The Chicago Bears and the Detroit Lions squared off at Soldier Field with first place in the division on the line. With Jay Cutler returning from a groin injury he suffered against the Washington Redskins in Week 7, Bears fans had to like the team's chances of pulling out a victory in front of the home crowd.
Unfortunately, for the Bears and their fans, it was not meant to be. The Lions, who had not won a game in Chicago since 2007, escaped with a 21-19 win, giving them sole possession of first place in the NFC North. More importantly, they are now two games ahead of the Bears in the standings because they swept the season series.
Here is a quick glance at five observations from this Week 10 divisional matchup.
1) Josh McCown should have replaced Jay Cutler sooner
Jay Cutler played well in the first half, completing 12 of 18 passes for 148 yards and a touchdown. However, in the second half, he completed only nine of 22 passes for 102 yards and it was visible to everyone watching that he was not 100 percent.
After suffering an ankle injury late in the fourth quarter, Cutler finally left the contest with 2:17 left in regulation. With the Bears traliing 21-13, McCown played well once again, completing six of nine passes for 62 yards, including a touchdown pass to Brandon Marshall that trimmed the deficit to 21-19. With Cutler playing in obvious pain for most of the second half, it would have been wise for the coaching staff to bring in McCown sooner.
2) Bears' run defense better, but still needs improvement
In the first meeting between these two clubs in Week 4, Reggie Bush rushed for 139 yards on 18 carries. The results were somewhat different the second time around. Bush accumulated only 16 yards in the first half, but tacked on 89 in the second half, giving him 105 yards for the game.
3) Lions' receiver Calvin Johnson made multiple impact plays
On paper, Johnson's numbers were not overly impressive (six catches, 83 yards), but he made plays when it mattered the most. In the third quarter, with the game tied at 7, he had a four-yard touchdown reception to give the Lions a 14-7 lead early in the third quarter.
With the Lions leading 14-13 in the fourth quarter, Johnson hauled in a 14-yard pass from Matthew Stafford, giving the Lions a lead they would never relinquish. Although the Bears' secondary did a decent job covering Johnson, he made plays when he needed to, and his two touchdown grabs proved to be the difference in a close game.
4) Bears failed to capitalize in key situations
With an opportunity to go up by touchdown in the first half, Jay Cutler's pass was intercepted by DeAndre Levy in the end zone. Chicago missed on another chance to take the lead in the fourth quarter when safety Chris Conte intercepted Stafford and returned it 35 yards, giving the Bears the ball at the 10-yard line. But thanks to a holding penalty, the Bears were eventually forced to settle for field goal. If the Bears come away with a touchdown in either of those scenarios, the outcome would have been different.
5) The Bears bought back Cutler too soon
No, that is not a typo. The Bears should have started McCown this week. Although Cutler said he was 100 percent earlier this week, he displayed a noticeable grimace after every hit. If Cutler was completely heathy, my statement would not have much merit. However, when your starter is not able to perform at the level needed to win a game, then he should not be in the game.
James Tillman III is a resident of the Chicago-land area, who follows all the teams in the local region. James is currently a sports contributor for various sites including Football Nation, Sports Kings/Pass the Pill and Sports Rantz Magazine. James is also a former Featured Sports Contributor for Yahoo! Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @jtillman9693