As Charles Tillman raced past Matthew Stafford, the Lions quarterback turned to no one in particular and threw up his arms in bewilderment.
Tillman was on the way to the end zone with a 44-yard interception return, the second pick returned for a score at the start of the third quarter that turned a rout into a laugher. The Bears cornerback had tied up Calvin Johnson at the line of scrimmage before peeling off to snare the pass, moments after safety Major Wright had scored his first NFL touchdown on a 24-yard return.
That's the kind of Sunday afternoon it was for Stafford at Soldier Field, which has been a house of horrors for the third-year pro. He suffered a dislocated kneecap when Bears defensive end Adewale Ogunleye twisted him down during his rookie season. Julius Peppers' hit in the season opener last year separated Stafford's throwing shoulder.
Stafford escaped without injury this time, but the Bears pounded the Lions 37-13. The teams are now tied at 6-3 in the NFC North behind the undefeated Packers. They're the only non-division leaders in the conference with six victories, setting up what could be an interesting battle for the top wild-card spot.
It turned nasty before it was over, and Bears cornerback D.J. Moore was ejected early in the fourth quarter at the end of an interception return by Tim Jennings — the third of four picks for Stafford, who played with a fractured index finger on his throwing hand. Stafford dragged Moore down by the back of his helmet, and after the play Moore took a shot at Stafford on the ground, sparking a melee. Combine that with seven personal-foul penalties, and the stage is set for this to become quite a rivalry.
"It wasn't clean and it wasn't quiet," Bears quarterback Jay Cutler said.
Cutler had his own beefs. Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh ripped off his helmet from the back in the second quarter. There was no penalty. Tackle Nick Fairley was called for roughing the passer when he drove Cutler into the turf in the end zone long after the ball was out.
"Crossed the line?" Bears coach Lovie Smith said when asked about Cutler's helmet going flying. "It's safe to say you shouldn't do that. I'll leave it at that."
There was plenty of focus on the mini brawl after Moore leveled Stafford. Moore admitted he was wrong but said, "When you go toward my livelihood and you're grabbing my neck and it seems like you are trying to hurt me, you just can't let that go."
Said the Lions' Johnson: "You can't hit our quarterback and expect us not to come back at you."
The Lions, coming off their open date, had not lost on the road this season, largely because they'd turned the ball over only twice in four games. The Bears changed that in a dramatic way with six takeaways.
The Bears led 10-0 after recovering fumbles on the first two Lions possessions and 20-6 at halftime after Devin Hester scored on an 82-yard punt return, the 17th return score of his career. This was the third time this season the Bears scored on offense, defense and special teams.
Left guard Chris Williams is expected to miss the remainder of the season after undergoing emergency wrist surgery Sunday night. That will force another juggling of the offensive line with Edwin Williams replacing him.
Stafford blamed the wind — 22 mph at kickoff — more than the glove he wore to protect his finger for completing only 33 of 63 passes for 329 yards. It was the second-most attempts by an opposing quarterback against the Bears.
The Bears — who now embark on a stretch of four consecutive games versus AFC West opponents, starting Sunday against the Chargers — were opportunistic early on offense, but that was about it. Matt Forte was limited to 64 yards on 18 carries, with 40 coming on one burst, as the Lions schemed to take away the edges. Cutler completed 9 of 19 passes for 123 yards — 81 of them to Earl Bennett.
When you get a complete effort on defense and 21 points on interception and punt returns, it's easy to coast to the finish, even in an edgy affair.
The Bears had not lost to the Lions since 2007 before the Oct. 10 setback at Ford Field. That was part of the motivation coming into this one.
"Whatever point they were trying to make, I guess they made it," Lions defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch said. "Because they beat us pretty soundly."