CHICAGO – A big gasp filled the stadium as Jay Cutler writhed in pain on the field. He got up, and the defense provided a big lift.
Cutler returned after bruising his ribs, and Brian Urlacher made a key fumble recovery to help the Chicago Bears beat the Detroit Lions 13-7 on Monday night.
It was certainly not an easy night for the NFC North leaders, particularly their quarterback, but they came away with the win after a week off and possibly buried Detroit (2-4) in the process despite getting a major scare along the way.
That happened in the second quarter when Cutler was sacked by Ndamukong Suh and ultimately wound up going to the locker room to have his ribs examined.
Cutler came back to start the second half and was 16-for-31 with 150 yards and a touchdown in the game, but with the defense locking down the Lions, the Bears (5-1) prevailed. It was a huge blow for last-place Detroit, a team many expected to contend for the division championship after making the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade.
The Lions simply never got in gear, and when they had chances, they blew them. The biggest came early in the third quarter, when Joique Bell fumbled at the goal line with the Bears leading 13-0.
Urlacher recovered and Chicago hung on from there, sending Detroit to its fourth loss in five games.
Brandon Marshall caught six passes for 81 yards and scored a touchdown on Chicago’s first possession. Matt Forte ran for 96 yards, and with the defense doing its part again, Chicago never really was threatened in this one.
Matthew Stafford went 28-for46 for 261 yards after leading the late charge in last week’s win over Philadelphia. Calvin Johnson had trouble shaking the Bears’ Charles Tillman and finished with three catches for 34 yards. He dropped a deep pass over the middle on the game’s first possession even though he was wide open.
The Lions lost receiver Nate Burleson to a knee injury in the third quarter on a hit by Tim Jennings after a catch.
There weren’t many scares for the Bears, with one big exception.
They were leading 10-0 in the second quarter and had just taken over at their 26 when that happened.
Cutler, who had his helmet ripped off on a hit by Suh after a run last year at Soldier Field, got driven to the turf by him on an 8-yard sack. He came up kneeling and holding his head as trainers tended to him, then ran to the sideline.
Jason Campbell came in for one play, but Cutler returned right after that and threw an incomplete pass on third down before Chicago punted. But after Julius Peppers recovered a fumble by Mikel Leshoure to stop a Lions threat, Campbell was behind center. Cutler was having his ribs examined, but he was back out there to start the second half, some fans cheering as he trotted onto the field.
They were really roaring moments later when Stefan Logan fumbled trying to catch Adam Podlesh’s punt. Zack Bowman recovered it for Chicago at the 27, and that led to a 21-yard field goal by Robbie Gould to make it 13-0 after Cutler had two passes broken up with the ball on the 3.
The Lions lost Burleson after a 16-yard catch near midfield on the next possession but drove all the way to the 1 before Bell turned it over. As he lunged over the pile, Henry Melton poked the ball out and Urlacher made the recovery to keep the shutout going. D.J. Moore extended it when he picked off Stafford near the goal line in the closing minutes. The Lions finally scored when Stafford connected with Ryan Broyles on a 12-yarder with 30 seconds left.