Lions fall behind early, as Stafford struggles
RICK GANO,AP Sports Writer
CHICAGO (AP) — Matthew Stafford wore a glove on his right hand. For protection against the cold? Nope. Temperatures soared into the 60s Sunday at Soldier Field on a windy November day.
Detroit’s talented young quarterback revealed after the game that he had a fractured finger on his throwing hand, but didn’t use that as an excuse for pitching four interceptions in a 37-13 loss to the Chicago Bears.
“It’s fractured but it’s not bad,” Stafford said, adding that a wind with gusts around 30 mph created the most difficulty.
He sported the glove to help him get a better grip on the football
“I felt fine with it. I felt like I made some real good throws with it and obviously made some tough throws with it,” he said.
After Bears’ defensive backs Major Wright and Charles Tillman returned interceptions for TDs on Detroit’s first two series of the third quarter, Stafford was involved in a skirmish after throwing a third pick to Tim Jennings.
During the return, Stafford threw Chicago’s D.J. Moore down and Moore didn’t like it. He got up to retaliate, running at Stafford while he was still on the ground.
That started a mini melee in front of the Lions” bench and after everything was settled out, Moore was ejected.
“He kind of blocked me and I was just trying to get him off me the best I knew how,” Stafford said. “And I guess he didn’t like the way I did it. He wanted to ask me about it.”
Stafford was asked if he liked the way he tried to rid himself of Moore’s block:
“Yep,” he said.
Stafford was 33 of 63 for 329 yards as the Lions went to the air after falling behind when they committed two fumbles after receptions in the first quarter.
The Lions finished with six turnovers — four interceptions and two fumbles — which is one more than they had all season entering the game. They had lost just one fumble and Stafford had thrown only four picks before matching that total in one half Sunday.
And now their 5-0 start is being clouded by three losses in the last four games.
“We have to own up to this game,” said Detroit coach Jim Schwartz. “We put it out there and we need to make sure it doesn’t happen again. … The tale today was turnovers.'”
Calvin Johnson and Nate Burleson fumbled after catching passes in the first quarter and the Bears moved in for points both times. Penalties on Detroit defensive linemen Kyle Vanden Bosch and Cliff Avril helped Chicago get into position for a 10-0 lead.
And Johnson and Tony Scheffler couldn’t hold on to potential TD passes from Stafford. The Lions reached the Bears 11 late in the third, only to come away with no points. Detroit finally got a TD with five minutes left when Scheffler held on to a 10-yard scoring pass from Stafford.
Stafford drove the Lions to the Chicago 10 and a second time to the 6 in the second quarter but both times Detroit settled for a field goal. Julius Peppers, who pursued the young Detroit QB all day, sacked him on a third down from the 6 to force the second of two field goals by Jason Hanson. That made it 20-6 at the half.
Punter Robert Malone, signed Friday because of an injury to Ryan Donahue, got off a long punt but Hester had time to gather it, get a bearing on Detroit fast-approaching coverage and then take off, tip-toeing down the sideline and racing in, an 82-yard return — his 12th career punt return for a score.
That the Bears (6-3) would be tied with the Lions (6-3) for second place in the NFC North seemed far-fetched after their 24-13 Monday night loss at Ford Field last month, but the teams have gone in different directions since.
“We had a lot riding on this game,” Bears coach Lovie Smith said. “NFC division game at home we just couldn’t afford another loss. We’ve gotten better and better each week.”
Wright returned his interception 24 yards and Tillman ran his back 44 yards for TDs that made it 34-6, sending the Lions to their first road loss after they won their first four away from Ford Field.
Notes: Smith said LG Chris Williams was undergoing surgery Sunday after leaving the game with a wrist injury. … Tillman tied Mike Brown and Bennie McRae for the club record with his fourth career interception return for a touchdown. He has 28 interceptions and ranks fourth on the Bears’ all-time list. … Peppers had an 11-yard sack on third down at the six that forced Detroit to kick a field goal in the second quarter. … The Lions had won six straight road games dating back to last season.