ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) — The Detroit Lions went to Chicago hoping to get back to .500 and into in the hunt for the NFC North title.
They returned home Tuesday ruing another sluggish offensive performance, three red-zone turnovers and an injury to of one of their most reliable receivers in a 13-7 loss to the Bears.
“We had three non-scores in the red zone,” coach Jim Schwartz said Tuesday. “If you face a tough opponent on the road, that’s not a very good recipe to score.
“That game could look a lot different if we capitalize on those plays.”
Mikel Leshoure fumbled deep in Bears territory late in the first half and Joique Bell lost the ball at Chicago’s 1-yard line in the third quarter. Quarterback Matthew Stafford threw an interception in the red zone and Stefan Logan muffed a punt.
Just as bad, Calvin Johnson — a big reason Stafford threw for more than 5,000 yards last season — had just one catch in the game’s first 54 minutes. He averaged a touchdown catch per game last season but has just one so far this year.
The Lions (2-4) are last in the division with 10 games to play. Since 1978, only 18 of the 208 NFL teams that started a season with the same record went on to make the playoffs, according to STATS LLC.
The 2011 Denver Broncos were the last team to pull off the feat, rallying from a 2-4 start to finish 8-8 and in the postseason.
Nate Burleson, a key part of last season’s run to an NFC wild card berth, broke his right leg during Monday night’s loss and will miss the remainder of the season.
Burleson had 27 catches for 240 yards and nabbed two of Stafford’s five touchdown passes before the injury. Rookie Ryan Broyles caught Detroit’s only scoring pass with 30 seconds left to help the Lions avoid their first shutout loss since 2009.
Schwartz said Broyles, Titus Young or even tight end Tony Scheffler can take Burleson’s place in the slot, but added losing the veteran wideout will hurt in other ways.
“We’ll be able to replace Nate as a player, but Nate brings more than just his physical abilities to the field. Nate’s a very good leader, a very good guy in the locker room,” the coach said. “He’ll still be around, but we need also to pick that up on the practice field and in the locker room.”
One bright spot was the defense, which registered five sacks and limited the Bears, who entered the game with the second-most points in the league, to just a touchdown and two field goals. All that with a secondary still in flux due to injuries.
Schwartz said he doesn’t think anyone is giving up, but was quick to add that his team, which is seeking the franchise’s first consecutive postseason appearances since 1995, needs to get back to winning.
“Our margin for error is a lot less. We have a lesser margin of error than we did a day ago,” Schwartz said. “We need to put that one in its place; we need to move on to the next one. We can’t dwell too long on this one. We have to put it in a spot and move on to Seattle. We have a home game coming up and we’re a team that needs a win.”
And they’ll have to do it in a short week. The Seahawks, who played Thursday, will come to Detroit on Sunday with several extra days of rest.
NOTES: Sunday’s game will be the Lions’ first home game since Sept. 30. . Schwartz said P Nick Harris tweaked a knee during Monday night’s loss but was able to return to the game. . Bears QB Jay Cutler didn’t seem to be concerned about Ndamukong Suh’s sack that briefly took him out of the game, but his favorite receiver didn’t feel the same way. Brandon Marshall called ESPN’s “First Take” and called the tackle, in which Suh grabbed Cutler and turned him round before crashing with him into the ground “dirty.” Suh was not penalized on the play.
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