Jay Cutler threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Marshall and the Chicago Bears held a 13-0 lead over the Detroit Lions after three quarters on Monday night.
The Bears are trying to solidify their spot at the top of the NFC North, while the last-place Lions are trying to get back into the race and avoid its fourth loss in five games.
Midway through the second quarter, the Bears had a scare when Cutler was slammed to the ground on a sack by Ndamukong Suh. Cutler was on the ground for a few minutes and was attended to by a team trainer before jogging off the field. He was replaced by Jason Campbell for just one play. Cutler threw an incomplete pass as the Bears went three and out.
But Cutler didn't return on the Bears' next possession. After Detroit's Mikel Leshoure lost a fumble to Julius Peppers on the Chicago 18, Cutler was replaced again by Campbell as Cutler was getting his ribs evaluated in the locker room.
Cutler, who started the second half, was 12 of 26 for 96 yards and had 35 yards rushing after three quarters.
Back from their week off, the Bears took advantage of a dropped pass by Calvin Johnson, who was wide open for a potential big gain on third down on Detroit's opening possession. On the Bears' ensuing drive, Cutler kept it alive by running for 10 yards on third-and-long. One play later, Matt Forte preceded Marshall's touchdown catch with a 39-yard run.
Chicago has already tied a club record by returning five interceptions for touchdowns — all in the past three games. They didn't get the big play on defense, but they forced three Lions' turnovers.
On Chicago's third drive of the quarter, Cutler scrambled for 24 yards and 15 more yards was tacked on after Corey Williams was called for a personal foul. The Bears eventually settled for a 39-yard field goal by Robbie Gould for a 10-0 lead.
The Bears had another opportunity to score after driving from its own one yard line, but Gould had his 47-yard field goal attempt blocked by Lawrence Jackson.
After Detroit's defense forced a Chicago three and out on the first possession of the third quarter. Stefan Logan dropped a punt and it was recovered by Chicago's Zack Bowman, who was signed last week. Michael Bush had 12 yard run and Cutler connected on a pass to Marshall for 12 yards, his first completion since being injured. But the Bears had to settle for another field goal from Gould to put them up 13-0.
Johnson finally caught a pass for Detroit midway through the third quarter as the Lions were putting together an impressive drive. On the following play, Johnson drew a pass interference call on Charles Tillman putting the ball at the Chicago 1. On the next play, Tillman denied Johnson a touchdown reception and the Lions tried to punch it in with a run by Joique Bell. Bell tried to leap into the end zone, but while he was reaching out the ball, Henry Melton knocked it out and it was recovered at the 5 by Brian Urlacher. The turnover knocked out a Lions' 79-yard drive.
The Lions have a chance to get back to .500 after a three-game losing streak put their season in peril. That ended last week, when they erased a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter and beat Philadelphia 26-23 in overtime. But they still are last in the division, two games behind Chicago with Minnesota and Green Bay ahead of them.
Lions cornerback Bill Bentley was inactive, leaving Detroit without their top two right cornerbacks. Jacob Lacey had already been ruled out after suffering a concussion last week against Philadelphia, and with Bentley out after being listed as doubtful, Jonte Green started at right cornerback.
To shore up depth in their secondary, the Lions signed cornerback Justin Miller and released linebacker Doug Hogue. Detroit made the roster moves Monday morning. Miller hasn't played in the NFL since 2009 when he appeared in one game for the New York Jets and one with Oakland. Miller had a shot to help Detroit's weak secondary when the season started, but he was among the Lions' final cuts.
The struggles continued on offense for the Lions, who have yet to score a touchdown this season in the first quarter.
Matthew Stafford has struggled at Soldier Field. As a rookie, Stafford injured his knee in a loss. In 2010, he separated his right shoulder on a hit from Julius Peppers. Last year, he threw four interceptions in a loss while playing with a broken finger. Stafford was 14 of 25 for 105 yards and was sacked twice after three quarters. He only connected with Johnson once for 6 yards.
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