But whatever chance the Lions had of ending their road woes was quickly snuffed out Sunday when officials ruled they recovered the ball too early. The Chicago Bears got the ball back with 53 seconds left and ran out the clock, preserving their 24-16 victory.
“It’s as high as you can get to as low as you can get,” a dejected Harrington said. “You go from thinking you’re going to overtime to realizing you’ve probably lost the game.”
The loss was Detroit’s 14th in its last 15 games, and its 20th straight on the road. The Lions (1-6) haven’t won outside of Michigan since Dec. 17, 2000.
“Things haven’t been going their way. We knew that coming in. It was the same for us,” Bears tackle Bryan Robinson said. “You could say, `Yeah, it’s just Detroit.’ But (other) teams look at us and say, `Yeah, that’s just Chicago.”’
Especially with the roster the Bears have these days. They are so banged up—six starters missed the game—they’re raiding their depth chart for rookies.
Jerry Azumah also returned the second-half kickoff for a touchdown and had an interception.
“Not to take anything away from Detroit, but those guys stepped up today,” Robinson said. “It’s a testament to the young guys we’ve got, the character they’ve got.”
The Lions then went for the onside kick, and Bill Schroeder recovered. But officials chose to review it, ultimately deciding the Lions touched the ball before it traveled the required 10 yards.
“I was sort of hoping that they would say it was inconclusive,” Lions coach Steve Mariucci said. “It looked like a bunch of bodies over there, and I was hoping the TV cameras with angles were a mess, so they really couldn’t overrule it.”
The Lions can’t blame this loss on that one play, though. They dropped four straight passes on their second possession in the first quarter, any one of which could have gone for a touchdown or a big gain.
They were called for nine penalties, costing them 64 yards. And Harrington moved them to the Chicago 3 with two minutes to play, only to fail to get a first down.
“You can fault the penalties, you can fault the interception, you can fault the drops. You can fault whatever you want, but you can’t fault the effort,” Harrington said. “That’s the frustrating thing. We played hard, we left everything there and we came up short.”
Harrington, who didn’t find out until Wednesday he was starting, was 23-of-40 for 180 yards. But he was intercepted twice.
The first came in the second quarter, when Tillman stepped in front of Az-Zahir Hakim for a 32-yard pick. Two plays and a penalty later, Chris Chandler found Gage for the 21-yard pass that gave the Bears a 7-0 lead.
It was the first time this season the Bears led by more than a field goal.
Chicago got the ball back late in the half, and a penalty on a punt return backed it up to the 10. But instead of running out the clock, the Bears took a gamble.
Azumah padded the lead on the opening kick of the second half, returning the ball 89 yards. When Forsey scored on an 8-yard run to give Chicago a 24-0 lead, it looked as if the rout was on.
But Reggie Swinton took the ensuing kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown as the Bears let the Lions back into the game, setting up the last-minute dramatics.
“Every game’s a must-win from this point on,” Brian Urlacher said. “If we want to get to where we want to be, we’ve got to win all the rest of our games. We made some mistakes and we fooled around, but we covered them up thistime.”
After making his first 14 field goals this year, Edinger had a 33-yard attempt blocked in the fourth quarter. … Azumah’s kick return for a score was Chicago’s first since Glyn Milburn had a 94-yarder against Green Bay on Dec. 13, 1998. … Swinton’s kick return for a score was Detroit’s first since TerryFair’s 105-yarder on Sept. 28, 1998.