Thursday, Apr 19, 2018
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Lions finally defuse Bears, refuse to lose

DETROIT - Historically, the Lions usually leave you with questions, an occasional belly laugh, or a slow, sorrowful shake of the head.

Yesterday, they had answers.

Detroit had three points through three quarters and then found a way to bury the defending NFC champion Chicago Bears 37-27 at Ford Field. Yes, that would be five touchdowns in one quarter in the event you're keeping score at home.

It was 13-3 Bears before the Lions scored on the first play of the fourth quarter on a short touchdown pass from Jon Kitna to Shaun McDonald. And then they scored again fewer than two minutes later when cornerback Keith Smith stepped in front of a Brian Griese pass - Smith could not have missed it had he tried - and took the pick 64 yards for a TD.

The Lions celebrated their lead by kicking off to Devin Hester. Three changes of direction, two broken tackles, one stiff arm, some incredible speed bursts and 97 yards later he was in the end zone, showing again why he is the NFL's most electrifying special teams player, and the Bears were back in the lead.

Here is where the Lions normally leave you somewhere between baffled and bemused.

But this time they went 80 yards in five plays for a touchdown. Then they produced one of their most impressive drives in eons, chewing up big chunks of yardage on the ground and going 62 yards in eight plays for another TD. And when the Bears got a late score to pull within three and everyone in the yard, knowing the Lions' history of heartbreak, half expected Detroit to botch the ensuing onside kick, Casey Fitzsimmons instead returned it 41 yards for a touchdown.

The two drives, said Kitna, were "the gut check of a football team. Good teams can do that. We're turning that corner, we really are."

Really? The Lions?

Give them credit. They took a shellacking last week in Philadelphia. If that had been a heavyweight fight - although it was a heavyweight short for that - the ref would have stopped it at halftime.

Yesterday's game, said coach Rod Marinelli, was a street fight.

"The game was probably like me, ugly," he said. "But what I loved about it was how we fought. We challenged our guys this week, that if it was a 15-rounder we had to go all 15. We went all the way. That's what I was happiest about. This is a tough town and this is going to be a tough football team."

Yesterday, that meant it was a team that had answers, definitive answers to every challenge.

Bears coach Lovie Smith made the move he absolutely had to if he had any expectations whatsoever of his team winning with offense. He benched Rex Grossman and elevated Griese to starting quarterback and wasn't shy about using him. The one-time Michigan star turned NFL journeyman completed 34 of 52 attempts for 286 yards and two touchdowns, but had three interceptions.

Smith, however, didn't have any answers for a Chicago defense that was missing four starters - linebacker Lance Briggs, safety Adam Archuletta, and both corners, Nathan Vasher and Charles Tillman.

The Lions did. Their 37 points were the most surrendered by the Bears since midway through the 2004 season when Indianapolis scored 41 points.

The Colts do that kind of thing. The Lions? Get serious.

But there it was, right up there on the scoreboard. Thirty-four points and all the answers every unit on one team can provide in one quarter.

"The players, they're taking ownership of this team," Marinelli said. "It's impressive."

It certainly was in the final 15 minutes yesterday.

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