Coach Lovie Smith and the Chicago Bears were in need of a win and a prayer Sunday to make the NFC playoffs. The Bears had to beat the Lions and have the Packers beat the Vikings to reach the playoffs and possibly extend Smith's nine-year run in Chicago.
The Lions cut the Bears' lead to 26-24 on a 9-yard Matthew Stafford pass to Brian Robiskie with 6:55 to play in the game. The nine-play, 80-yard drive was kept alive by an unnecessary roughness penalty on linebacker Lance Briggs for a hit on a sliding Stafford.
Olindo Mare's fourth field goal -- this one from 20 yards out -- boosted the Bears' lead to 26-17 with 10:47 left. It capped an 11-play, 59-yard drive that took 4:25 off the clock.
Mare's 28-yard field goal increased the Bears' lead to 23-17 with 1:50 left in the third quarter. The score was set up when safety Major Wright came up with the Lions' fourth turnover of the day, recovering a Mikel Leshoure fumble at the Detroit 13.
Detroit fought back and trimmed the Bears' once-commanding lead to 20-17 with a 10-yard TD pass from Matthew Stafford to Will Heller at the 6:35 mark of the third quarter.
The Lions cut the Bears' lead to 20-10 just before halftime, as Stafford hit Kris Durham on a 25-yard TD pass with 12 seconds to play before intermission.
Mare's 40-yard field goal extended the Bears' lead to 20-3 with 1:49 to play.
Tim Jennings made his league-high ninth interception with 2:38 left in the half to put the Bears' offense back in business inside Lions territory.
Matt Forte's 1-yard touchdown run -- after a pass-interference call against Detroit drawn by Brandon Marshall -- gave the Bears a 17-3 lead with 3:26 to go in the first half.
The Bears' defense delivered again to set up the score. Israel Idonije knocked the ball from quarterback Matthew Stafford's hand and Julius Peppers recovered on the Lions' 10-yard line.
Mare's 33-yard field goal gave the Bears a 10-3 lead with 2:59 left in the first quarter. Joe Anderson forced a fumble on the kickoff after the Bears' first score and Eric Weems recovered, setting up Mare's kick.
Mare blew a chance to extend the lead, missing a 43-yard attempt wide right with just under five minutes remaining in the half.
The Bears grabbed a 7-3 lead when Earl Bennett caught a screen pass from Jay Cutler and took it 60 yards for a touchdown with 4:33 left in the first quarter.
The Lions struck first, with Jason Hanson connecting on a 44-yard field goal for a 3-0 Detroit lead with 5:54 to go in the quarter. The kick came after replay overturned a fumble that had been ruled on Stafford and recovered by the Bears.
The Bears' offense started well, with Cutler hitting receiver Alshon Jeffery for a 55-yard gain on their first play. But the drive sputtered and the Bears were forced to punt.
The Bears also could earn a playoff spot with a tie and a Vikings loss in Minneapolis. A Bears win and a Vikings loss or tie also would do the trick.
The Bears have been to the playoffs three times under Smith, with the last playoff appearance coming in 2010.
General manager Phil Emery had praise for Smith while speaking before the game on WBBM-AM (780).
"Great team-first person," Emery said of Smith. "He's done an outstanding job coaching the Bears."
As to whether Smith must reach the playoffs to retain his job, Emery said, "When you're evaluating players, you're always looking for body of work. No different when you're evaluating coaches.
"It's is the full season, and the whole body of work. ... It's about steady progress toward our goals, which is to win championships.''
As for needing help from Green Bay to reach the playoffs, Emery said, "We're rooting against Minnesota. ... We're not rooting for Green Bay."
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