With Clausen starting over Cutler, Bears come up short against playoff-bound Lions 20-14



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CHICAGO — Whether it's Jay Cutler or Jimmy Clausen starting at quarterback, the Chicago Bears simply can't figure out a way to win.

At least they nearly pinned an embarrassing loss on Detroit this time.

Joique Bell scored on a neat touchdown run in the fourth quarter, and the playoff-bound Lions overcame two interceptions by Matthew Stafford to beat the Bears 20-14 on Sunday.

"We stood tall," Bears coach Marc Trestman said. "We played hard. We're not trying to sugar-coat it. We didn't win. We're here to win. But I felt our players were in it to win for four quarters today but I've felt that way throughout the season. That hasn't changed."

The Bears benched Cutler days earlier, having seen enough after he led the NFL with 18 interceptions and 24 turnovers through most of the first year of a seven-year contract he signed in the offseason. They turned to the cast-off Clausen, who hadn't started a game since 2010.

Matthew Stafford outplayed Clausen, but just barely. He completed 22 of 39 passes for 243 yards and hit the 4,000-yard mark for the fourth straight year, but it was hardly an easy afternoon for him.

Ndamukong Suh had two sacks, and now the playoff-bound Lions (11-4) can wrap up the NFC North title with a win next week against Green Bay. Regardless, the Lions will make their second trip to the postseason in four years and third in 16 years after Philadelphia's loss to Washington on Saturday.

They were hoping to lock up their first division championship since 1993. But with the Packers beating Tampa Bay, the North will be decided in next week's game.

Stafford threw interceptions in the end zone and near the goal line on back-to-back possessions in the second quarter with the Lions leading 7-0.

Jeremy Ross muffed a punt near the end of the first half, leading to a touchdown for Chicago, and center Dominic Raiola stepped on Chicago defensive tackle Ego Ferguson's right ankle while he was on the ground early in the third quarter.

Despite all that, the Lions came away with their highest win total since they went 12-4 in 1991.

Reggie Bush ran for a touchdown and 54 yards. He added 44 yards receiving, and Detroit handed Chicago (5-10) its fourth straight loss.

Clausen completed 23 of 39 passes for 181 yards in his first start since his 2010 rookie season with Carolina. He threw touchdowns to Matt Forte and Alshon Jeffery and played turnover-free ball until a late interception by Glover Quin.

"I've never given up," he said. "You can never give up. The only thing you can ask for is another opportunity. That's what coach Trestman gave me today, another opportunity. Like I said, I just went out there and tried to compete to the best of my ability, make the plays when the plays were there We just came up short and it's really unfortunate."

The Bears were leading 14-10 early in the fourth when Tim Jennings bumped Corey Fuller on a deep third-down pass, resulting in a 46-yard interference penalty.

On the next play Bell — who sat out the first quarter after violating unspecified team rules — dodged two defenders and broke a tackle by Brock Vereen for a 17-yard TD that put Detroit up 17-14. Prater added a 30-yard field goal to make it a six-point game with 2:35 remaining.

Prater gave Detroit a 10-7 lead with a 39-yard field goal on the opening drive of the second half. But the Bears answered with an 80-yard touchdown drive. Clausen capped it by lofting a 20-yard pass over Darius Slay to Jeffery in the end zone, giving Chicago its first lead at 14-10 with 2:45 left in the third.

The Bears' Jeremiah Ratliff blocked a 37-yard field goal by Prater early in the fourth, keeping it a four-point game.

The Lions might have run away with this one if not for Stafford's interceptions in the second quarter and a muffed punt by Ross that led to an 11-yard touchdown catch by Forte with 30 seconds left in the first half. But if Detroit let up knowing that it clinched a playoff spot, Stafford did not see it that way.

"We came out with great energy," he said. "We moved the ball the whole day. We weren't stagnant."

Notes: Raiola said he did not intentionally step on Ferguson's ankle and apologized to him for it. No penalty was called on the play. "it was totally unintentional," Raiola said. "I was stumbling out of the play, come on now, I'm not out here trying to step on people." Ferguson was angry about it after the game, saying, "You can't take away what happened with that play. You saw the play." ... The Lions have won four straight against Chicago. ... Bears DE Willie Young will miss the season finale after leaving the game in the third quarter after injuring his left Achilles tendon. He will not play next week at Minnesota.


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