Bears 26, Lions 21

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DETROIT (AP)—Making a quarterback change was part of the plan, the Chicago Bears insisted.

That probably won’t stop questions about who is best suited to lead the NFC’s top seed in the playoffs.

Brian Griese replaced Rex Grossman in the fourth quarter and led two drives that set up field goals, helping Chicago beat the Detroit Lions 26-21 Sunday.

“I thought I was going to play the whole game,” Grossman said. “But I guess they had plans that they were going to get me out mid-third quarter.”

Griese directed a 72-yard drive that put Robbie Gould in position for a go-ahead field goal midway through the fourth quarter and made a pass to set up Gould’s fourth field goal, giving Chicago a five-point cushion with 2:50 left.

“I hadn’t played in a while, so it felt good to get out there and contribute to a win,” said Griese, who didn’t play in the previous seven games after being used sparingly. “I’m ready to play whenever they want me to, but I don’t have any expectations.”

Switching QBs added a touch of intrigue to a game with nothing at stake.

The Bears (13-2) clinched home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs last week and Detroit (2-13) has been relegated to playing for pride since midseason—for the sixth straight year.

One possession after Jon Kitna’s NFL-high 30th turnover, the Lions had a shot to win, but came up short as they have often this season.

Kitna threw a pass into the end zone on the final play that leaping wide receiver Mike Williams got his hands on, but couldn’t control in the end zone while being closely defended by cornerback Devin Hester.

“I owe it to myself and the team to make that play,” Williams said. “That’s just a play you make.”

Chicago coach Lovie Smith insisted before the game that he would play to win — not to avoid injuries—by using his starters as long as necessary in the hopes of staying sharp for the playoffs.

After the game, Smith said the move at QB was planned.

“We wanted to get a win in the worst way and we wanted to look at a few other players,” Smith said.

Smith stuck with Grossman earlier this month as his starting QB after he threw three interceptions in two straight games.

Grossman responded by throwing four TDs without an interception in the next two games, adding a career-high 339 yards passing last week, in two wins that helped Chicago earn the right to stay at home in the NFC playoffs.

Against the Lions, he had another lackluster performance in what has been an up-and-down season—but Chicago won its fourth straight.

Grossman was 20-of-36 for 197 yards with a TD. Griese was 6-of-9 for 51 yards.

Bernard Berrian’s 13-yard score early in the second quarter gave the Bears the lead and was one of the only highlights Grossman had in a game that could lead to speculation during the final week of the regular season and into the playoffs.

“We’ll leave the decisions up to the coaching staff,” said wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad, whom Grossman overthrew badly on a play that likely would’ve been a touchdown in the third quarter. “I’m confident with both guys, but Rex has been our guy all season.”

Kitna completed 27 of 45 passes for 283 yards and TDs to Roy Williams, Dan Campbell and Mike Furrey, who had 10 catches for 107 yards.

But Kitna fumbled when Mark Anderson sacked him late in the game, adding to his long line of miscues at crucial times. Adewale Ogunleye’s recovery at the Detroit 32 with 3:46 left set up a field goal that forced the Lions to go for a TD on their final drive.

“We turned the ball over one time, but that was one time too many,” Detroit coach Rod Marinelli said. “We didn’t get any on defense, and that’s critical in a game like this.”

Like many games this season, the Lions were solid at times and had a shot to win but made too many mistakes.

“That’s just how our year has gone,” Campbell said.

Detroit has lost seven straight and is an NFL-worst 23-72 since 2001.

NOTES

The Bears had two starting defensive backs inactive—Todd Johnson (ankle) and cornerback Charles Tillman (back)—and lost starting fullback Jason McKie (ankle) early in the game. … Detroit was without cornerback Fernando Bryant (concussion) and returner Eddie Drummond (hip), and defensive line coach Joe Cullen, who was suspended by the NFL for the game for two arrests—one for nude driving and one for drunken driving. … About 100 fans left their seats during the second quarter in a protest against team president Matt Millen, who took control of the franchise when its slide began in 2001. They gathered to chant “Fire Millen!” and left the stadium.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 Chicago
R. Grossman R. Grossman QB
20-36, 197 yds
1 TD
 Detroit
J. Kitna J. Kitna QB
27-45, 283 yds
3 TDs

Team Stat Leaders

Passing Yards
Rushing Yards
Receiving Yards

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