Bears hold on for 26-24 win over Lions, hoping for Packers win
BY ADAM L. JAHNS email@example.com December 30, 2012 6:06PM
Detroit Lions cornerback Ron Bartell (41) prepares to hit Chicago Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (17) during the second quarter of an NFL football game at Ford Field in Detroit, Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012. Jeffery did not maintain control of the ball. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)
DETROIT – The Bears did their part.
Now, they just need the Green Bay Packer to do theirs.
With a 26-24 victory against the Detroit Lions on Sunday, the Bears kept their playoff hopes alive. If the Packers defeat the Minnesota Vikings later Sunday afternoon, they’re in the postseason for the first time since 2010 and the second time since 2007.
“We’ll keep our fingers crossed,” coach Lovie Smith said after the game. “And, ‘Go Pack Go.’ ”
The Bears finished the regular season with a solid 10-6 record. As coach Lovie Smith said earlier, “Normally, that gets you in.” But losing five of their last eight games after a 7-1 start put the Bears in a precarious position and need of help. The Bears’ skid also has led to ample speculation about Smith’s job security.
What if the Vikings win and the Bears are eliminated?
“It would be a major disappointment,” said cornerback Tim Jennings, who recorded his ninth interception of the season Sunday. “We got off to a fast start and we took a slump. We put ourselves in this situation. So it would be a major disappointment if we don’t get into the playoffs. All we want is a chance to kind of redeem ourselves.”
“I don’t even want to think about it,” center Roberto Garza said.
The Bears left Detroit after the game and flew back to Chicago, but they planned to watch the game on the plane.
“We definitely wanted to be updated with what’s going on,” said receiver Earl Bennett, who had five catches for 109 yards and a touchdown against Detroit. “But we couldn’t worry about what was going on in the game after us. We just had to come here to get a win so we would have a chance to get into the playoffs. We did that.”
It wasn’t an easy win for the Bears. If it wasn’t for all the blunders by the 4-12 Lions – three fumbles, one interception, a handful of penalties and some dropped passes -- it might not have been one. The Bears’ offense struggled when handed good field position and settled for too many Olindo Mare field goals, while their defense allowed the Lions to work their way back into the game.
The Bears jumped out to a 20-3 lead with 1:54 left in the first half, but the Lions scored on back-to-back 80-yard drives to make a make-or-break game for the Bears even more interesting.
Leave it to the Lions to give the Bears back the momentum with a botched handoff between quarterback Matthew Stafford and running back Mikel Leshoure, which was recovered by Major Wright. Mare made 28- and 20-yard field goals to restore part of the Bears lead.
But the Lions never went away.
Buoyed by a personal foul by Briggs for a late hit on a sliding Stafford, the Lions scored on another 80-yard drive. Stafford threw a nine-yard touchdown pass to Brian Robiskie to make it 26-24.
In the end, that’s as close as the Lions would get. A key stop by the defense and huge scramble by Jay Cutler on third down led to the win.
The Bears started off with Cutler hitting Alshon Jeffery in stride for a 55-yard completion on their first play from scrimmage. But the drive stalled with a timeout, a short run, a false start and a fumble by Cutler.
The Lions took a 3-0 lead on Jason Hanson’s 44-yard field goal, but the Bears replied with Earl Bennett’s 60-yard touchdown reception on a swing pass. On the ensuing kickoff, the Lions’ Joique Bell fumbled when hit by Joe Anderson and Eric Weems recovered it. A few plays later, Mare made a 33-yard field goal.
The Bears extended their lead to 17-3 late in the second quarter on a one-yard scoring run by Matt Forte. It came after the Bears’ drive was extended because of pass interference on safety Don Carey.
The Bears only had the chance in the first place after Israel Idonije sacked and stripped Stafford and the ball was recovered by Julius Peppers. That came moments after Mare missed a 43-yard field goal wide right.
After Mare made a 33-yard field goal, the Lions cut into the Bears’ lead when Stafford found receiver Kris Durham for a 25-yard touchdown with 17 seconds left in the first half. Stafford connected with tight end Will Heller on a 10-yard touchdown with 6:31 remaining in the third quarter to make it 20-17.
“It was a huge win. We really needed that keep our playoff hopes alive,” defensive tackle Henry Melton said. “Now hopefully we get in there…. Hopefully, Green Bay can pull one out for us.”