Ndamukong Suh had the knockdown of the night when he rocked Jay Cutler on a sack in the second quarter. But the Bears recovered to win the decision Monday night.
The hope is the quarterback isn’t too sore after he was diagnosed with bruised ribs midway through the Bears’ 13-7 victory at Soldier Field that helped the Bears maintain control of the NFC North.
The Bears (5-1) could only fear the worst when their quarterback was face down on their 18-yard line after Suh grabbed his left arm and then spun and slammed him to the turf with Cutler appearing to take the brunt of the blow on his right side. It was a nasty hit, but officials did not call a penalty and it appeared clean. Suh quickly went to check on Cutler, who had no interest in his well wishes.
Coach Lovie Smith said Cutler will be re-evaluated this week.
“He’s a tough guy,” coach Lovie Smith said. “Most people thought Jay would get up. Unless it’s a broken leg or something like that, he’s going to get up. He is a tough guy. That’s what you should have as your Chicago Bear quarterback and he does it time after time. He was in some pain, but he fought through.”
Cutler was replaced by backup Jason Campbell, an expensive upgrade over Caleb Hanie, for one snap. Cutler retreated to the locker room for the final minutes of the first half to be checked out. Fortunately, it was nothing like last season when a freakish hand injury cost Cutler the final six games, sinking the Bears’ playoff aspirations when Hanie bombed as the backup.
That was the drama in what otherwise was a deliberate and dominant defensive effort. Cornerback Charles Tillman and the safeties throttled wide receiver Calvin Johnson, who entered averaging 111 yards per game. Johnson didn’t make his first reception — a 6-yard gain — until the end of the third quarter and finished with only three catches for 34 yards.
That first catch came just before Lions running back Joique Bell fumbled at the 1-yard line as he tried a premature dive-and-stretch for the goal line. It was one of three Lions turnovers in the red zone as linebacker Lance Briggs stripped Mikel Leshoure at the 18 late in the second quarter and D.J. Moore intercepted Matthew Stafford at the 3 late in the fourth quarter.
Stafford never found rhythm. He completed 28 of 46 passes for 261 yards and the Lions were shut out until 30 seconds remained when he connected with Ryan Broyles for a 12-yard touchdown. The Bears sacked Stafford only three times but had him on the run most of the night and bottled up his favorite target.
“We put Peanut on Calvin and we got after them,” safety Major Wright said. “You always want to initiate the contact. Initiate the physicalness. It started with Calvin and we let them know it was going to be all night.”
The Bears have come a long way since their Week 2 meltdown in Green Bay. It was their fourth consecutive victory. They remain a half-game up on the Vikings (5-2). The second half of the schedule is treacherous for the Vikings as they face the Bears and Packers twice. Green Bay (4-3) has won two straight, but it announced bad news Monday as safety Charles Woodson, arguably the team’s most important defensive player, will miss approximately six weeks with a broken collarbone. The Lions (2-4) are in a bad spot with little explosiveness on offense, outside of Johnson.
Cutler and Brandon Marshall completely outdueled Matthew Stafford and Johnson. Marshall finished with six receptions for 81 yards and a 7-yard touchdown reception to cap the game’s opening drive. Cutler completed 16 of 31 passes for 150 yards and was sacked five times but did not turn the ball over.
The Bears started fast, scoring a touchdown on their opening possession for the first time in 13 games — dating to last season’s Week 10 meeting with the Lions at Soldier Field. Matt Forte burst through a large hole for 39 yards. Cutler rolled right on the next play, finding a wide-open Marshall for a score. The offense was balanced again as the Bears rushed for 171 yards and Forte gained 96 on 22 carries.
A 24-yard scramble by Cutler and a 15-yard penalty on Lions defensive lineman Corey Williams keyed a drive that set up Robbie Gould’s 39-yard field goal for a 10-0 lead. The lead would have been larger if Gould’s 47-yard attempt in the second quarter was not blocked by Lawrence Jackson, his first miss of the season.
A muffed punt by Lions returner Stefan Logan set the Bears up with premium field position early in the third quarter and they settled for Gould’s 21-yard field goal.