LeGere: Bears can't seal the deal, lose to Lions
DETROIT -- You could blame the Bears' 11 penalties for 139 yards, especially those for offensive holding and defensive pass interference.
You could blame the dropped passes or the missed opportunities.
They all add up to a Bears team that plummeted to 3-10 because it can't close.
Even when undrafted rookie Cre'Von LeBlanc picked off Lions quarterback Matt Stafford and took his first NFL interception to the house for a 17-13 Bears lead with 7:07 left, it wasn't enough.
It wasn't enough Sunday at Ford Field because Stafford, an MVP candidate having a career year in his eighth NFL season, did what he's always done. He led a fourth-quarter comeback to win the game 20-17 with a 7-yard touchdown run with 3:17 left, moving the Lions to 9-4.
"We've just got to close it out," Bears outside linebacker Willie Young said. "We had an opportunity to defensively close it out."
Stafford has now led fourth-quarter comebacks an NFL-record eight times this year and 28 times in his career.
On the Lions' two possessions prior to Stafford's TD, he threw just his sixth and seventh interceptions of the year. The Bears also picked him off twice in Week 4, giving them more Stafford interceptions than the rest of the league combined.
But it wasn't enough because they couldn't finish.
"Man, it cuts deep," said LeBlanc, who could have been the hero. "The play don't even matter if we don't come out victorious. I love all these guys like brothers, and it just hurts." Stafford, who has been mentioned as an MVP candidate, played his two worst games this season against the Bears, but on Sunday the Lions did just enough to avenge their 17-14 loss to the Bears in Week 4.
The Bears contributed plenty to the final outcome.
Some of the most critical infractions came at the most inopportune times.
A 15-yard face mask penalty on defensive end Cornelius Washington and a 13-yard pass interference penalty on cornerback Bryce Callahan helped set up Stafford's winning TD run.
On the Bears' final possession, quarterback Matt Barkley, making just his third NFL start and his first on the road, might have been able to out-Stafford the Lions were it not for penalties and one last drop.
Barkley got the Bears to the Lions' 43-yard line dinking and dunking, patiently moving down the field.
Then he hit Cam Meredith for 27 yards. But that was negated by a holding call on left tackle Charles Leno. No problem. Barkley found a leaping Daniel Braverman for 23 yards. But that was wiped out by a holding call on right guard Ted Larsen, leaving the Bears with a first-and-30.
On fourth-and-11, with 19 seconds left, Barkley found Josh Bellamy on a crossing route. It would have gotten a first down, but Bellamy couldn't hold onto a ball that hit him in the right shoulder.
"There are drops in every game," Bears coach John Fox noted. "All in all, (Barkley) gave us a chance to win."
Statistically, Barkley clearly outplayed Stafford. Both had 1 TD pass, but the Bears' quarterback was not intercepted and finished with a 92.2 passer rating to Stafford's 64.3.
On the Lions' possession just before LeBlanc's pick-6, the home team was at the Bears' eight-yard line, poised to increase its 13-10 lead early in the fourth quarter. But Stafford's pass into the end zone, intended for Golden Tate, was tipped away by Callahan into the hands of sliding teammate Demontre Hurst for a touchback.
After going without a take-away in the previous three games, the Bears' defense had two in 5½ minutes, both from cornerbacks. But, in addition to Callahan's pass interference penalty, Tracy Porter had a 38-yard pass interference penalty and a 5-yard illegal contact penalty in the second quarter that set up the Lions' first touchdown. Porter left the game shortly after that with an illness and did not return.
"They were big," Fox said of the 2 interceptions. "They kept us in the game, gave us a chance to win the game."
But the overall play of the corners was a model for the team as a whole.
"Just short of winning," Fox said. "Kind of like the rest of us."