By Nate Johnson
Having watched the performances put up by the Bears in their meetings with the Arizona Cardinals and the Seattle Seahawks, likely few fans would have expected the team to come into Sunday’s game with the Detroit Lions with an opportunity to end the day with an even 3-3 record.
Comeback wins against the Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs made the outcome a possibility, though, and a two-yard fourth-quarter touchdown run by Matt Forte nearly made it a reality. However, in the end, conservative play calling late in the day held the Bears offense back and the Lions finally made it into the win column with a 37-34 overtime win at Ford Field.
While the offense was noticeably more robust with the return of wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, who caught eight passes for 147 yards and a touchdown in his first action since opening day, a pair of three-and-outs on their two overtime possessions will be the prevailing memory of the afternoon’s action. Robbie Gould had gotten the team into extra play with time expiring on a 29-yard field goal, but the Bears were unable to get their kicker into range before his Lions counterpart, Matt Prater, split the uprights for the victory.
The offense showed continued growth under first-year offensive coordinator Adam Gase, as quarterback Jay Cutler broke the 300-yard mark for the first time this season, throwing for 353 and the aforementioned touchdown to Jeffery while spreading the ball to seven different receivers. Running backs Matt Forte and Jeremy Langford chipped in with a touchdown apiece.
Despite a season-high in points, the Bears simply couldn’t put together the game-ending drive or stop that they needed to put away the previously winless Lions. Detroit overcame three turnovers primarily thanks to four touchdowns from Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford and a typically unstoppable performance from receiver Calvin Johnson, who pulled in one of the four scores.
“We need to get better at football,” right tackle Kyle Long told chicagobears.com. “There’s nobody that we’re preparing for necessarily. But we can self-scout and we can figure out where we’re struggling in terms of technique and assignment. We can really pound on those things. We took an opportunity [Tuesday] in individual [drills] as an offensive line to do some things that maybe we need some shoring up on. Having those reps is extremely valuable.”
Head coach John Fox says improvements in the red zone were needed for the Bears to avoid another stumble like Sunday.
“It’s a hard part of the field,” he said on the Bears website. “It’s harder to run because the field is short. It’s harder to pass because the field is short. It’s an area that I wish we could have executed better. It’s an area we’ll look at and work to improve on.”
Dropping to 2-4, Chicago will have a week off before returning to Soldier Field on November 1, their first home game in nearly a month. The bye week should allow left tackle Jermon Bushrod to make it back into action, as he nears a return from both a shoulder injury and a concussion that have held him out for three weeks.
On the other side of the infirmary, defensive end Ego Ferguson was placed on injured reserve due to a knee injury, setting back a line that had been one of the shining spots for the team. Veteran defensemen Shea McClellin (LB) and Antrel Rolle (S) continue to work through injuries, but hope to join Bushrod back in the lineup after the break.