Calvin Johnson’s record-setting season comes to an end Sunday.
The only thing left for him to do is become the first receiver in NFL history to reach 2,000 yards in a season.
“That would be big,” Johnson said. “Kind of almost put that thing away for a while. All records are meant to be broken, but that would make it tough.”
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Sunday’s game was a fitting end to the Lions’ 2012 season.
Several of the Lions problems from the rest of season reared their head in 26-24 loss to the Bears at Ford Field.
The Lions struggled with turnovers, losing four against a defense with its eyes always on the ball.
They started slow, only crossing midfield once before their final drive of the first half.
And one team, actually not the Lions, kept settling for field goals instead of touchdowns. The Bears’ consistently stalling offense was the only reason the Lions (4-12) were so close at the end.
Bears kicker Olindo Mare hit four field goals to carry the Bears to a victory that will, at least temporarily, keep Chicago (10-6) in the playoff picture.
Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford had a 9-yard touchdown pass to Brian Robiskie with 6:59 left in the fourth quarter, but their offense never rallied again after cutting the deficit to 26-24.
Calvin Johnson had five catches for 72 yards, but fell 36 yards shy of 2,000 yards for the season. Stafford had 272 passing yards and was 33 yards shy of reaching 5,000 for the season.
Stafford played well in the second half, but lost a fumble and threw an interception. Running back Mikel Leshoure and kick returner Joique Bell also lost fumbles, and the Bears scored 16 points off the Lions’ four turnovers.
The Lions actually jumped out to a 3-0 lead early, but didn’t cross midfield again until their final drive of the first half.
After the Lions grabbed a 3-0 lead, just about everything went the Bears’ way. The third play on Chicago’s ensuing drive was a 60-yard touchdown pass from Jay Cutler to Earl Bennett, and the Bears went up 7-3 with 4:33 left in the first quarter.
Then, the turnovers started. Joique Bell lost a fumble on the kickoff return, and the Bears recovered to start their next drive at the Detroit 24. Four plays later, Olindo Mare’s 33-yard field goal put the Bears up 10-3.
Mare missed a 43-yard field goal two drives later, but the Lions quickly gave the Bears another chance to add to their lead.
Two plays into the next drive, Bears defensive end Israel Idonije had a sack-strip on Stafford, and Chicago defensive end Julius Peppers recovered.
The Bears started the ensuing drive at the Detroit 10, and Forte’s 1-yard rushing touchdown put them up 17-3 with 3:26 left in the second quarter.
Then, just to keep with the pattern, Stafford had another turnover on the second play of the next Lions drive. This time Stafford’s pass was intercepted by Chicago cornerback Tim Jennings, who returned it to the Detroit 23.
Mare hit another field goal, this one from 40 yards, to put the Bears up 20-3 with 1:49 left in the first half, but the Lions offense saved its best drive for the end of the half.
Stafford threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Kris Durham to make it 20-10 with 12 seconds left in the half.
The Lions managed to keep momentum after the break and opened the third quarter with a touchdown drive. Stafford’s 10-yard touchdown pass to tight end Will Heller cut the Lions deficit to 20-17 with 6:35 left in the third quarter.
But the Lions weren’t done turning the ball over.
A bad exchange on a handoff from Stafford to Leshoure resulted in another fumble late in the third quarter. The Bears recovered at the Detroit 13 and Mare’s 28-yard field goal gave the Bears a 23-17 lead with 1:49 left in the third quarter.
Mare added his fourth field goal, a 20-yarder, on Chicago’s next drive to put the Bears up 26-17 with 10:51 left in the fourth quarter.
Robiskie’s 9-yard touchdown catch made it 26-24 with 6:59 remaining, but the Lions couldn’t muster any points on their last two drives.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have ourselves a ball game.
With 6:55 left in the fourth quarter, Matthew Stafford threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to Brian Robiskie to cut the Bears’ lead to 26-24.
If the Lions can get a stop, they’ll need just a field goal to win.
This is why the Bears needed to convert all of those Lions turnovers into touchdowns instead of field goals. Now the Lions have a chance to ruin Chicago’s season.
The Bears are running into the same problem the Lions had much of the year.
They just keep settling for field goals.
Chicago kicker Olindo Mare just his his fourth field goal of the day, this time from 20 yards out, to give the Bears a 26-17 lead with 10:47 left in regulation.
The Bears have kept the Lions in the game, but now the Lions have to prove they can make them pay.
The Lions are lucky the game is this close.
After their fourth turnover of the game, a fumbled exchange between Mikel Leshoure and Matthew Stafford, the Lions held the Bears to a 28-yard field goal.
The Bears have scored 16 points off Lions turnovers, but only lead 23-17 with the third quarter drawing to a close.
If Chicago turns one or two more of those extra drives into touchdowns, this one would be over.
The Lions offense almost appears to have found a rhythm.
They just had an 80-yard touchdown drive to cut the Bears’ lead to 20-17 with 6:31 left in the third quarter.
Matthew Stafford hit tight end Will Heller with a 10-yard touchdown pass to cap the drive. The Lions have now scored 14 unanswered points.
The drive also had passes for 18 and 24 yards to Calvin Johnson, and he now needs just 43 more yards to reach 2,000 for the season.
The Lions waited until their final drive of the first half to show some offensive firepower.
And, yes, someone other than Calvin Johnson caught a touchdown pass.
Matthew Stafford hit receiver Kris Durham with a 25-yard touchdown pass to cut the Bears’ lead to 20-10 with 12 seconds left in the first half.
The Bears ran out of the clock, so it will remain 20-10 at halftime.
Not a whole lot went right for the Lions in the first half.
They lost the turnover battle 3-0, and the Bears scored 13 points off the turnovers.
Here are a few key halftime stats:
Matthew Stafford: 13 of 24, 148 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Mikel Leshoure: 11 carries, 33 yards
Calvin Johnson: 2 catches, 23 yards
Jay Cutler: 8 of 15, 155 yards, 1 TD
Matt Forte: 10 carries, 43 yards, 1 TD
Earl Bennett: 2 catches, 67 yards, 1 TD
Let’s make it 13 points for the Bears off Lions turnovers.
Kicker Olindo Mare hit a 40-yard field goal to give the Bears a 20-3 lead with 1:49 left in the first half.
The Bears started the drive at the Detroit 23 following an interception by Matthew Stafford.
The Lions already have three turnovers and will try to add a quick score before the end of the half.
The first half isn’t even over, but the Lions have already committed three turnovers.
On the second play after a Chicago touchdown, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford threw an interception to Tim Jennings, who returned it to the Detroit 23.
The Bears are already in scoring range to add to their 17-3 lead. They scored 10 points off the Lions first two turnovers, both fumbles.
The Lions caught a break when Bears kicker Olindo Mare missed a 43-yard field goal.
Then they quickly went back to shooting themselves in the foot.
On the second play of the ensuing drive, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford was sacked and had the ball forced out by Israel Idionije. Bears defensive end Julius Peppers picked up the fumble and returned it to the Detroit 10.
A few plays later, Bears running back Matt Forte ran in a 1-yard touchdown to give Chicago a 17-3 lead with 3:26 left in the second quarter.
A pass interference call on Lions safety Don Carey on third down kept the Bears drive alive, but they were already close enough to guarantee points on the drive.
Lions Matthew Stafford set a record Sunday the team probably didn’t hope for at the start of the season.
With eight pass attempts in the first quarter, Stafford now has 693 attempts for the season, breaking Drew Bledsoe’s record of 691 set in 1994.
And with three more quarters to play, Stafford will keep adding to his meaningless record.
Since the Lions took a 3-0 lead, nothing has gone right.
After the Bears took a 7-3 lead, Joique Bell lost a fumble on the kickoff, giving Chicago the ball at the Detroit 24.
The Bears couldn’t do much with the drive, but they started with good enough field position that they had a chip shot for a field goal despite not converting a first down.
Olindo Mare hit a 33-yard field goal to give the Bears a 10-3 lead with 2:59 left in the first quarter.
I couldn’t even finish writing about the Lions’ field goal before the Bears grabbed the lead back.
The Bears marched 80 yards on just three plays to take a 7-3 lead with 5:33 left in the first quarter.
After a 2-yard Matt Forte run, Jay Cutler threw a screen to Forte for an 18-yard gain.
Then, Cutler hit Earl Bennett with a short pass, and he ran for a 60-yard touchdown.
The Lions have already started today’s game against the Bears much stronger than earlier this season.
After a 44-yard field goal by Jason Hanson, the Lions grabbed a 3-0 lead with 5:54 left in the first quarter.
As has regularly happened this season, the Lions settled for the field goal after a promising drive.
They wasted their third-down play with Stafford losing control of the football. The play was initially ruled a fumble recovered by the Bears, but after review, officials determined his arm was going forward.
The Lions also could’ve had much better field position. Their defense forced a fumble by Jay Cutler, but the result was a 20-yard loss that forced a punt after Kyle Vanden Bosch couldn’t hold on to the ball.
The Bears’ passing game is a lot like the Lions’.
Both teams have one of the NFL’s top wide receivers who’s having a career year, but not many threats after him.
Chicago receiver Brandon Marshall has 113 receptions for 1,466 yards and 11 touchdowns, all ranking second in the NFL. Behind Marshall, though, the Bears are just as thin as the Lions behind Calvin Johnson.
Running back Matt Forte is Chicago’s second leading receiver with 58 catches for 319 yards. Receivers Alshon Jeffery, Earl Bennett and Devin Hester have all had their moments this season, but none has more than 300 receiving yards this season.
That’s why the Lions need to approach Marshall the way many teams have treated Johnson this season. They can afford to double-team Marshall knowing it’s less likely any of the Bears secondary receiving will beat them.
The Bears (9-6) will likely try to develop the run game early with Forte, but when they do let Jay Cutler throw, chances are he’ll look at Marshall. Chicago has targeted Marshall four times more (179) than any other Chicago receiver.
Marshall torched the Lions (4-11) in Week 7 with six catches for 81 yards and a touchdown, with each catch converting a first down or touchdown.
The onus will be on cornerback Chris Houston to cover Marshall, but he’ll need regular help from safeties Louis Delmas and Don Carey.
Forte was equally strong against the Lions in the first matchup and ran 22 times for 96 yards, and the duo is strong enough to outscore the Lions on their own.
But if the Lions can slow Forte early and contain Marshall late, they’ll have a chance to knock Chicago out of the playoffs.