Choosing not to run into what they clearly figured was a brick wall, coach Marc Trestman tried to direct the offense around the talented defensive line of the Lions that spearheads the No. 1 rushing defense in the NFL, allowing only 65.9 yards per game.
The Bears handed the ball off only seven times (quarterback Jay Cutler got a carry on a kneel down to end the second quarter) and running back Matt Forte had only five rushes for 6 yards. He got only one carry on first-and-10 in the game as the Bears put an emphasis on a high-percentage, short-range passing game.
Of Cutler's 48 pass attempts, 15 were screens. He completed 12 but they gained only 72 yards and after the fifth screen attempt, only one went for more than 7 yards. The Lions defensive backs were sure tacklers in the open field. Of the 48 attempts, 18 were thrown at or behind the line of scrimmage resulting in 87 yards. Cutler was 23 of 29 for 155 yards on passes that traveled in the air no more than 5 yards past the line of scrimmage. That is 5.3 yards per attempt and it makes it difficult to drive the length of the field.
That's where the Bears' biggest problem was. They got good field position to take a quick 14-3 lead as the offense marched 55 yards on a snappy drive for the game's opening touchdown and then took over on the Lions' 5-yard line after a Jared Allen sack/strip/recovery. Doing anything more was problematic. On passes that traveled in the air 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, Cutler was 5 of 15 for 87 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Where the Bears fell short was getting Forte only 11 touches and failing to take advantage of the weak spot in the defense — the secondary.
Grading key: Grades are between 0 and 10 with 0 being complete failure and 10 being perfect.
Throws off the back foot after a double clutch are bad ideas and that bit Cutler again when he lobbed a ball to Brandon Marshall that cornerback Darius Slay, who had tight coverage, deflected and safety Glover Quin intercepted. Nickel cornerback Cassius Vaughn nearly picked off another forced attempt for Marshall. When you pass on the running game, the $54 million quarterback has to deliver and he didn't.
Right guard Kyle Long hasn't been as good as he was a year ago though the moving parts around him probably play into that a little bit. But he had his best game of the season, doing fine work against Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. He played with tremendous power and leverage, and used his hands well. Right tackle Jordan Mills, returning after missing two games with a rib injury, got fooled by a spin move from Jason Jones. Michael Ola, now at left guard, had a little difficulty handling twists. Center Roberto Garza had a rough time in his run-ins with Suh and missed a block on linebacker DeAndre Levy on a draw in the third quarter.
Eight rushes is a franchise low for the Bears, so incomplete might be fairer. Forte missed a block on Ezekiel Ansah leading to a sack in the fourth quarter.
Alshon Jeffery played a pretty good game. He fought through a tackle attempt by James Ihedigbo to score on a screen pass and worked free from Quin to score on a crossing route. With the exception of Martellus Bennett in garbage time, he was the only player providing explosive plays. Marshall had two dropped passes and just six catches for 42 yards. He did have a nice block on Rashean Mathis on Jeffery's screen touchdown.
Bennett continued his knack for making the first defender miss, eluding linebacker Ashlee Palmer on a 12-yard gain on the game's opening drive. Bennett finished with 109 yards, just the second time he has topped 100 in his career, but 45 came on the final possession.
The front got off to a fast start making Matthew Stafford (34 of 45, 390 yards) uncomfortable, but that quickly turned. Allen beat left guard Rob Sims for his sack/strip/recovery. The Bears didn't get enough pressure, however, with the Lions starting undrafted rookie Cornelius Lucas at left tackle and LaAdrian Waddle, a 2013 undrafted rookie, at right tackle. Will Sutton continued to flash a little with some nice plays in the run game. His pass rush moves have yet to show. Stephen Paea made a terrific hustle play to tackle Theo Riddick from behind on a screen pass.
Like last week, defensive coordinator Mel Tucker frequently walked a linebacker to the line of scrimmage. That happened 20 times Thursday. The blitz wasn't very effective. There were 23 five-man pressures and Stafford was 16 of 22 for 238 yards and one touchdown with one sack. Jon Bostic was active in the run game but didn't sink properly on a 24-yard completion to Golden Tate on the touchdown before halftime. The linebackers rarely challenged passing lanes, leaving big windows for Stafford.
Rookie Kyle Fuller was put in a difficult position, going to the side Calvin Johnson (11 receptions, 146 yards) chose. The calls allowed the Lions wide receivers mostly free releases from the line of scrimmage and that put Fuller and Tim Jennings in tough spots.
Chris Conte's presence was missed badly after he left in the first quarter with an eye injury. Rookie Brock Vereen, who received playing time the previous three games replacing Ryan Mundy in the nickel, was soft. He pulled up on Johnson's 25-yard touchdown reception instead of trying to dislodge the ball. Coaches can live with aggressive rookie mistakes as long as they learn. Passive mistakes are more troubling. On a screen pass, Vereen was 4 yards deep in the end zone when Riddick caught the throw at the 17.
Pat O'Donnell enjoyed his finest game, landing three of his six punts inside the 20 with a 45.7-yard net. His strong leg was impressive and he had good direction. Senorise Perry had a good game in coverage with a tackle and an assist as well as a forced fumble but needed to be more aware he popped the ball loose. Danny McCray was solid in coverage also.