The Detroit Lions keep getting closer and closer to a win. But it seems every time they have a win within reach, they have some sort of self-inflicted wound that spoils their chances.
On Thursday afternoon, it was penalties. The Lions’ offense was called for holding after holding, which ended at least two drives. And then when Detroit needed a critical stop, the Lions coaching staff made a huge blunder, calling back-to-back timeouts, which not only cost the Lions a much-needed timeout, but it resulted in a 5-yard penalty, giving the Chicago Bears an opportunity to convert and easy third down. As a result, the Bears ran the rest of the clock and kicked a chip-shot 28-yard field goal for the 16-14 win and the series sweep over Detroit.
Here’s how it happened.
The Lions won the toss and deferred, giving Andy Dalton and the Bears the first crack at points. The Lions’ pass defense got off to a strong start as pass breakups by Alex Anzalone and Will Harris on the first drive forced a quick Bears punt.
The Lions’ offense got off to… an aggressive start? Goff connected with D’Andre Swift on three consecutive passes to start the game, but then he went downfield with his old pal Josh Reynolds. First, Goff found Reynolds for a 16-yard out route. A few plays later, then, he connected with Reynolds for a 39-yard touchdown and an early 7-0 Lions lead.
The Bears were able to come up with a couple of first downs, but the Lions defense forced a checkdown on a third-and-10 and Alex Anzalone made the tackle short of the sticks, forcing another Chicago punt. Jerry Jacobs ran into Kalif Raymond on the punt return, allowing the ball to bounce to Detroit’s 4-yard line before being downed.
Backed up in their own zone, the Lions tried to run out of the shadow of their own endzone but failed to pick up a single yard on first and second down. Facing a third-and-12, the Lions opted to play it safe and run the ball and punt. Jack Fox booted a 70-yard punt with some help from Bobby Price’s helmet, and a holding penalty pushed the Bears back even further.
But Dalton would heat up and lead the Bears on an impressive drive. On third-and-2, Dalton found Jakeem Grant, who shook Amani Oruwariye for a 12-yard gain. The next play, Dalton found Darnell Mooney, who had a step on Tracy Walker, for a 33-yard gain. Chicago was in prime position to score as the first quarter came to an end.
Jimmy Graham opened the second quarter with a nice grab to get the Bears to the 12-yard line, but Detroit’s defense would hold strong from there. Oruwariye had nice coverage on both second and third down to force incompletions, and he nearly had an interception on third down but dropped it. Chicago settled for a chip-shot field goal to make it 7-3 Lions.
Goff and the offense went back to work after a decent kick return from Godwin Igwebuike. Detroit was able to work their way to the Bears’ 30-yard line, but started going in reverse. Back-to-back-to-back penalties—a false start on T.J. Hockenson, a hold on Evan Brown, and another false start on Jamaal Williams—sent them back to midfield. From there, they packed in the drive and punted back to Chicago. To make matters worse, Swift suffered a shoulder injury and went to the locker room to be further evaluated.
All it took was two plays for the Bears to make Detroit play for the self-inflicted wounds. On the first, Dalton found Mooney deep for a 52-yard play.
Then Dalton went up the seem to find a wide open Jimmy Graham for the score. 10-7 Bears.
Detroit had another promising drive going, but Goff was sacked and fumbled the ball upon review, giving Chicago the ball at the Lions’ 39-yard line up three with 2:23 left.
But just as the Bears looked like they were going to add to the lead, Oruwariye came up with the Lions’ best defensive play of the season. Oruwariye jumped in front of Damiere Byrd for an impressive interception in the end zone.
Unfortunately, two holding penalties immediately destroyed Detroit’s two-minute drill, and, instead, the Bears had yet another opportunity, with 1:09 left, to add to their lead before the half. Chicago would pick up a couple of first downs, then boot a 43-yard field goal to make their lead 13-7 Bears at halftime.
Detroit’s offense got the ball first but didn’t hold onto it long. After two runs, the Lions ran a swing pass to Kalif Raymond, and the receiver failed to pick up a yard on third-and-4. A poor punt from Jack Fox gave the Bears field position on their own 43-yard line.
Chicago moved into field goal range with a 19-yard pass to Byrd on a third-and-12, but the drive stalled after a holding penalty. Cairo Santos attempted a 53-yard kick but came up a few yards short. But the Lions’ offense remained in neutral, going three-and-out despite the good field position.
Alex Anzalone continued a solid game by making a third-down stop, meeting David Montgomery at the line of scrimmage on a third-and-2.
Finally, the Lions’ offense got some momentum building. A 17-yard pass to Raymond was aided by another 15 yards via a roughness penalty on Chicago. Detroit added 8 yards via T.J. Hockenson and another 11 on a run from Godwin Igwebuike. Amon-Ra St. Brown picked up a clutch 12 yards on a third-and-10 to set Detroit up in the red zone. On the next play, Goff found Hockenson against for a big 17-yard touchdown on a nice post route. 14-13 Lions.
Detroit’s defense got another stop after rookie Levi Onwuzurike forced Chicago into a third-and-long with his first sack of the year. Dalton’s scramble on third down was 9 yards short of the sticks and the Bears punted from midfield again.
Detroit’s subsequent drive got off to a nice start with a 15-yard pass to Reynolds and a 19-yard run from Williams. But then the penalties started coming out again. For the second time this game, the Lions committed three straight penalties on offense: a false start on center Evan Brown, a holding on Tommy Kraemer, and a holding on Taylor Decker. Detroit couldn’t recover from (ANOTHER) second-and-32 and punted it away.
The Bears responded with a long, methodical drive that drained all the remaining 8:30 on the clock. Detroit needed a third-down stop to prevent Chicago from running the rest of the clock, but the Lions coaches called timeouts on back-to-back plays, which is not allowed by NFL rules. It resulted in a 5-yard penalty, which turned into an easy third-down conversion for Chicago. Dalton kneeled the remaining clock out and Santos was true from 28 yards, making it a 16-14 Bears final.