Lions 21, Bears 19

Lions hold on to beat Bears

Calvin Johnson gets behind Bears Charles Tillman and Major Wright for the winning TD.
Jonathan daniel/getty Images
Calvin Johnson gets behind Bears Charles Tillman and Major Wright for the winning TD.

CHICAGO — Calvin Johnson saw the defensive coverage. Same for Matthew Stafford, and they knew exactly what to do.

The result was a franchise record for one of the NFL’s best wide receivers, and a big win for the Detroit Lions.

Johnson caught a 14-yard touchdown pass from Stafford with 2:22 to go, helping the Lions edge Jay Cutler and the Chicago Bears, 21-19, on Sunday in a key matchup of NFC North rivals.


‘‘I knew immediately that one of us on the outside was going to get it,’’ Johnson said. ‘‘So I just wanted to work, be patient, and he threw a great ball.’’

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Johnson also had a tiebreaking TD reception in the third quarter and Reggie Bush rushed for 105 yards as Detroit (6-3) swept the season series against Chicago (5-4) for the first time since the 2007 season.

When Green Bay lost, 27-13, to Philadelphia, the Lions were alone in first in the division for the first time since the end of Week 5 of the 2005 season, according to STATS.

‘‘We came out with a victory on the road against a really tough team,’’ Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said. ‘‘It was a hard-fought win. Proud of the players, but that’s the only thing that means [anything] today.

‘‘I mean first place, you don’t get any prizes for first place nine games into the season.’’


Johnson’s ninth TD grab of the season was the 63d of his career, breaking a tie with Herman Moore for the Detroit record. Moore still leads with 670 receptions for the Lions, but Johnson (535) might take that record down at some point, too.

‘‘To be a part of history for the Lions, that’s a big deal,’’ Johnson said.

Cutler threw for 250 yards and a touchdown in his first action since he injured his groin last month. He injured his left ankle in the second quarter and looked progressively worse as the game wore on.

Coach Marc Trestman finally decided to put in Josh McCown before the Bears’ final drive.

‘‘I didn’t want to take him out unless he felt he couldn’t do the job,’’ Trestman said. ‘‘It was, I thought, a very courageous performance throughout. Then at the end I took him out because I knew he would have to run around in the two-minute drill and that’s when we decided to put Josh in the game.’’


McCown drove the Bears down the field, throwing an 11-yard TD pass to Brandon Marshall with 40 seconds left.

After a roughing penalty on Willie Young gave the Bears another chance at the tying 2-point conversion, Nick Fairley threw Matt Forte down in the backfield to preserve the win for Detroit.

‘‘I just figured it would be a run or a play-action pass,’’ Fairley said. ‘‘I just scouted out the ball real good and I was just happy I made the play.’’

Stafford threw for 219 yards for Detroit, which has won two in a row for the first time since the end of September. Johnson had six catches for 83 yards.

The Lions were clinging to a 14-10 lead when Chris Conte intercepted an overthrown ball by Stafford and returned it 35 yards to the Detroit 9.

Forte then had a TD run negated by a holding penalty on left guard Matt Slauson. An apparent scoring pass to Alshon Jeffery was overturned when a replay showed he lost control of the ball when he hit the ground.

Robbie Gould’s 32-yard field goal trimmed the Lions’ lead to 1 with 9:17 remaining.

It was Cutler’s first game since he was sacked in Chicago’s 45-41 loss at Washington on Oct. 20. He had to be helped off the field, and an MRI revealed a torn groin muscle.

He insisted he was 100 percent entering the game, but it was clear his groin was bothering him more and more as the game wore on.

‘‘It held up OK. It’s all on the same leg so I think that was a problem,’’ said Cutler, referring the groin and ankle injuries. ‘‘But the groin, you take the ankle out of the equation and I would have been fine, I think.’’

Cutler threw a 32-yard TD pass to Marshall on the first drive of the game. But he also had a pass tipped by Ndamukong Suh and grabbed by DeAndre Levy in the end zone for the linebacker’s fifth interception.