DETROIT — It was all going so well.
Jared Allen was winning his battle against Lions undrafted free-agent rookie tackle Cornelius Lucas, and the Bears had Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson and Joique Bell under control from the outset.
They forced a three-and-out on the first series and held for a field goal on the second series. And after Allen motored past Lucas for a strip-sack and fumble recovery, the Bears’ offense needed only two plays for a touchdown and a 14-3 lead.
And then the Lions did something that threw the Bears totally off their game.
“They went to more little rhythm throws,” Allen said. “They started running short game, short game, short game — and then they would go over the top and high-low us a little bit.
“They started running shallower routes, hot routes, checking the ball down and got Matt into a rhythm. He’s a tough quarterback when he’s in a rhythm.”
The latest indictment of Mel Tucker and his defense was not that the Bears lost the momentum they had in the first quarter. It’s that once they lost it, they couldn’t get it back. When it was the Bears’ turn to adjust back, they came up empty.
“You know what? You’ve got to try to find ways,” Allen said. “You’ve got to bat balls down. Hope for a couple of drops — now it’s second-and-10, so the game changes. Someone’s got to make a play.
“That’s really it. So then you can try to get pressure on him again and dictate. In the first quarter, we were able to dictate the pace to them. In the second quarter, they kind of took it back.”
Oh, did they ever. The Lions drove for touchdowns on their next three possessions to take a 24-14 lead at halftime. The Bears seemed to put up less resistance on each one: The Lions drove 78 yards on nine plays and 86 yards on 10 plays, and after getting the ball at their 36 with 1:45 left in the half, they needed only five plays to drive 64 yards, with Stafford’s six-yard touchdown pass to Johnson giving the Lions the 10-point lead.
Once the Lions figured out what the Bears were doing, the Bears were always a hair too late to respond. Allen and Willie Young nearly had Stafford sacked on the third play of the first touchdown drive, but Stafford shoveled a pass to Bell for a six-yard gain.
The Bears had a chance to hold for a field goal on that drive, but on third-and-seven from the Bears’ 25, rookie safety Brock Vereen and rookie cornerback Kyle Fuller reacted late in coverage, and Stafford threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Johnson.
The Bears were the Bears again Thursday. Too little, too late. Unable to take advantage of their own momentum. And they couldn’t catch a break. They trailed 24-17 in the third quarter when Demontre Hurst just missed an interception on a third-down play that turned into a six-yard completion for a first down. And when Young sacked Stafford for a nine-yard loss with a high hit, he was called for roughing the passer. Instead of third-and-19 at the Bears’ 27, it was first-and-goal at the 9. The Lions scored two plays later for a 31-17 lead.
“It’s what every defensive player would have done in that situation,” Young said. “Those plays need to start being challenged — especially when it’s questionable and it can dictate the outcome of the game. Plays like that are costing teams this year.”
But it was more than a bad break that beat the Bears.
“If anything beat us, we beat ourselves,” Young said. “But, obviously, [the Lions] got some stuff going on over there. The best team won.”