It’s probably simplistic to think of the NFL as a week-to-week league.
That would be ignoring the obvious perils of each down and every distance.
The sheer danger to skill players makes it a play-to-play existence and Ndamukong Suh reminded Jay Cutler and the Bears of that simple fact of football life Monday night.
When Suh grabbed Cutler and threw the QB to the ground in the second quarter, slamming Cutler’s head, neck and ribs, the Bears’ chance to go back to the Super Bowl lay with a squirming Cutler on the turf.
In the 30 seconds it took Cutler to regain his wits, shake off the pain and stand up, it felt like a month of Sundays to Bears fans.
Cutler quickly returned to the game and also started the second half on time after missing the final series of the first half, but it was all the reminder necessary that an improving offensive line is still a hazardous offensive line and it only takes one jail break to end the Bears’ title hopes.
There is no mistaking those possibilities because the Bears are playing as good a brand of football as anyone in the NFC, and that’s because they’re playing better defense than anyone in the NFC.
Now, you could argue that several of the teams the Bears (5-1) have beaten this season haven’t offered much of a challenge, and that probably applies as well to Detroit (2-4), which might be the dumbest and worst-coached team in football.
Jim Schwartz and his band of merry clowns gave the game to the Bears on Monday night at Soldier Field with foolish penalties and even worse turnovers.
Three giveaways deep in Bears territory — against a defense that lives to strip the football — cost the Lions at least 9 and maybe 21 points. There was also a muffed punt — on a fair catch, of all things — after Detroit forced the Bears three-and-out on their first possession of the second half.
It was all the help the Bears’ defense needed.
This game was a perfect example of what the Bears do best. They bend and they sometimes break, but they always wind up with the football and if Mikel Leshoure or Joique Bell haven’t been coached to keep two hands on the ball in the red zone — especially against the Bears — both teams will get exactly what they deserve.
And Monday night, both teams got precisely what they deserved, especially Schwartz and the Lions.
Give Lovie Smith all the credit in the world for the way he prepares his defense to take the ball away, but it’s not often you expect him to out-coach anyone in a game.
Yet, in a battle of coaching wits, we need not tell you Schwartz repeatedly arrives unarmed and unashamed of the way his team plays the game.
So while the Lions hit Cutler nine times and played solid defense with an offense that ultimately produced more yards than did the Bears, one late score did little more than remind Detroit that this game might have been lopsided in their favor if the Lions had only protected the football.
Of course, that small item is about as football basic as the leather and laces and the Bears were a ridiculous plus-4 in turnovers.
“Any time you end up plus-4, you have a chance to win,” Smith said, “even against a good football team.’’
Give Smith credit for class and generosity, but the Lions can’t be considered both good and dumb.
It was obvious again Monday that they were the latter.
ŸHear Barry Rozner on WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.