DETROIT — The Bears had a chance to stay relevant, and passed.
They couldn’t stop passing, in fact — 48 times for Jay Cutler, mostly dinks and dunks and screens, in a 34-17 last shovel-of-dirt over the Bears’ postseason chances Thursday at Ford Field.
With a healthy respect, if not fear, of the Lions’ defensive line, the Bears ran the ball eight times, the fewest in the history of the franchise.
Matt Forte, the Bears’ Universally Accepted Best Player, carried five times for six yards. Forte — who called the offense’s struggles “real frustrating” — caught six passes for 52 yards, as the Bears tried to use quick throws as an extension of their running game.
“It worked early,” said Cutler, who was sacked three times, “and then we had to try to push the ball down the field.”
They trailed, 24-14 at halftime, having been outscored 21-0 in the second quarter, and ran the ball only once in the second half.
“We don’t care how, as long as we move the ball,” tight end Martellus Bennett said. “There were penalties. We shot ourselves in the foot a couple times early in the game and had some drives going.
Get a hold there, a couple holdings, different penalties on offense that really set us back and put us behind the chains.
“I mean, what do you call on third-and-20 and third-and-17?”
Cutler completed 31-of-48 passes for only 280 yards and two interceptions.
“It’s difficult on any quarterback to throw the ball that much, especially with a pass rush like this,” coach Marc Trestman said. “I though he did a good job standing in there. He did the best he could. We didn’t have enough to get it done.”
The Bears “didn’t have enough ammunition to stop them or continue drives,” Trestman said, which “starts with me.”
They hoped to use quick throws to get the Lions running sideline-to-sideline; Alshon Jeffery did just that, scoring on a 10-yard screen to give the Bears their first, first-quarter points in seven games.
“I just had to run through some arm tackles,” Jeffery said.
Up 7-3, defensive end Jared Allen demolished undrafted rookie left tackle Cornelius Lucas and sacked Matthew Stafford, who went 34-for-45 for 390 yards. Allen forced and recovered the fumble.
Two plays later, Jeffery scored on a 6-yard Jeffery to go ahead, 14-3 lead. They wouldn’t find the end zone again.
“I give you the same speech every time,” left tackle Jermon Bushrod said. “We had moments where we’d move it, and we’d get stalled and do what we had to do.”
The Lions scored three second-quarter touchdowns, two by Calvin Johnson, who grabbed 11 passes for 146 yards.
Running back Joique Bell scored on 1-yard runs in the second quarter and on the first play of the fourth, the latter giving the Lions a 31-17 lead. Glover Quin’s interception of Cutler led to Prater’s 40-yard field goal and a 34-17 lead.
“Our offense is what our offense is,” Bennett said, matter-of-factly. “There’s nothing more, nothing else. We are who we are. “