12:56 AM EDT, October 23, 2012
I can't describe how spectacular the Bears defense was in nearly shutting out the Lions. I don't know if anybody can. But running down that unit's heroics Monday night should be stunning enough.
In the first quarter, with the Lions third-and-1 at their 23, the Bears pressured Matthew Stafford into turfing a pass. Not an easy slant anywhere the way the Bears always seem to give up.
Nope, check that: the way the Bears used to give up.
In the second quarter, Lance Briggs continued his star turn of a season. With the Lions third-and-2 at their 45, Briggs stripped Nate Burleson before he could gain complete possession for a first down near midfield.
With two minutes to go in the first half and the Bears up 10-0, Briggs stripped Mikel Leshoure at the Bears' 17 with Julius Peppers recovering the fumble.
By the end of the first half, the Lions' drive chart read three plays, four plays, three, three, three, three and eight, with that last drive ending in the Leshoure fumble. The Bears were doing a job on one of the most dangerous offenses in the league.
Oh, and whatever happened to Calvin Johnson?
Charles Tillman happened, that's what.
Johnson had no catches in the first half. He finished with just three and only 34 yards. Most importantly, Tillman kept Johnson out of the end zone during a critical sequence in the third quarter.
Detroit was about to cut the Bears' lead to 13-7 in the second half after driving 79 yards down to the 1. On first-and-goal, Stafford lobbed a fade to Johnson in the right corner of the end zone, but Tillman read Johnson’s reaction and slapped the ball out of the big receiver’s hands.
How big was that play? This big:
On second-and-goal, Lions tailback Joique Bell tried to dive over the goal line, but Henry Melton pounded him -- absolutely pounded him in the midsection -- and jarred the ball loose. Brian Urlacher recovered at the goal line and ran it out to the 5. At this point, only Detroit's third-string running back hadn’t fumbled in the red zone.
With a hurting Jay Cutler unable to improve the lead, the defense was forced to snuff the another long Lions drive again, something it suddenly looked incapable of doing. The Bears' prevent defense or whatever they call it allowed the Lions to eat up big chunks of yards late in the fourth quarter. The Bears went away from the pressure and tough coverage that had stymied the Lions all game. The way the Bears protect a lead can be the most frustrating thing.
But the way they play in the red zone is one of the most spectacular.
The Lions had first-and-goal at the Bears; 6, picking up three yards. Second down, Major Wright nearly picked off Stafford. Third down, Stafford overthrew Johnson.
On the Lions' fourth shot inside the 10, Melton and Peppers harassed Stafford out of the pocket and into an interception by D.J. Moore, giving the Bears three red-zone takeaways. Three, do you hear me?
The Lions scored a meaningless touchdown in the final minute thanks to more of that prevent defense, but the Bears defense had answered every question.
Except why it didn't score.
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