Published December 30, 2012
| Associated Press
DETROIT – Calvin Johnson and Matthew Stafford fell short of the last remaining milestones within their reach — and a Detroit season that came apart several weeks ago ended with one more defeat.
Johnson was contained by the Chicago Bears and narrowly missed becoming the first player with 2,000 yards receiving in a season, and the Lions lost 26-24 on Sunday, finishing up on an eight-game slide. Jay Cutler threw for 257 yards and a touchdown for Chicago and helped seal the game with a late scramble.
Johnson, who broke Jerry Rice's record of 1,848 yards receiving the previous weekend, finished at 1,964 after catching five passes for 72 yards.
"Had a good year, but there's a lot of things that could have been done better," Johnson said. "There's always room to get better."
There certainly is for the Lions, who looked like a team on the rise after making the playoffs last season for the first time in a dozen years. Now there could be changes. Coach Jim Schwartz wasn't about to discuss speculation about his job status.
"The thing I'm most concerned with is getting this team back to where we all want it to be," he said. "I'm not proud at all of our record."
Stafford went 24 of 42 for 272 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. He finished the season with an NFL-record 727 pass attempts, surpassing Drew Bledsoe's mark of 691 from 1994.
But he fell short of a second consecutive 5,000-yard season, finishing at 4,967 through the air.
"You learn from everything, the good and the bad," Stafford said. "Obviously four wins isn't good enough. I can definitely look at my play and I will and I'll work on it and get ready for next year."
The Lions turned the ball over four times.
Johnson had his record streak of eight 100-yard receiving games snapped.
"It's hard to shut down Calvin Johnson, but we just put as many guys as we possibly could on him," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "We doubled him a lot, and we were always rolling extra guys at him. We didn't want to get anything deep; we wanted him to earn everything he got underneath."
The Bears (10-6) entered the day in the thick of the NFC playoff chase. They took a 20-3 lead in the first half, but Detroit (4-12) pulled within two in the fourth quarter and had the ball at its own 9-yard line before a three-and-out forced a punt.
The Bears ran out the last 3:40, with Cutler's 19-yard run on third down keeping the drive going.
Cutler threw a 55-yard pass to Alshon Jeffery to the Detroit 27 on Chicago's first play from scrimmage, delighting the many Chicago fans in attendance at Ford Field. But that drive stalled, and the Bears actually had to punt after Cutler fumbled on third down and the ball was recovered back at midfield.
After the Lions kicked a field goal, Chicago struck back when Cutler swung a pass out to Earl Bennett, who made the catch behind the line of scrimmage, got a block and outran the defense for a surprisingly easy 60-yard touchdown.
Joique Bell fumbled away the ensuing kickoff, and the Bears kicked a field goal. In the second quarter, Stafford fumbled deep in his own territory. Julius Peppers recovered for Chicago, and his short return gave the Bears the ball at the 10.
After a third-down pass interference call on safety Don Carey, Matt Forte scored on a 1-yard run to make it 17-3.
The Lions weren't done giving the ball away. Tim Jennings picked off Stafford's overthrown pass, and his 31-yard return to the Detroit 23 set up another field goal.
Stafford's 25-yard scoring pass to Kris Durham with 12 seconds left in the half made it 20-10, and he threw a 10-yarder in the third to Will Heller.
Stafford's fumble gave the Bears the ball at the Detroit 13. It was the fourth time the Bears started a drive inside the Detroit 25, and they ended up kicking a field goal.
Olindo Mare added another field goal, a 20-yarder with 10:47 left in the fourth, to make it 26-17. Stafford's 9-yard touchdown pass to Brian Robiskie pulled Detroit closer, but it wasn't enough.
NOTES: Chicago TE Matt Spaeth left the game with a concussion. ... The Bears were without LB Brian Urlacher (hamstring). He hasn't played since Dec. 2.
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