returned the kick 29 yards to the Chicago 48. The Bears were only able to get another field goal out of the good return, but Hester showed how dangerous he can be. Despite this, the Lions once again kicked right to him after a three-and-out on the next possession. Malone boomed a 60-yarder down the field and seemingly outkicked his coverage in the process. The end result was Hester going 82 yards for a touchdown to put the Lions in a 20-0 hole early in the second quarter.
Another three-and-out resulted in yet another Detroit punt and yet another big Hester return. This one was wiped out by a penalty, though. The Bears started at their own 16 because of the flag, and the Lions finally caught a break when Jay Cutler's attempted handoff was fumbled right to Detroit's Amari Spievey at the 19-yard line. This appeared to be Detroit's chance to get back in the game, but after having second-and-one and throwing two straight incompletions, the Lions settled for a 29-yard Jason Hanson field goal.
After a combined three three-and-outs between the two teams on the next three possessions, the Lions got the ball back and finally put together a decent scoring drive. Working out of the shotgun, Matthew Stafford moved the Lions 42 yards in 14 plays. Unfortunately, a sack on third down at the six-yard line once again forced Detroit to settle for a field goal, but the 35-yard kick cut the lead to 20-6 with 1:23 to go in the first half.
Back-to-back incompletions to start the Bears' next drive made it seem like the Lions could get the ball back with time to score again before halftime. Blown coverage on third-and-10 resulted in a 21-yard pass, however, and two plays later Earl Bennett picked up 30 yards. Suddenly the Bears were in field goal range, but Cliff Avril helped change that by forcing a fumble on a sack. The call initially was that Cutler threw an incomplete pass, but upon further review it was clear the ball came out before his arm went forward. The problem for the Lions was that nobody fell on the ball after it hit the ground, so Chicago maintained possession. It turned out not to matter, though, because Gould missed a 43-yard field goal attempt, keeping this a two-touchdown game at the half.
Going into the locker room, the Lions appeared to be in pretty good shape considering how poorly they played in the first half. Being down 14 points didn't seem all that bad considering some of the deficits they faced in the first half of the season, and after Chicago went three-and-out to start the third quarter, it seemed like the comeback was on.
Everything came crashing down for the Lions on the second play of their first drive of the third quarter. Stafford looked left and threw a pass in the direction of Will Heller. It didn't go to Heller, though. Instead Major Wright picked it off and returned it 24 yards for an easy touchdown. Things started unraveling for Detroit with this mistake, and the game was essentially out of reach after Stafford was picked off by Charles Tillman on the fourth play of the next drive. Tillman took the interception back 44 yards for another pick-six, and suddenly the Bears were up 34-6. The Lions looked defeated at this point.
Chicago tacked on a 50-yard field goal to its lead after the Lions offense went nowhere and had to punt yet again. When they got the ball back, Stafford put together a good, quick drive that saw the Lions get down to the 11-yard line thanks to a 40-yard pass to Johnson. They couldn't turn the big play into points, though. The drive stalled at the 11, and four incompletions later it was Chicago's ball and the score was still 37-6.
The Bears had the luxury of going into kill-the-clock-mode before the third quarter even came to an end. Although they were still trying to pass the ball, going away from throwing it looked like a good idea after Nick Fairley planted Cutler into the field. It was a late hit that drew a penalty and the ire of the fans (much like a big hit by Ndamukong Suh earlier in the game that resulted in Cutler's helmet going flying, although that play did not draw a flag), and it was also a sign that things were about to get chippy.
Following a Bears punt, the Lions offense again had some success moving the ball. Just like previous drives, everything came to a halt inside the red zone. On third-and-five from the Bears 17, Stafford was picked off for the third time in this game. Despite the interceptor clearly being down, the referees allowed the play to continue, and as the play was coming to an end, Stafford threw down D.J. Moore by his helmet. Stafford was being blocked as the two ran down field, and Stafford tried to shake off Moore by ripping at his helmet. Moore didn't appreciate this and charged at Stafford to deliver a late hit. Stafford tried to duck and was on the ground when he took the hit, which set off a brawl between the two teams. Moore was the only player penalized, and he was actually ejected for the incident.
A successful challenge by the Lions resulted in the ball being moved back to the original spot of the interception instead of the Detroit 33. After the penalty on Moore, the Bears took over at their own eight-yard line and went three-and-out. Detroit had good field position to start the drive, which ended in yet another Stafford interception. This time he was picked off in the end zone on third-and-10 from the Bears 13-yard line, and to make matters worse, Johnson came down hard and looked a little woozy after the play.
The Lions finally broke through and scored a touchdown in the red zone on their next drive. Stafford connected with Tony Scheffler for a 10-yard TD, making the score a slightly more respectable 37-13. An unsuccessful onside kick gave the ball back to Chicago, and the Bears ran out the final five minutes to put Detroit out of its misery and end what was by far the ugliest game of the season for the Lions.
The 37-13 loss drops the Lions to 6-3 and puts them in a tie for second place in the NFC North with the Bears. The two teams split the season series, so the head-to-head aspect of the tiebreaker can now be thrown out the window. This could be important for the playoff race, as these two teams currently own the two wild card spots.
Next Sunday, the Lions will play host to the 2-7 Carolina Panthers. Cam Newton is a dangerous player, and Carolina certainly can't be written off completely, but this is a game the Lions should win. Actually, this is a game the Lions must win if they are serious about making a run at the playoffs. With the Packers coming to town four days later and the schedule not getting any easier in Week 13 with the Lions heading to New Orleans, Detroit can't afford to come out flat for the second week in a row.