The Chicago Bears used a strong running game to control the clock on offense and its defense forced six three-and-outs and created three turnovers inside the red zone in their 13-7 win over the Detroit Lions on Monday night.
After forcing a 35-yard punt, a deliberate attempt to avoid Devin Hester, on the Lions' opening possession, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler engineered a six-play, 59-yard drive that ended when he and Brandon Marshall hooked up for a 7-yard touchdown. Two possessions later, the Bears again took advantage of another short field — following another short punt by Detroit's Nick Harris — to drive 29 yards and set up a 39-yard field goal by Robbie Gould to extend the lead to 10-0 with 1:23 to play in the first quarter.
Lions defensive end Lawrence Jackson blocked a 47-yard field-goal attempt by Gould with 6:44 to play in the second quarter. The score would remain 10-0 at the half as a potential Lions scoring drive was thwarted when Bears linebacker Lance Briggs forced a fumble by running back Mikel Leshoure that was recovered by Julius Peppers on a first-down play from the Bears' 18-yard line with 1:32 to play in the first half.
That would not be the only scare the Bears would receive in the second quarter as Cutler was forced out of the game after taking a vicious, but legal hit from Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. Cutler would return in the second half, completing 16-of-31 attempts for 150 yards and a touchdown, adding 34 yards on three scrambles and taking five sacks on the night.
Cutler discussed the hit and it's impact on the offense the rest of the game with ESPN's Lisa Salters.
"I'm going to be really sore in the morning," Cutler said. "It loosened up a little bit, but it was a rough hit, landed on the ball, so…those things happen.
"It was on my right side," Cutler added. "I couldn't really follow through, couldn't get through the ball, so it kind of had a little impact on our play-calling."
A muffed punt by Lions return specialist Stefan Logan set up Gould's second field goal, this one from 21 yards out to close out the Bears' scoring with 11:20 to play in the third quarter. On the following possession, the Lions would drive all the way down to the Bears' 1-yard line, but Joique Bell's attempt to stretch the ball across the goal-line on a second-down play would backfire as the ball was knocked loose by Bears defensive tackle Henry Melton and recovered by linebacker Brian Urlacher.
The Bears defense would force a third turnover when D.J. Moore stepped in front of a Stafford pass on fourth-and-goal. Chicago came within 30 seconds of its first home shutout of the Lions since the 1962 season, a 3-0 affair at Wrigley Field. The shutout bid was spoiled when, with 30 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, Stafford connected with 2012 second-round pick Ryan Broyles in the back corner of the end zone.
In addition to the turnovers, the Bears defense produced three sacks on Stafford, one each by Peppers and Israel Idonije and a shared sack between 2012 first-round pick Shea McClellin and defensive tackle Stephen Paea. The No. 1 star on the Bears defense on Monday night may have been cornerback Charles Tillman, who had seven tackles, two passes defensed, forced a pair of fumbles — both by tight end Brandon Pettigrew, both fumbles went out of bounds and the Lions retained possesion. Tillman's most impressive performance of the night was how he blanketed Calvin Johnson, holding of the NFL's top receivers to just three receptions for 34 yards on a game-high 11 targets. One of Tillman's two passes defensed came with 5:30 to play in the third quarter when he knocked the ball out of Johnson's hands in the end zone on the play before Bell's costly fumble.
Offensively, the Bears got solid performances from running backs Matt Forte and Michael Bush, who combined for 28 carries and 132 yards, with Cutler and No. 2 quarterback Jason Campbell adding 39 yards on four scrambles. Marshall led Bears receivers with six receptions for 81 yards, while Titus Young led Lions receivers, also with six receptions for 81 yards. The Lions will need to rely on Young and Broyles, who caught the first three passes of his NFL career on Monday night, more going forward as the receiving corps took a significant hit when No. 2 receiver Nate Burleson suffered a broken leg early in the third quarter.
Following the game, Lions head coach Jim Schwartz confirmed the injury, which is considered season-ending.
With the win, the Bears improve to 5-1 on the season and move a half-game ahead of the Minnesota Vikings and will host the struggling Carolina Panthers next Sunday. Detroit drops to 2-4 — the only team in the NFC North that is under .500 — and will host the Seattle Seahawks next Sunday. The Bears and Lions will meet again at Ford Field on Dec. 30.
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