CHICAGO (AP) – The Chicago Bears seemed intent on giving this game away. But in the end they still found a way to hang on for the win.
Jay Cutler threw for 372 yards and hit Matt Forte with a late 28-yard touchdown pass, and the Chicago Bears beat the Detroit Lions 19-14 in the season opener after Calvin Johnson’s apparent touchdown catch was ruled an incompletion.
The controversial call came with 25 seconds left, after Johnson outjumped Chicago’s Zackary Bowman for what looked like a 25-yard touchdown. He appeared to have gotten both feet down inbound before letting the ball go, but what looked like a potential game-winner was ruled an incomplete pass by the officials.
That call was upheld by the replay, and after two more incompletions, the Lions walked off the field with their 21st straight road loss.
They also saw quarterback Matthew Stafford leave the game with a right shoulder injury after a blindside sack by Julius Peppers late in the first half but were in position to win until Forte hauled in that pass from Cutler with 1:32 left. He crashed to the turf and stayed down for a few moments after making an over-the-shoulder catch along the left side in the end zone.
The Bears outgained the Lions 463-168 but were trailing for most of the day thanks to four turnovers. There was also a questionable decision by coach Lovie Smith after Lance Briggs recovered a fumble by Shaun Hill at the Lions 1 after sacking him early in the fourth with the Bears trailing by one.
After three plays went nowhere, Smith decided to go for it on fourth down rather than have Robbie Gould kick a field goal. Forte, who had been stopped twice on the possession, got swarmed and the crowd let out loud boos.
Cutler completed 23 of 35 passes, with Forte catching seven for 151 yards. That includes an 89-yard screen for a touchdown near the end of the first half, pulling Chicago within 14-10.
Moments later, Stafford went down. He was hit in the shoulder by Peppers as he dropped back to pass and landed on it, the ball coming loose in the process.
Chicago’s Tommie Harris recovered, and the Bears took over on the 37 after a 15-yard penalty against Brian Urlacher with 15 seconds left. Cutler then completed a 13-yard pass to Chester Taylor and an 11-yarder to Greg Olsen before Gould ended the half with a 31-yard field goal that pulled Chicago within 14-13.
Stafford had his arm in a sling as the second half started. Hill completed 9 of 19 passes for 88 yards in the second half.
Rookie Jahvid Best had two touchdowns rushing as the Lions built a 14-3 lead, before the Bears came back. Even so, squeaking by a team with a league-record 30 losses over the previous two seasons probably did little to ease angst around Chicago, even if the Lions appear to be improved.
Bears fans are looking for more after a 7-9 finish and third straight playoff miss.
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