In the end, the Bears' scrappy effort wasn’t enough.
"It was really a day of missed opportunities," coach Marc Trestman said.
Settling for a field goal. Costly penalties. They were just part of the equation in Sunday’s 21-19 loss to Detroit at Soldier Field.
Gone is the Bears' share of first place in the NFC North, as they dropped to 5-4. Two of those losses are to Detroit.
Bears receiver Brandon Marshall, for one, really does not like the Lions (6-3), who lead the division.
"I’ve got a nasty taste in my mouth with these guys," he said. "These guys are difficult to deal with. Fortunately, we’ll have to wait a couple more weeks to see them in the playoffs."
That bad taste only gets worse when you consider the Lions hold the tiebreaker now.
"It always hurts a lot to lose, but I think there are things that we can take out of this game that are encouraging and we can see that we can be a really good team," said safety Chris Conte.
All eyes were on quarterback Jay Cutler as he returned from a groin injury, but it was an ankle injury that eventually forced him to leave the game late in the fourth quarter. (X-rays ruled out a break.)
"I didn't want to take him out unless he felt he couldn’t do the job," Trestman said. "He had, I thought, a very courageous performance throughout. I would not have wanted to have him in there if I thought, or our trainers thought, he could hurt himself any more."
Cutler was tough, but so was this loss. RedEye rewinds to the highs and lows of this roller coaster game:
Five plays into the game, Jay Cutler hits Brandon Marshall for a 32-yard touchdown, and the Bears are first on the scoreboard. Cutler went on to complete 21 of 40 passes for 250 yards. Groin injury? What groin injury?
"On that touchdown he threw to me, that was all him," Marshall said. "I wasn't even supposed to be there. He threw me open."
Detroit matched Marshall's score on the very next drive. Womp womp. Things didn't get much better from there in the first quarter. The worst was when Cutler was sacked by none other than Ndamukong Suh at the Bears 8-yard line on the third down.
Coach Trestman gets gutsy in the second quarter, going for it on fourth-and-1 in Lions territory. But unlike against Green Bay on Monday, this risk doesn't pay off.
"We obviously didn't get it done," Trestman said. "We didn't get it blocked properly."
Trestman's only saving grace: The Lions failed on their own fourth-down try later on.
Alshon Jeffery becomes Mr. Third Down, keeping a Bears drive alive more than once. He and Marshall both tallied more than 100 yards receiving Sunday.
All that work for nothing. Cutler throws an interception, his eighth this season. And then he hurt his left ankle right before the half. His ankle was taped but got worse from there.
"If anything, I thought coming into this I might aggravate my groin a little bit," Cutler said. "We'd have to fight through that. I never thought I would roll my ankle on the same side and have to fight through that, and that would ultimately be the one that would knock me out of this game."
Early in the third quarter, Detroit's Reggie Bush takes off for 39 yards before he's dragged down—by his face mask. Oops. Soon after, Calvin Johnson scores a TD. 14-7 Lions.
Marshall hauls in a 44-yard bomb, leading to a field goal. 14-10 Lions. And hey, it's Marshall's fourth straight 100-yard-receiving game.
Major Wright suffers an injury and later returns to the game. Cutler is playing but looks like he's in pain.
Bears safety Chris Conte snatches an interception and takes it 35 yards to the Lions' 9.
"[Lions QB Matthew Stafford] put the ball up and I just went up and got it," Conte said. "But I need to score on that, because I think we got a field goal out of that offensive drive."
Matt Forte's touchdown doesn't count because of a holding penalty. Then the double-whammy: Jeffery has a touchdown catch reversed by instant replay.
"I thought I had it, but at the end, I knew I had bobbled it," Jeffery said.
Marshall said it was the right call.
"Once we saw the replay, we put our heads down and said, 'OK, we'll kick the field goal and go on another drive,'" he said. 14-13 Lions.
Conte breaks up a Detroit pass in the end zone, and the Lions miss a field goal. Bears still have a chance with six minutes left.
So much for momentum. The Bears punt, and Johnson scores another TD. 21-13 Lions. That's when the Bears pull Cutler and put in Josh McCown.
"I knew Josh was ready to go and I just didn't want to get to the point where I was hurting us more than I was helping us," Cutler said.
McCown finds Marshall for an 11-yard touchdown with 47 seconds left. It's a two-point game.
The Bears get two shots at a two-point conversion—and fail on both. On the second try, which they got because of a Detroit penalty, Forte is stuffed well short of the goal line. Should McCown have thrown a pass?
"It is easy to say that now, after the fact," Forte said. "If we would have thrown the ball and missed it, it would have been, 'Should we have run it?'"
.Copyright © 2015, RedEye