Lions down Bears on Monday night, improve to 5-0

Posted: 11/10/2011 in Football, NFL
In their first Monday night game in 10 years, the Detroit Lions showed the nation why they are one of the two remaining unbeaten teams in the NFL.
Just three seasons ago, the Lions set a mark of futility with the first-ever 0-16 season in the history of the league. Now, they are among the elite as they improved to 5-0 on the season and sit tied atop the NFC North with the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers.
A dominating defense and big plays from Calvin Johnson and Jahvid Best helped the Lions win their ninth straight game, 24-13 over the Chicago Bears.
Matthew Stafford went 19-for-26 with 219 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, Johnson had five catches for 130 yards and a score, and Best had an 88-yard rushing touchdown and 163 yards on the ground. Detroit is off to its best start since beginning the 1956 season with six consecutive wins.
“We have a lot of experienced players here and they’re also our hardest working players,” said Detroit head coach Jim Schwartz. “It makes it easy for the rest of them team to take their cue off them. We played a good game tonight, but we made a bunch of mistakes. We can play better than we did tonight.”
The Detroit defense, led by last season’s rookie of the year Ndamukong Suh and joined by Nick Fairley, the 13th overall pick in this year’s draft who had missed the first four games after having foot surgery, harassed Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler all game and sacked him three times while knocking him down on several other occasions.
For his part, Cutler was able to improvise several times and keep his team in the game as he went 28-for-38 with 249 yards and a score. Matt Forte had 116 yards on 22 carries for the Bears (2-3), who were coming off a home win against Carolina.
“I was just trying to move around a bit and find some guys open,” said Cutler. “But it was hard out there tonight cause those guys were getting four or five yard pushes on every snap.”
Starting the second half the Lions were in a familiar position as they trailed to start, but they quickly went ahead after holding the Bears to a three-and- out.
Stafford methodically moved his team down the field and a 17-yard catch from Johnson on 3rd-and-6 got the ball past midfield. A 12-yard catch from Tony Scheffler saw an unnecessary roughness call on Brian Urlacher and the next play saw Stafford his Brandon Pettigrew over the middle for an 18-yard score and a 14-10 lead.
Chicago again had to punt and on the first play Best took a handoff around the right tackle and raced untouched into the end zone on an 88-yard score for a 21-10 lead with 5:20 to play in the third.
The Bears were able to hold the Lions, but the only offense they generated was a 49-yard field goal from Robbie Gould with 4:07 to play to make it a 21-13 game.
However, Best again went on a long run as his 43-yard burst on the first play of the ensuing drive led to a 31-yard field goal from Jason Hanson with 1:56 to play to seal the win.
“We’re not looking to prove anything to anybody, we just want to win,” said Stafford. “We understand we had a great win for the team and the city, but we have a short week and a big game coming up against a great San Fran team.”
It was a sloppy start to the game as the Lions had to punt on their first touch and the Bears followed with three false starts on a three-and-out.
The Bears’ second drive saw the team get into scoring position. On 3rd-and-1 at the Detroit 26 Forte was stuffed. The team then tried to get the Lions to jump, but called timeout before the play clock sounded. They opted to go for it, but Forte was stuffed by Suh.
Three plays later, Stafford went deep down the right side for Johnson, who caught it in-stride near the Chicago 30 and broke a tackle on his way to a 73- yard score for a 7-0 lead less than a minute into the second.
Chicago, though, answered on its next touch with a 10-play, 57-yard drive that saw the team fall short on a 3rd-and-9 and go to Gould, who booted the 44-yard attempt down the middle to make it a 7-3 game with 8:18 left in the half.
Following a short possession by Detroit, the Bears got the ball back at their own 12 and a 26-yard catch from Devin Hester was followed by a 23-yard run by Forte. Four plays later, Cutler lofted a pass to the right corner of the end zone where Kellen Davis came down with the nine-yard catch for a 10-7 lead heading into the break.
“We had a great opportunity against a great football team to gain some ground,” said Chicago head coach Lovie Smith. “But if you play football like we did against a good football team, you’re going to lose.”
– Steve

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