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Red zone problems hurt Bears in 37-34 OT loss to Lions

October 18, 2015

DETROIT (AP) — After losing on a field goal in the final minutes of overtime, Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler looked back on a handful of plays from earlier that could have swung the outcome in his team’s favor.

And many of them were right near the goal line.

“We’ve got to get better in the red zone,” he said.

Cutler was intercepted in the end zone in the third quarter, and although he led the Bears on a desperate last-minute drive to force overtime, the Detroit Lions eventually prevailed 37-34 on Sunday when Matt Prater kicked a 27-yard field goal with 2:29 remaining in the extra session.

Chicago (2-4) managed only three touchdowns on eight trips to the red zone. There was also a play the Bears nearly made on defense in their own end zone. Near the end of the first half, with the Lions (1-5) at the Chicago 2-yard line, Matthew Stafford threw over the middle to Golden Tate, who hauled the pass in while crossing the goal line, then had it quickly pried loose by defensive back Kyle Fuller.

The ball bounced to Chicago’s Jonathan Anderson, and the initial ruling was an interception, but the play was changed to a touchdown after a replay review.

Dean Blandino, the NFL’s head of officiating, said Tate had demonstrated possession and become a runner.

“He was upright, so they deemed that he had possession,” Bears coach John Fox said.

Aside from that explanation, Fox had little interest in discussing the officiating or the rules.

“In this league, you’ve got to overcome everything, every week,” he said.

The Bears led by four late in regulation and appeared to have forced the Lions into a fourth-and-goal situation from the 12, but Pernell McPhee was called for roughing the passer, and Stafford eventually found Calvin Johnson for a 6-yard touchdown pass with 21 seconds left.

Down 34-31, Cutler completed passes of 25 and 24 yards to Alshon Jeffery. Then a pass interference call put the Bears in position to tie it on Robbie Gould’s 29-yard field goal.

“They kind of manned up Al a little bit,” Cutler said. “It was good to see him out there today. I thought he played his tail off.”

Jeffery, who had been out since Week 1 with a hamstring injury, caught eight passes for 147 yards and a TD.

Chicago went three-and-out on each of its two overtime possessions. Then Stafford found Johnson for a 57-yard pass when Bears rookie Harold Jones Quartey was left trying to cover the star receiver with no help from anyone else in the secondary.

That play set up the winning kick by Prater.

“Once I’m running downfield (Stafford) always tells me to keep my eyes on him because he’ll throw it up,” Johnson said. “I saw him do the crow hop, so I knew it was coming. I was just trying to keep the defender in a good place so I could make a play.”

Stafford threw four touchdown passes a week after being benched in a loss to Arizona. He was 27 of 42 for a season-high 405 yards with an interception.

With the Bears up 31-24, Lions coach Jim Caldwell chose to have Prater kick a 32-yard field goal with 2:46 left in regulation instead of going for it on fourth-and-4 from the Chicago 13. Caldwell’s defense then held Chicago to a three-and-out. Matt Forte ran for 5 yards on first down, but his next two runs weren’t enough for the first down that could have helped the Bears run out the clock.

“It’s pretty standard,” Cutler said. “You want to get them to burn all their timeouts. We felt good about the runs, we had a really good first-down run and third-and-manageable.”

Cutler finished 26 of 41 for a season-high 353 yards with a TD. On the first drive of the third quarter, the Bears had the ball at the Detroit 6 when Cutler’s fade pass for Jeffery was intercepted by Rashean Mathis.

NOTES: Chicago NT Jeremiah Ratliff left the game with a neck injury.

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