DETROIT -- Coach Lovie Smith didn't have to say much at halftime Sunday because the Bears' defense knew how poorly it had played in the first half.
The result was a 17-14 lead for the 2-win home team, punctuated by a putrid performance by a Bears defense that came in No. 2 in the NFL in points allowed and No. 4 in yards allowed but was gashed for 253 yards in the first half.
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Not exactly what you'd expect from a team that has been talking playoffs, and it left Smith visibly upset.
But in the second half it was a different story as the Bears rallied in the fourth quarter for the third time this season to escape Ford Field with a 24-20 victory over the Lions that lifted them to 9-3 and maintained their 1-game lead over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC North.
The Lions dropped to 2-10, and although they're vastly more competitive than they were the past two years, a loss by the Bears would have been tough to handle.
"Nobody wants to lose to the Lions," cornerback D.J. Moore said. "Geez, Louise."
Especially when they're starting third-string quarterback Drew Stanton for the first time this year. Smith's halftime language was slightly stronger than Moore's, although he doesn't resort to screaming and swearing.
"Of course he was (peeved)," defensive end Israel Idonije said. "He's a defensive guy. Did he raise his voice a little bit? Of course. He wasn't happy. He knows how good we are, so to see us play down to that level, it had him fired up."
The Lions' 2-play, 91-yard drive near the end of the first half demonstrated how poorly the Bears' defense played in the first 30 minutes.
On the first play, Jahvid Best ran into a pile at the line of scrimmage and appeared to be stopped for no gain. But he bounced outside and found the sideline wide open, scampering 45 yards before he was pushed out of bounds by Danieal Manning.
On the next play, 6-foot-5, 236-pound wide receiver Calvin Johnson beat a jam at the line of scrimmage by 5-8, 183-pound cornerback D.J. Moore, caught a sideline pass before safety Chris Harris could get over and then traversed the final 12 yards after stiff-arming Jennings to the ground.
Best's run was the longest of the year allowed by the Bears, and Johnson's reception was the second-longest against the Bears.
"Upset? Yeah, you could say that," Smith said. "We weren't happy about what was happening. It's hard to stomach missed tackles on critical plays, letting a team go over 90 yards in two plays."
Just the visual image of Smith minutes later in the locker room was enough to let the defense know it wasn't getting the job done.
"He had steam coming out his head, so he was pretty upset," Moore said. "It got to us. We were angry, too. So we came out the second half and got it done."
Moore was a key performer at crunchtime, breaking up a fourth-and-1 pass play in Bears territory early in the fourth quarter that set up their go-ahead TD and then sharing a sack with middle linebacker Brian Urlacher on the Lions' next possession to preserve the lead.
Urlacher played one of his better games in recent memory with a game-high 17 tackles, more than twice as many as anyone else, according to the press box statistics.
"Not one guy's going to do it," Urlacher said. "I was just trying to do my job. We had some busts (in the first half), and they had some long plays. Those running backs are pretty fast, but we made a couple plays at the end.
"We played better in the second half. We just didn't tackle the first half; we didn't read our keys, and we didn't make plays. The second half we did what we do: we got after the quarterback, we stopped the run, and we got to the football."
The defense allowed the Lions just 49 yards on 23 plays after halftime, including 24 rushing yards on 11 attempts. Stanton completed 7 of 10 second-half passes but for just 34 yards, and he was sacked twice for minus-10 yards.
"We challenged the guys to play the way we're capable of playing," Smith said. "They did that."
The Bears' offensive line took a step back, allowing 4 sacks, but quarterback Jay Cutler still was able to post a 117.0 passer rating, his third-best mark of the season.
Despite almost constant pressure, Cutler completed all 10 of his second-half passes for 104 yards, including the 7-yard, go-ahead touchdown flip to tight end Brandon Manumaleuna with 8:39 remaining.
He finished 21 of 26 for 234 yards without an interception.
After the Lions had increased their lead to 20-14 on Dave Rayner's 25-yard field goal early in the third quarter, Robbie Gould got the Bears back within 3 on a career-best, 54-yard field goal with 2:40 left in the third quarter.
Follow Bob LeGere's Bears reports via Twitter@BobLeGere. Check out his blog, Bear Essentials, at dailyherald.com
How they scored:
Lions 7, Bears 0
Score: Drew Stanton, 3-yard run; Dave Rayner kick; 6:36 left in first quarter.
Drive: 7 plays, 38 yards; 2:25 time of possession.
The play: A sack of Jay Cutler forced a punt from deep in the Bears' zone and Stefan Logan's 19-yard return set the Lions up at the Bears' 38.
Fact: The Lions came into the game leading the NFL in TD percentage in the red zone.
Bears 7, Lions 7
Score: Chester Taylor, 1-yard run; Robbie Gould kick; three seconds left in first quarter.
Drive: 13 plays, 76 yards; 6:33 time of possession.
The play: Johnny Knox was interfered with in the end zone, setting up the Bears with first-and-goal from the 1-yard line.
Fact: This was the Earl Bennett drive. The Bears receiver caught 3 passes all for first downs for 36 yards.
Lions 10, Bears 7
Score: Rayner, 50-yard field goal; 9:31 left in second quarter.
Drive: 10 plays, 39 yards; 5:32 time of possession.
The play: With the Lions at their own 43, Logan sprinted for 17 yards to the Bears' 40.
Fact: Rayner had been out of the league since 2008 before replacing the injured Jason Hanson.
Bears 14, Lions 10
Score: Matt Forte, 14-yard run; Gould kick; 4:40 left in second quarter.
Drive: 8 plays, 83 yards, 4:51 time of possession.
The play: Bennett set things up with a 33-yard catch and run in which it took six Lions to bring him down.
Fact: It was Forte's fifth rushing TD of the season.
Lions 17, Bears 14
Score: Calvin Johnson, 46-yard pass from Drew Stanton; Rayner kick; 34 seconds left in second quarter.
Drive: 2 plays, 91 yards; 19 seconds time of possession.
The play: After looking like he was going to be stopped near the line of scrimmage, Jahvid Best scooted around end for a 45-yard gain to the Bears' 46 to set up Johnson's heroics.
Fact: Best's run was the longest from scrimmage allowed by the Bears' defense this season.
Lions 20, Bears 14
Score: Rayner, 25-yard field goal; 12:38 left in the third quarter.
Drive: 4 plays, 2 yards; 1:32 time of possession.
The play: Cutler fumbled on the second play from scrimmage and the Lions recovered on the Bears' 9.
Fact: Cutler's fumble was the only turnover of the game.
Lions 20, Bears 17
Score: Gould, 54-yard field goal; 2:40 left in third quarter.
The play: Only Lions punter Nick Harris stood between Devin Hester and another TD return. As it was, Hester returned it for 30 yards.
Fact: Gould's 54-yarder was a career high. He is 3-for-4 from 50-plus yards this season.
Bears 24, Lions 20
Score: Brandon Manumaleuna, 7-yard pass from Cutler; Gould kick; 8:39 left in fourth quarter.
Drive: 6 plays, 59 yards; 3:16 time of possession.
The play: The Bears' defense held the Lions on fourth-and-1, setting up the TD drive starting at the Bears' 40.
Fact: It was just the fourth reception of the season for Manumaleuna and his first TD grab.