Cutler returned after bruising his ribs, and Brian Urlacher made a key fumble recovery to help the Chicago Bears beat the Detroit Lions 13-7 on Monday night for their fourth straight win.
It was certainly not an easy night for the NFC North leaders, particularly their quarterback, but they came away with the win after a week off and possibly buried Detroit (2-4) in the process despite getting a major scare along the way.
That happened in the second quarter when Cutler was sacked by Ndamukong Suh and ultimately wound up going to the locker room to have his ribs examined.
"He's a tough guy," Bears 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 was a gutsy effort by him. He was in some pain, but he fought through it."
Cutler came back to start the second half and was 16 of 31 with 150 yards and a touchdown in the game, but with the defence locking down the Lions, the Bears (5-1) prevailed. It was a huge blow for last-place Detroit, a team many expected to contend for the division championship after making the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade.
The Lions simply never got in gear, and when they had chances, they blew them. The biggest came early in the third quarter, when Joique Bell fumbled at the goal line with the Bears leading 13-0.
Urlacher recovered and Chicago hung on from there, sending Detroit to its fourth loss in five games.
Brandon Marshall caught six passes for 81 yards and scored a touchdown on Chicago's first possession. Matt Forte ran for 96 yards, and with the defence doing its part again, Chicago never really was threatened in this one.
It was a rough night for the Lions, with Matthew Stafford going 28 of 46 for 261 yards after leading the late charge in last week's win over Philadelphia. Calvin Johnson had trouble shaking the Bears' Charles Tillman and finished with three catches for 34 yards. He dropped a deep pass over the middle on the game's first possession even though he was wide open.
"Charles Tillman, that's tough to do playing against one of the best players in the league, matching up with him all night," Smith said.
The Lions lost receiver Nate Burleson to a knee injury in the third quarter on a hit by Tim Jennings after a catch.
There weren't many scares for the Bears, with one big exception.
They were leading 10-0 in the second quarter and had just taken over at their 26 when that happened.
Cutler, who had his helmet ripped off on a hit by Suh after a run last year at Soldier Field, got driven to the turf by him on an 8-yard sack. He came up kneeling and holding his head as trainers tended to him, then ran to the sideline.
Jason Campbell came in for one play, but Cutler returned right after that and threw an incomplete pass on third down before Chicago punted. But after Julius Peppers recovered a fumble by Mikel Leshoure to stop a Lions threat, Campbell was behind centre. Cutler was having his ribs examined, but he was back out there to start the second half, some fans cheering as he trotted onto the field.
They were really roaring moments later when Stefan Logan fumbled trying to catch Adam Podlesh's punt. Zack Bowman recovered it for Chicago at the 27, and that led to a 21-yard field goal by Robbie Gould to make it 13-0 after Cutler had two passes broken up with the ball on the 3.
The Lions lost Burleson after a 16-yard catch near midfield on the next possession but drove all the way to the 1 before Bell turned it over. As he lunged over the pile, Henry Melton poked the ball out and Urlacher made the recovery to keep the shutout going. D.J. Moore extended it when he picked off Stafford near the goal line in the closing minutes. The Lions finally scored when Stafford connected with Ryan Broyles on a 12-yarder with 30 seconds left.
Early on, the Bears looked like a team bent on solidifying its spot on top of the division while burying the Lions.
They struck on their first possession, with Forte getting some big blocks and breaking through a hole on the left side for a 39-yard run to the 7, and Cutler connected with Marshall on the next play to make it 7-0. Gould added to it with a 39-yard field goal late in the quarter, after a 24-yard scramble by Cutler and personal foul by Detroit's Corey Williams against Earl Bennett on the play put the ball on the 21. By then, there had already been some chippiness, with players pushing and shoving after a fair catch by Logan on a punt.
It was hardly a surprise, given the way the emotions boiled over last year at Soldier Field. The Bears won that game 37-13, but the lasting image wasn't Stafford getting picked off four times. Or, Devin Hester returning a punt 82 yards for a touchdown.
It was Stafford grabbing Moore by the helmet and throwing him to the ground near the Lions sideline after Chicago's Jennings picked off a pass, setting off a confrontation between players from both sides and putting the ribbon on a heated game.
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