Despite Lions' miscues, Bears fall 20-14
At least the Bears' 10th loss in a lost season wasn't an embarrassment, as most of the previous defeats have been.
Playing in place of benched starter Jay Cutler, quarterback Jimmy Clausen avoided mistakes and managed the game but still came up short. It remains to be seen whether a competitive, 20-14 loss to the playoff-bound Lions will prevent the massive firings expected at the end of the season at Halas Hall.
The Bears' fourth straight defeat and ninth in 12 games left them at 5-10 and clinched the franchise's first double-digit-loss season in a decade.
"Terrible," said defensive end Jared Allen, who had 1 of the Bears' 4 sacks. "There are no moral victories in football. We lost."
Still, the Bears appeared to play with more emotion behind Clausen than they had in recent weeks
behind Cutler, part of the reason he was benched.
For the most part, Clausen did what Cutler has so often failed to do this season; he ran the offense without making egregious mistakes.
Cutler averaged almost 2 turnovers per game (24 in 14 games) while going 5-9 as the starter. Clausen played turnover free until less than two minutes remained, when the Bears were in desperation mode, and his deep ball for Alshon Jeffery was picked off.
Clausen was neither spectacular nor prolific, but he completed 23 of 39 passes (59 percent) for 181 yards and 2 touchdowns for a 77.0 passer rating. His numbers would have been more impressive were it not for 3 drops by Alshon Jeffery, 2 by Martellus Bennett and 1 by Marques Wilson.
It was an impressive performance considering Clausen hadn't started a game in almost four years, had thrown just 9 passes since the start of the 2011 season (all this year) and was being protected by a pair of undrafted rookies at the guard spots.
"I just went out there and competed," Clausen said. "I showed I could play in this league. But it's not about me or anything like that. It's about winning football games, and we came up short."
Unlike the Bears' recent blowout losses that have defined this Bears season, coach Marc Trestman's team never trailed by more than 7 points Sunday and was always within striking distance. The Bears came in minus-8 in turnovers-takeaways but finished plus-2 vs. the Lions, including 2 red-zone interceptions of Matthew Stafford.
Trestman's decision to bench Cutler was motivated in part by the need for a spark at quarterback. Clausen provided that, even if it wasn't enough for a victory.
"As the game went on, (Clausen) continued to get more comfortable," Trestman said. "We were able to balance it out a little bit and give him some help with some runs (64 yards on 22 attempts). We didn't necessarily have all of us help him the way we could."
The 6 drops made Clausen's job tougher, and Trestman wouldn't commit to his starter in the season finale against the Vikings, but it makes no sense to go back to Cutler.
After a sluggish start, Clausen got the Bears a 7-7 tie at halftime with a lob to Matt Forte for an 11-yard TD with 30 seconds remaining. That was set up when Bears cornerback Sherrick McManis recovered a muffed punt by Jeremy Ross at the Lions' 11-yard line.
Late in the third quarter, Clausen found Jeffery in the back of the end zone for a 20-yard TD, giving the Bears a 14-10 lead.
Shortly before his desperation pass was picked off, Clausen flashed the passion missing from the past several weeks. The Lions' 6-foot-5, 278-pound defensive end Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah delivered a helmet-to-helmet shot on the quarterback at the end of a two-yard scramble. The illegal blow, which gave the Bears an additional 15 yards, knocked Clausen's helmet off, but he got up berating Ansah.
"That's football, getting hit like that," Clausen said. "It's just part of the game. Obviously I don't want to get hit like that. My emotions are going 100 miles a minute at that time. I'm just fired up and got up talking a little trash, just like he was. Just two guys playing."
After three years of inactivity, including last season when he was out of football rehabbing an injury to his throwing shoulder, Clausen considered it a blessing just to be playing.
"I've never given up," he said. "The only thing you can ask for is another opportunity. That's what coach Trestman gave me. I just went out there and tried to compete to the best of my ability and make the plays when the plays were there."
It wasn't enough, but it was more than the Bears have done for much of the past couple months.
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