CHICAGO — Jay Cutler’s been seeing this all season, a rerun on an endless loop, and he’s not ready to change the channel.
Not when the defense is performing like this. And not when the wins keep piling up.
“Unbelievable,” Cutler said.
Actually, it’s the norm this season.
Cutler returned after bruising his ribs, and Brian Urlacher made a key fumble recovery to help the ChicagoBears beat the Detroit Lions 13-7 Monday night for their fourth straight win.
“Those guys are playing so well, flying to the ball, stopping the run,” Cutler said. “They’re tough against the pass, they’re tough down at the goal line. You can’t say enough about the way they’re coming together.”
It was certainly not an easy night for the NFC North leaders, particularly their quarterback, but they came away with the win after a week off and possibly buried Detroit (2-4) in the process despite getting a major scare along the way.
That happened in the second quarter when Cutler was sacked by Ndamukong Suh and wound up going to the locker room to have his ribs examined.
Cutler came back to start the second half and was 16 of 31 with 150 yards and a touchdown in the game, and although he said he was feeling “all right” afterward, he acknowledged he wasn’t at full strength during the game.
“But we had to fight through it,” he added.
They did just that, and with the defense locking down the Lions, the Bears (5-1) prevailed. It was a huge blow for last-place Detroit, a team many expected to contend for the division championship after making the playoffs last year for the first time in more than a decade.
“It’s tough,” Calvin Johnson said. “We had a great week of practice last week and it just didn’t translate. It just didn’t translate to the field today.”
Even when the Lions had chances, they blew them, turning the ball over four times. The biggest came early in the third quarter, when Joique Bell fumbled at the goal line with the Bears leading 13-0.
Urlacher recovered and Chicago hung on from there, sending Detroit to its fourth loss in five games.
Brandon Marshall caught six passes for 81 yards and scored a touchdown on Chicago’s first possession. Matt Forte ran for 96 yards, and with the defense doing its part again, Chicago never really was threatened in this one.
It was a rough night for the Lions, with Matthew Stafford going 28 of 46 for 261 yards after leading the late charge in last week’s win over Philadelphia. Johnson had trouble shaking the Bears’ Charles Tillman and finished with three catches for 34 yards. He dropped a deep pass over the middle on the game’s first possession even though he was wide open.
“Calvin is one of the best players in the league,” Bears coach Lovie Smith said. “It’s hard for Detroit to win games without him being productive. That’s why you need a guy like Charles Tillman that can match up on him. It made them go look at other ways to get the ball down field. That’s going to lead up to wins most of the time, when we can get that kind of effort out of Charles.”
The Lions lost receiver Nate Burleson for the remainder of the season to a broken right leg in the third quarter on a hit by Tim Jennings after a catch, another blow for a team that’s reeling again after pulling out a dramatic win.
“There is a lot of season left,” Stafford said. “We got a chance to play back home next week and play a tough Seattle team. It’s a short week for us but honestly I’m glad it’s a short week. I don’t want to be sitting around thinking about this one too much longer.”
There weren’t many scares for the Bears, with one big exception. They were leading 10-0 in the second quarter and had just taken over at their 26 when Cutler, who had his helmet ripped off on a hit by Suh after a run last year at Soldier Field, got driven to the turf by him on an 8-yard sack. He came up kneeling and holding his head as trainers tended to him, then ran to the sideline.
Jason Campbell came in for one play, but Cutler returned right after that and threw an incomplete pass on third down before Chicago punted. But after Julius Peppers recovered a fumble by Mikel Leshoure to stop aLions threat, Campbell was behind center while Cutler was having his ribs examined.
Marshall apparently took issue with the hit even though Smith and Cutler did not, posting on Twitter, “A Suh. What u did to Jay wasn’t cool. Great players don’t have to do that.”
Cutler, like Smith, thought it was clean. When he trotted onto the field to start the second half, some fans cheered.
They were really roaring moments later when Stefan Logan fumbled trying to catch Adam Podlesh’s punt. Zack Bowman recovered it for Chicago at the 27, and that led to a 21-yard field goal by Robbie Gould to make it 13-0.
The Lions lost Burleson after a 16-yard catch near midfield on the next possession but drove all the way to the 1 before Bell turned it over, keeping the shutout going. D.J. Moore extended it when he picked off Stafford near the goal line in the closing minutes. The Lions spoiled the shutout when Stafford connected with Ryan Broyles on a 12-yarder with 30 seconds left, but it was another big game from a defense that’s been dominating all season.
Notes: The Bears were in line for their first shutout since they beat Miami 16-0 on Nov. 18, 2010, until Broyles’ TD. … The Lions signed CB Justin Miller and released LB Doug Hogue before the game. … Detroit actually had more yards than Chicago — 340 to 296.
— Associated Press