Stafford, Lions hand Bears first loss, hold on for 40-32 victory
DETROIT – Matthew Stafford entered this season with an ugly mark on his resume: The Detroit quarterback was 1-22 against teams that went on to finish above .500.
So a convincing victory over a previously unbeaten Chicago team was a step in the right direction.
Stafford threw for 242 yards and a touchdown, and he also scored a TD himself to lead the Lions to a 40-32 win over the Bears on Sunday. It's too early to tell if Chicago will finish over .500, of course, but this loss was the first blemish on the Bears' record.
"I've said so much about Matt that I've ran out of good things to say," Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said. "He's our leader. We're never out of a game when he's in the game. He's going to lead this franchise to great things."
Stafford went 23 of 35, and he caught a bit of a break when he tried a quarterback sneak from a yard out in the second quarter. The ball popped free, but it came right back to him, and Stafford ended up in the end zone for a touchdown.
"I think we felt we were a little bit closer than we actually were," Stafford said. "It was kind of a long one. I was trying to jump over guys. They did a great job knocking it out, but I was able to corral it again and fall in the end zone."
The Lions (3-1) and Bears (3-1) are now tied atop the NFC North.
Here are five reasons Detroit made such an impressive statement at home:
QUICK STRIKES: When Reggie Bush has been on the field, the Lions have looked awfully dangerous offensively. Bush's 37-yard touchdown run — which included a nifty open-field hurdle of safety Major Wright — was the highlight of a second quarter in which Detroit scored 27 points. Chicago helped with a crucial turnover, but once the Lions started rolling, the game quickly became a rout.
It was the highest-scoring quarter for Detroit since Sept. 30, 2007, according to STATS. The Lions scored 34 points in the fourth quarter of that game — which was also against the Bears.
"I just put it on the practices that we had the last couple weeks. We've been real crisp, real efficient," receiver Calvin Johnson said. "We're not making penalties, making dumb mistakes on offense. We might have a turnover here or there, but we bounce right back from it. Nobody's flustered in the huddle."
SUH IMPRESSES: Bears quarterback Jay Cutler was intercepted three times, but perhaps the most important turnover was his third-quarter fumble, which was caused by Ndamukong Suh. Nick Fairley returned it 4 yards for a touchdown to put Detroit ahead 37-16.
Suh was terrific Sunday, finishing with two of his team's three sacks. Cutler said most of his mistakes were due to poor execution — not bad decisions. Part of the problem was a Detroit rush that was a factor all day.
"That's something that we strive to do every single play in every single game," Suh said. "Really, it's a lot of credit to our secondary and those guys taking care of business and making them hold the ball, and we got that extra time and made sure we got back there."
BIG RETURN: Detroit's punt and kickoff returns were for the most part unimpressive Sunday — but sometimes all it takes is one big play to turn the game around.
With the Lions trailing 10-9, Micheal Spurlock returned a punt 57 yards to the Chicago 22-yard line. That gave Detroit a short field, and the Lions eventually scored the first of three quick touchdowns to take control.
SECONDARY IMPRESSES: Louis Delmas was a prime beneficiary of Cutler's mistakes, intercepting two passes, and Detroit was able to overcome the loss of cornerback Rashean Mathis to a first-half concussion.
"I think we took pride in ourselves today," Delmas said. "Our secondary feeds off our linebackers and our linebackers feed off our D-line and I think today we competed as a unit."
Toward the end, cornerback Chris Houston was also sidelined with a leg injury. That's when the Bears finally rallied to close within eight points.
DURHAM'S CONTRIBUTION: With wide receiver Nate Burleson out with an arm injury, Kris Durham caught three passes for 58 yards. He also recovered an onside kick at the end to seal the victory.
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