Not that Rex Grossman needed to see how badly his Bears teammates hurt Sunday, but there was no avoiding the pain in his path off Soldier Field.
Running back Thomas Jones bent over to slap the ground twice. Wide receiver David Terrell clutched his facemask and shook his head. Other Bears offensive players just buried theirs.
Bracy Walker's interception in the end zone with 18 seconds left clinched Detroit's 20-16 victory in the season opener. A pat on the back from coach Lovie Smith on the sideline provided little consolation for a competitor as fierce as Grossman appears.
Beginning his first season as the starting quarterback in the City of Big Shoulders, Grossman opted to carry this loss on his.
"One boneheaded mistake cost us the game," Grossman said.
The play for which Grossman took responsibility came with 28 seconds left and the Bears facing third-and-goal from the Detroit 12. Out of the shotgun, Grossman rolled right to pull the coverage with him and planned to stop and throw to Terrell in the left corner.
Terrell, who had the most productive day of his career with five catches for 126 yards, had drawn double coverage. Grossman hesitated. He considered tucking the ball and running, but he knew the Bears had run out of timeouts and he didn't want to kill the clock.
"I should have thrown it away, but I didn't," Grossman said.
Instead, he danced in the pocket and floated a pass that Terrell had no chance of catching. Walker intercepted the ball and interfered with the Bears' plans to make Smith's head-coaching debut a success.
"I was trying to throw a jump-ball situation to where [Terrell] could only get it, and I threw a little short," Grossman said. "It's no fun, and I owe it to this team and these fans to never do anything like that again when we have the opportunity to win the game."
Smith and Grossman's teammates would say blaming himself was as far off as the quarterback's accuracy had been all day.
"If anybody's going to take responsibility for the loss, it's me," Smith said. "Rex is one of our captains, and when times are bad, they step up and take a lot of the blame. But we'll take blame as a team."
Especially when so many other mistakes and missed opportunities led to the Bears losing one of the most winnable games on their schedule.
The Lions, who ended their NFL-record 24-game road losing streak, played most of the game without two of their best players after wide receiver Charles Rogers left after the first series with a broken collarbone and cornerback Dre' Bly departed later in the first quarter with a sprained knee ligament. But the Bears never took advantage, blowing a chance to break the game open early in the third quarter.
They had taken a 7-3 lead at halftime thanks to a stingy defense and a short passing attack that picked its spots. The formula looked so familiar early that the only real proof that Dick Jauron had ever left town was that he was calling defenses for the Lions on the sidelines.
But a little razzle-dazzle on the first punt return of the third quarter reminded the crowd of 57,897 that indeed a new era of Bears football had begun. Justin Gage took a reverse handoff from R.W. McQuarters and began loping untouched 56 yards down the sideline. But, inexplicably, Gage tripped over his own feet at the Detroit 16.
Three unsuccessful running plays later, Paul Edinger's 27-yard field-goal attempt was blocked by Lions defensive tackle Shaun Rogers, who penetrated over left guard Terrence Metcalf. Walker, who became the Lions' hero and earned a game ball, scooped up the ball and raced 92 yards for a touchdown using cutback moves that would make Barry Sanders proud.
Instead of going up 10-3, the Bears lost the lead, the momentum and their edge.
"If you look at one swing that really determined the outcome of the game, it was that," Smith said.
Other isolated breakdowns fit Smith's description of the "growth that we have to go through" in his first season.
Left tackle Qasim Mitchell, for instance, allowed defensive end James Hall to whiz by him on third-and-4 in the third quarter. Hall forced Grossman to fumble, Rogers recovered, and six plays later Detroit padded its 13-7 lead.
The Bears' defense deserved better but created only one turnovera Mike Green interceptionand failed to protect a 14-13 lead in the fourth quarter when Az Hakim sneaked behind Charles Tillman for a 4-yard TD pass.
The Bears' offense that coordinator Terry Shea brought with him from the Kansas City Chiefs proved that it looks a little different when running back Priest Holmes and tight end Tony Gonzalez aren't in it.
"There was inconsistency, yes," guard Ruben Brown said. "But at the same time, that's a very good line that's going to give a lot of people trouble."
Running back Thomas Jones carried 21 times for 67 yards and two touchdowns, but his average of 3.2 yards per carry was half his preseason mark.
Detroit's pass rush harried Grossman all afternoon, sacking him three times and knocking him down after throws more than the Bears would prefer. He finished 16 of 35 for 227 yards with two interceptions and immeasurable frustration.
Even so, when the Bears got the ball back with 1 minute 47 seconds left after the Lions wisely took a safety to make it 20-16, the Bears were right where they wanted to be
until the final interception.
"I like all the decisions we made at the end," Smith said. "We need to make a play there at the end. Next time, we'll close the deal."
Lions 20, Bears 16