The Detroit Lions haven’t lost a game against the NFC North, and they can really tighten the division race if they win this week.
Matt Prater kicked a tiebreaking 52-yard field goal, Matthew Stafford threw for 299 yards and two touchdowns and the Lions hung on to beat the Chicago Bears 27-24 on Sunday.
That sets up a Thanksgiving matchup at home against NFC North-leading Minnesota that could go a long way toward determining the division champion, though first place won’t be on the line. The Lions (6-4) trail the Vikings (8-2) by two games.
“I can’t wait,” receiver Marvin Jones Jr. said. “That’s gonna be a hard-nosed game like it always is.”
With Chicago’s Connor Barth badly missing wide right on a 46-yarder in the closing seconds, the Lions improved to 3-0 against the division. All those wins are on the road, with one coming at Minnesota on Oct. 1. But at home, Detroit is just 2-3.
“Any time you win on the road in this league, it’s a huge bonus,” Stafford said. “On the contrary, we haven’t done a great job at home. We’ll have a big opportunity this Thursday at home against a division opponent, against a really good team, and we’ve got to come out and play well.”
Here are some things to know about the Lions’ win over Bears (3-7):
HEATING UP: Chicago dropped its third straight and a tight loss probably won’t turn the heat down on coach John Fox. Questions about his job security arose again after last week’s demoralizing loss to the Aaron Rodgers-less Green Bay Packers.
His decision to challenge the spot after a pass to the 2 — leading to a lost fumble — in that game drew plenty of second guesses. So did running back Tarik Cohen only being in for 13 plays last week. The rookie was more involved against Detroit, though he was still among a group of key players who weren’t on the field for the final drive of the game.
That included Jordan Howard (125 yards on 15 carries) and tight end Adam Shaheen.
“In a two-minute situation, not everybody on the team knows all of that,” Fox said.
HAPPY RETURNS: Lions cornerback DJ Hayden returned a fumbled snap by Mitchell Trubisky 27 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter. That gave the Lions seven return TDs, matching a team record.
“It was big because we kind of started out slow today,” Hayden said. “It kind of popped us off. It kind of got a spark going. We started playing pretty well after that.”
NARROW MISSES: The Bears are 2-4 with Trubisky starting, and all four losses came after the No. 2 overall draft pick was unable to direct late drives for winning or tying points.
“I think adversity is a great teacher,” he said. “Overcoming struggles is a great teacher. And you just continue to keep that mindset. There’s no rookie excuse. You don’t get any freebies for being a rookie or anything like that. My teammates trust me and they have confidence in me.”
They had chances to win or tie at the end of games against Detroit, Minnesota, Green Bay and New Orleans. Trubisky also started in an overtime win at Baltimore.
HURTING: With Leonard Floyd leaving the game with a knee injury, the Bears are without their two top outside pass rushers. Willie Young went on IR earlier this season with a triceps injury.
The only experienced outside pass rushers remaining are Pernell McPhee and Sam Acho.
“He’s an invaluable player,” cornerback Marcus Cooper said of Floyd. “He puts great pressure on the quarterback. We know we’re going to miss him.”
Floyd, who has 5 ½ sacks this season, was taken off the field on a cart. Fox said it looks like “a really serious knee injury.”
“I told him I love him, I’m going to lay it on the line for him,” McPhee said.
ON RUN: The Lions are giving opponents room to run. They gave up 222 yards rushing against the Bears after Cleveland ran for 201 last against them last week.
“We better get it solved pretty quickly,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. “We’ve got a couple of really good backs coming in here this next week. It’s not just one thing. We’re not tackling as well as we’re capable. We’re not filling up things as well as we’re capable.”
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