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Bears Fall From NFC North Lead In 21-19 Loss To Lions

By Benjy Lipsman in News on Nov 11, 2013 4:35PM

Jay Cutler returned from his groin injury earlier than expected, but suffered a new injury that may have cost the Bears the chance to claim sole possession of first place in the NFC North. A sprained ankle clearly limited the QB's effectiveness in the second half and a late TD drive engineered by Josh McCown was not enough, as the Bears fell to Detroit 21-19 at Soldier Field.

On the game's opening drive Cutler looked as good as ever, playing catch with Brandon Marshall down the field. The two connected on three catches totaling 61 yards, including a 32 yard touchdown that gave the Bears an early 7-0 lead. Detroit marched right down to the other end zone and tied the game when Matt Stafford hit Kris Durham from five yards out to cap a 12 play drive. Head coach Marc Trestman, perhaps too fond of his game clinching fourth and one call on Monday night in Green Bay, made a similar call in the second quarter Sunday. Michael Bush was unable to convert and the Bears missed an opportunity to kick a field goal. The Bears again lost an opportunity to take a halftime lead in the waning seconds of the half. Cutler threw his lone interception of the day in the end zone when the Bears were at Detroit's four yard line.

The Lions broke the halftime tie by scoring a touchdown on the opening drive of the third quarter, the first of two by Charles Johnson on the afternoon. A Robbie Gould field goal cut Detroit's lead to four, with the Bears down 14-10 heading into the fourth quarter.

Chris Conte picked off Matt Stafford and returned the ball to Detroit's nine yard line, but the Bears managed just three points off the turnover. Another Gould kick cut the Lion's lead to one after an apparent Matt Forte TD was negated by a penalty and an Alshon Jeffrey TD was overturned by replay officials. Stafford and Johnson connected on another touchdown with a little more than two minutes to play and gave Detroit an eight point lead. With Cutler playing on a bad ankle allegedly sprained in the second quarter, Trestman made the decision to have backup QB Josh McCown lead the two-minute drill. While he successfully drove the Bears down the field to score a touchdown, the game-tying 2-point conversion was unsuccessful -- even after a penalty gave the Bears a second chance at the play. Final score 21-19.

Cutler, who bounced back quicker than expected from the groin injury, suffered an unrelated new injury Sunday and while he tried to play through the pain it clearly impacted his play down the stretch. While Cutler completed 12 of 18 passes in the first half, he completed just 9 of 22 in the second half and missed throws he should have been able to make. McCown, off his upset victory in Green Bay completed 6 of 9 in the game's final drive. Perhaps, especially given McCown's play in recent weeks, Trestman should have turned to his backup sooner. Despite a hobbled QB for much of the game, the Bears managed to have two 100 yard receivers on the afternoon. Brandon Marshall caught seven passes for 139 yards and two touchdowns, while Alshon Jeffrey caught nine balls for 114 yards. The Lions shut down the Bears running game, however, holding Matt Forte to 33 yards on 17 carries.

The defense played well at times and struggled at others, especially up front. The Bears did hold Megatron to just 83 yards receiving, as the Lions' star caught six of 17 balls thrown his direction. A week ago, Johnson caught 14 of the 17 targeting him, for 329 yards. But Reggie Bush to run for 105 yards in just 14 carries. The Bears were forced to play without last week's NFC defensive player of the week, Shea McClellin, who suffered a hamstring injury during practice earlier this week.

On Sunday, it was Marc Trestman who appears to have cost the Bears the game. The fourth down call was probably ill-advised last week but was late in the game and the Bears had a lead,and at least it worked. Against Detroit, he should have taken the points. Also, his decision to stick with a noticeable limited Jay Cutler was a mistake, especially in light of McCown's recent play. Had the backup QB been on the sideline all season long, maybe you stick with the starter. But having just witnessed the understudy beat Green Bay six days prior? McCown should have entered the game earlier.

Before Sunday's kickoff the Lions, Bears and Green Bay Packers were tied atop the NFC North with identical 5-3 records. Detroit now has sole possession of the NFC North lead with Sunday's win and Philadelphia's 21-19 win over the Packers. Detroit owns the head-to-head tiebreaker against the Bears by winning both games. Had the Bears managed a victory on Sunday, that path would've been theirs instead. Now 5-4, the Bears will have a difficult time finding enough wins to compete for a wild card spot.