DETROIT—Jay Cutler and the Bears held on late against turnover-prone Detroit.Then, the waiting began.But Minnesota beat Green Bay which eliminated the Bears for the fifth time in six years.Cutler threw for 257 yards and a touchdown and helped seal the game with a late scramble — with a 26-24 win over the Lions on Sunday.The Bears (10-6) needed a Minnesota loss to Green Bay to reach the postseason.They didn’t get it. The win Bears eliminated the defending champion New York Giants from the playoff picture.
“I don’t usually say this, but ‘Go Pack Go,”‘ Cutler said.It didn’t help.
Minnesota played Green Bay started as part of the later session of Sunday afternoon games. There were some quiet groans in the Bears locker room after the Vikings scored an early touchdown on TV.The Lions (4-12) lost their last eight games and turned the ball over four times in the finale. Calvin Johnson fell short in his attempt to become the first player with 2,000 yards receiving in a season.Detroit trailed 20-3 late in the first half but pulled within two in the fourth quarter and had the ball at its own 9-yard line before a three-and-out forced a punt.The Bears ran out the last 3:40, with Cutler’s 19-yard run on third down keeping the drive going.
“We did what we needed to do. The rest is out of our control,” coach Lovie Smith said. “All we can do now is hold our breath and watch.”
Johnson, who broke Jerry Rice’s record of 1,848 yards receiving the previous weekend, finished at 1,964 after catching five passes for 72 yards.
“It’s hard to shut down Calvin Johnson, but we just put as many guys as we possibly could on him,” Smith said. “We doubled him a lot, and we were always rolling extra guys at him. We didn’t want to get anything deep; we wanted him to earn everything he got underneath.”
Detroit’s Matthew Stafford went 24 of 42 for 272 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. He finished the season with an NFL-record 727 pass attempts, surpassing Drew Bledsoe’s mark of 691 from 1994.Stafford fell short of a second consecutive 5,000-yard season, finishing at 4,967 through the air.The Lions scored two straight touchdowns to make it 20-17 in the third quarter, but the Bears, who came into the game with a league-high 40 takeaways, forced another turnover.Stafford’s fumble gave the Bears the ball at the Detroit 13. It was the fourth time the Bears started a drive inside the Detroit 25, and they ended up kicking a field goal.Olindo Mare added another field goal, a 20-yarder with 10:47 left in the fourth, to make it 26-17. Stafford’s 9-yard touchdown pass to Brian Robiskie pulled Detroit closer, but it wasn’t enough.Cutler threw a 55-yard pass to Alshon Jeffery to the Detroit 27 on the Bears first play from scrimmage, delighting the many Beare fans in attendance at Ford Field. But that drive stalled, and the Bears actually had to punt after Cutler fumbled on third down and the ball was recovered back at midfield.After the Lions kicked a field goal, the Bears struck back when Cutler swung a pass out to Earl Bennett, who made the catch behind the line of scrimmage, got a block and outran the defense for a surprisingly easy 60-yard touchdown.Joique Bell fumbled away the ensuing kickoff, and the Bears kicked a field goal. In the second quarter, Stafford fumbled deep in his own territory. Julius Peppers recovered, and his short return gave the Bears the ball at the 10.Matt Forte scored on a 1-yard run to make it 17-3.The Lions weren’t done giving the ball away. Tim Jennings picked off Stafford’s overthrown pass, and his 31-yard return to the Detroit 23 set up another field goal.Stafford’s 25-yard scoring pass to Kris Durham with 12 seconds left in the half made it 20-10, and he threw a 10-yarder in the third to Will Heller.
NOTES—Matt Spaeth left the game with a concussion…..The Bears were without Brian Urlacher (hamstring). He hasn’t played since Dec. 2.