Chicago Bears beat Detroit Lions 48-24

Jay Cutler dives in for a first quarter touchdown. (AP / Nam Y. Huh)

The Bears were outgained and shown up by a rookie hotshot quarterback. Their offense was atrocious on third downs, and they lost their two best wide receivers to injuries in the course of the game.

But this one will feel good, really good, for every minute of two weeks.

Winning 48-24 covers up a lot of sins -- even if the opponent is the Lions.

"To win three straight, win a division game at home and go into a bye it's huge for us," said Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, who threw for only 141 yards but managed the game well.

The Bears followed their typical blueprint. Bumble around in the initial stages of the game, let the opponent get a little puffy-chested and then cut their hearts out in the second half.

The score was tied at 21 at the half, but that was hardly a cause for concern.

The Bears have become a cold-blooded team after halftime, ready to pounce with takeaways, crippling special teams returns and long gainers that drain the spirit and wind from opponents.

Some shrewd coaching decisions paved the way Sunday.

The first decision was by special teams coach Dave Toub, who noticed in the first half that the Lions had a tendency to overpursue on kick returns. So at halftime he told kickoff return man Johnny Knox he was going to break one.

On the opening kickoff of the second half, Toub called for a kick return in which everybody starts out blocking left. Then Knox was supposed to bounce the return to the right.

It could not have worked better, as Knox went 102 yards for a touchdown and a lead the Bears never lost.

The second shrewd coaching decision was Lovie Smith's call to have Charles Tillman follow Calvin Johnson in the second half. In the first half, the Lions receiver had five catches for 119 yards, but in the second half he had only three catches for 14 yards.

"The D-line made my job easy," Tillman said of the unit that had four sacks, three in the second half. "They had tremendous pass rush. I'm nothing without them. Coach (Rod) Marinelli has done a great job of getting these guys to be the best rush men I've ever seen."

The influence of Marinelli, whom Smith hired after Marinelli was fired by the Lions last winter, was obvious.

Smith is a coach on a roll. In the second quarter, he gambled by taking points off the board. Smith could have declined a defensive offside penalty after a Robbie Gould field goal. But he accepted, giving back three points but getting the ball on the Detroit 1 on a fourth-and-1.

Cutler hooked up with tight end Greg Olsen for a 1-yard touchdown pass.

Both players wore pink cleats in support of breast cancer awareness. Almost every Bear wore pink gloves, and they wiped their sweat with pink towels and sweatbands. While there was nothing soft about their play, there were some elements that were very pretty.

With help from Knox and an outstanding special teams effort, the Bears' average starting point of drives was the Lions' 46, and the Lions' average starting point was the Lions' 18.

The defense contributed in that area as well, as Tommie Harris' interception on the Lions' first possession of the second quarter gave the Bears the ball on the Lions' 8, and Adewale Ogunleye's third-quarter fumble recovery after a strip by Israel Idonije gave the Bears the ball on the Lions' 19.