NOAH TRISTER, AP Sports Writer
ALLEN PARK (AP) — A month after reveling in the aftermath of a 5-0 start, the Detroit Lions are suddenly in a tough fight for playoff position.
Detroit’s 37-13 loss at Chicago on Sunday was its third in four games — and by far the ugliest of the bunch. The Lions turned the ball over six times and allowed touchdowns on two interception returns and a punt return. The contentious game featured a brief melee toward the end — after another interception of Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford — and there weren’t too many positives the Lions could point to.
“We lost as a team,” linebacker Justin Durant said. “We all made mistakes.”
The Lions (6-3) and Bears are tied for second in the NFC North behind Green Bay, and if the season ended today, Detroit and Chicago would be the conference’s wild-card teams. But Atlanta and Dallas are looming only a game behind.
The Lions were riding high after beating the Bears in a raucous Monday night game Oct. 10 to improve to 5-0, but they lost to San Francisco and Atlanta after that. Detroit routed Denver but couldn’t build much momentum. The Lions were in an early hole Sunday after two quick fumbles, and the game really got out of hand when Chicago returned two interceptions for touchdowns 112 seconds apart in the third quarter.
“I feel like we’re better than Atlanta, San Francisco and Chicago,” wide receiver Nate Burleson said. “That’s my personal opinion. Obviously, after losing to them, I can’t say that.”
Stafford wore a glove on his throwing hand and said afterward he was playing with a fractured finger. Coach Jim Schwartz said his quarterback had a splint on, but he blamed the weather more than Stafford’s health for the mistake-prone performance.
“He threw the ball very well last Thursday and Friday. … The issue in this game was the wind, and the wind affected both quarterbacks about equally,” Schwartz said. “One team had to throw the ball an awful lot, and the other team didn’t.”
Stafford went 33 of 63 for 329 yards with a touchdown and four interceptions. Detroit relied on Stafford’s arm instead of the running game after falling behind 20-0 on Devin Hester’s 82-yard punt return for a touchdown in the first minute of the second quarter.
If the weather was that much of a problem, the Lions won’t have to worry about it again for a while. Detroit plays its home games indoors and will host Carolina next weekend. The team’s next road game is at New Orleans, which plays in a dome. The Lions won’t play outside again until Dec. 18 — and that will be in California against Oakland.
The wind, however, couldn’t account for early fumbles by Burleson and Calvin Johnson that put Detroit in a tough spot. In the second half, Stafford threw costly interceptions while trying to lead his team back.
As his third interception was being returned in the fourth quarter, Stafford threw Chicago’s D.J. Moore down. Moore got up to retaliate, running at Stafford while the quarterback was still on the ground.
That touched off a brief skirmish.
“Probably, there’s going to be some guys getting fined,” Burleson said. “But you go out there and throw some blows, you’ve got to expect that FedEx letter in your locker.”
Notes: Schwartz said RB Jahvid Best (concussion) did not make the trip to Chicago. … The Lions announced Monday that 1,500 standing-room tickets for their Thanksgiving Day game against Green Bay will go on sale Wednesday. Tickets can only be purchased online. … There were a few letters on display in the middle of the Lions’ locker room from people taking exception to LB Stephen Tulloch’s actions in a game against Denver on Oct. 30. Tulloch celebrated his sack of Tim Tebow by joining the “Tebowing” craze, striking a prayerful pose near the prone second-year quarterback. Tebow said he wasn’t offended.
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