In a low scoring matchup reminiscent of the old days of the NFC North, the Chicago Bears have marched onto home turf at Soldier Field and successfully defeated their division rivals the Detroit Lions 13-7 on the back of a stout dominating performance by Chicago’s Tampa 2 defense.
The best battle of the night was between Detroit Lions superstar wide receiver Calvin Johnson and gritty Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman. “Peanut” Tillman had one of the best games of his career overall as he was all over the field but his battle with Megatron was highly entertaining. Well, Calvin might not agree – largely thanks to Tillman, CJ was held without a catch until midway through the third quarter and it seemed like every time the ball came his way, Charles Tillman was right there to break it up. Calvin finished the game with 3 catches for 34 yards.
Contrary to Johnson’s struggles, Brandon Marshall continued his impressive form as he stormed his way to six receptions for 81 yards and a TD – easily the best stat line of the night aside perhaps from Matt Forte’s 22 carries for 96 yards. Marshall’s night started the right way with a short 7 yard touchdown on the Bears opening drive and could have been that much better had it not been for an injury to Jay Cutler later in the second quarter.
Cutler had been rolling pretty well until, with about five minutes remaining in the second quarter, he took a crushing sack from the unblocked Ndamakong Suh. Cutler landed heavily on his shoulder and was down in pain for several minutes. This was where we saw that characteristic toughness that the Bears QB often shows but is rarely credited for. By rule, he sat out the following play but returned after backup Jason Campbell had taken just one snap to a roaring ovation from his home crowd. Cutler did eventually go to the locker room for x-rays late in the half but not until he’d played several more snaps. He would be diagnosed with bruised ribs but continue to play although it was obvious for the rest of the game that the pain was bothering him as he finished with the poor statline of 16/31 for 150 yards and a TD.
This game was a bad one overall for Detroit. Much like last week, they were able to stick around despite poor offensive play but unlike last week they showed very little spark and at no time did they appear to be ready to challenge Chicago. What hurt most aside from Calvin Johnson’s bad night was turnovers. Return man Stefan Logan muffed two catches, one of which resulted in a lost fumble.
The more costly fumbles came in the red zone. Detroit running backs Mikel Leshoure and Joique Bell both lost the ball as the Lions were in line for points. The Leshoure fumble was simply bad play but the Bell fumble can be placed directly on the offensive play calling of the Lions. They were 2nd and goal with a yard and a half to go and the call was a HB Dive. Bell went up and over the pile, got stopped and then, whilst fully exposed on top of multiple players, had the ball stripped. This play is a favorite of the Lions but was a very poor choice in this situation – a risky play at a time that didn’t warrant the risk. In the end, it was this turnover that ultimately stopped all Detroit’s momentum and stopped hopes of another third quarter comeback. Looking back, this one coaching decision cost Detroit the ball game.
The one bright light for Detroit in this game was a late touchdown for rookie wide receiver Ryan Broyles which was the first of his career. Broyles was a very shrewd pickup by Detroit as he was still recovering from injury when he was drafted and with veteran Nate Burleson going down with a leg injury in this game the score gives the Lions hope for the future. The touchdown led to an onside kick with 30 seconds remaining in the game but this was unsuccessful as Bears wide receiver Earl Bennett recovered it easily.
All in all this game was decided by three big factors – a dominant Chicago Bears offense, the injury to Jay Cutler that prevented the Bears from running away with the game and the ill discipline of the Detroit Lions team as a whole that led to five total turnovers including three in the red zone.
Next week the 5-1 Chicago Bears home stand continues as they host the struggling 1-5 Carolina Panthers while the 2-4 Detroit Lions head back home and will take on the tough defense of the 4-3 Seattle Seahawks.