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Veteran defense carries Bears past Lions

By Ira Miller, The Sports Xchange
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CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bears' defense keeps proving that it's not too old to master a ball-hawking style.

Chicago forced six fumbles by Detroit and had four takeaways, three of them in the red zone, in a deceivingly close 13-7 victory over the Lions on Monday.

The Bears shut down a Detroit offense that came into the game ranked second in the NFL in total yardage per game.

"Unbelievable," Bears quarterback Jay Cutler said.

"We moved the ball into the red zone four times. We scored once. It's tough," Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford said.

Chicago improved to 5-1, tops in the NFC North, while last-place Detroit fell to 2-4.

"It's a step in the right direction," said Chicago coach Lovie Smith, a master of understatement. "Talk to any of our defensive players. It's not a good effort unless you're taking the ball away."

Chicago now has 21 takeaways in six games.

"We practice (takeaways) every day," said cornerback D.J. Moore, who had a fourth-quarter interception. "It gets contagious. You have Lance (Briggs) and (Brian) Urlacher and all those guys doing it in practice, practicing stripping and getting takeaways. It's just contagious."

The new-look offense was on display the first time the Bears had the ball, as they moved 59 yards in six plays, the big one a 39-yard burst off tackle by running back Matt Forte. Cutler threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Marshall.

Otherwise, the game was almost all about the Bears' defense, which was ranked fourth in the NFL going into the game.

Five of Detroit's first six possessions were three-and-outs. Calvin Johnson, the Lions' star receiver, was held in check all night by cornerback Charles Tillman. Johnson did not catch a pass until 6:10 remained in the third quarter, and he finished with three catches for 34 yards, well below his average of seven catches and 111.6 yards in the season's first five games.

Age?

Tillman is 31.

Johnson got wide open once, in the first quarter, but dropped an on-target pass from a scrambling Stafford. Ten more passes were aimed Johnson's way.

"Calvin is one of the best players in the league," Smith said. "It's hard for Detroit to win games without him being productive."

Urlacher, who recovered a fumble by running back Joique Bell after the Lions had a first-and-goal at the Chicago 1-yard line in the second quarter, is 34 years old and coming off knee problems.

Another promising Detroit thrust in the third quarter died when Briggs forced a fumble by running back Mikel Leshoure, and defensive end Julius Peppers recovered the ball. Briggs is 31, Peppers 32.

"Got to give them credit," Stafford said. "You know, there's some plays they made out there and we left out there. Everybody's included in that. Margins in the NFL are too slim to leave out there. We just have to make those plays."

The Bears took a 10-0 lead late in the first quarter on a 39-yard field goal by Robbie Gould, set up by a 24-yard Cutler scramble. Gould tacked on a 21-yarder in the third quarter.

The Lions finally scored with 30 seconds remaining on a 12-yard pass from Stafford to rookie wideout Ryan Broyles.

Chicago got a big scare in the second quarter when Cutler was thrown to the ground on an 8-yard sack by Ndamukong Suh, who had the quarterback by the left arm and jammed a forearm into his neck. Cutler missed just one play, came back in, left again shortly before halftime. He returned to play the second half after treatment in the locker room. He was diagnosed with bruised ribs.

"Jay definitely gave us an emotional lift with his toughness," Marshall said.

"I thought I was gone when he got hold of me," Cutler said. "From that point, I knew it wasn't going to end well."

For the Bears, however, it ended well enough.

NOTES: Detroit receiver Nate Burleson suffered a broken right leg in the third quarter when he was tackled after a catch. He is lost for the season. ... Cutler moved into fourth place in passing yardage in Bears history, trailing Sid Luckman, Jim Harbaugh and Jim McMahon. ... Chicago has won eight of its last nine games against Detroit. ... This was the Bears' third consecutive home game against a quarterback who was the first player chosen in the draft, and they have won all three, previously defeating the Indianapolis Colts' Andrew Luck and the St. Louis Rams' Sam Bradford. They face a fourth No. 1, the Carolina Panthers' Cam Newton, on Sunday in their next game.

Copyright (C) 2012 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.

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