Bears vs. Lions: Takeaways from Chicago's 40-32 Loss to Detroit
Following two fourth-quarter comebacks and a decisive win in a prime-time game, the 3-0 Bears looked to come away with a commanding lead in the NFC North after their trip to Detroit.
The Lions said otherwise and beat the Bears on the ground and won the turnover battle during their 40-32 victory Sunday afternoon.
The Bears struggled to find any rhythm offensively until late in the fourth quarter, and the defense struggled to keep the Lions offense at bay when faced with defending a short field.
Here are my five takeaways from the Bears' 40-32 loss against the Detroit Lions.
After Three Weeks of Improvement, Cutler Reverts to Old Habits
While Jay Cutler had not completely eradicated his turnover problem during the first three weeks of the season, he had shown an improvement in his decision making.
Sunday afternoon in Detroit, Cutler appeared to revert back to a guy that trusted his arm more than he trusted his head. He was intercepted three times by the Detroit defense with all three looking more like forced throws or bad throws than just good plays by the defenders.
After throwing just three interceptions and losing one fumble, he matched those totals on Sunday in Detroit. He had shown an improvement with his footwork in the first three games but reverted back to his old ways on Sunday with sloppy footwork as he tended to throw off of his back foot much like he had in the past.
Cutler told the Chicago Tribune's Rich Campbell, "I felt good about my decision making. I just missed some throws."
He also took much of the blame following the game, telling Campbell, "If I played better, this is a different ballgame."
If the Bears want to not only fight for the division crown but for a championship, Cutler is going to need to show more of the player we saw in Weeks 1 through 3 than the guy we saw on Sunday afternoon in Detroit.
Defense Struggles to Slow Down Reggie Bush
Since winning the Heisman in 2005 and subsequently getting it taken away in 2010, Reggie Bush has been labeled by many as a bust in the NFL.
His first five seasons in New Orleans were largely viewed as a bust as he only rushed for 2,090 yards after being selected second overall in the 2006 draft.
Bush moved on to Miami in 2011 and rushed for 2,072 yards during his two-year run with the Dolphins.
He has been electric at times this season for the Lions both as a runner and as receiver. Sunday afternoon the Bears got a good look at Bush as he ran the ball 18 times for 139 yards including a 37-yard run for a touchdown in the second quarter.
Bush gashed the Bears both up the middle and to the outside and was particularly effective against the Bears front four when running the draw play.
The Bears have done a decent job early on this season slowing down the run against the Bengals (63 yards), Vikings (103 yards) and Steelers (80 yards) but looked lost at times trying to slow down the quick and shifty Bush.
The Bears likely will not need to worry as much about stopping the run this Sunday against the pass-happy New Orleans Saints, but Bush showed that the Bears defense can be vulnerable against the run.
Alshon Jeffery Is a Legitimate Second Receiving Option
All day Sunday the Detroit Lions' goal was to slow down Brandon Marshall. While he still had solid numbers (seven catches for 79 yards), second-year receiver Alshon Jeffery made his mark.
Jeffery finished with five catches for 107 yards on 11 targets and one touchdown. With four minutes remaining and the Bears trailing, Jay Cutler hit Jeffery for a 14-yard touchdown and again went to Jeffery for the two-point conversion.
Cutler praised Jeffery during training camp saying (h/t ESPN Chicago): "Alshon, I think has probably had the best camp out of everybody on offense. He's done a great job this offseason of getting better, getting physically stronger and gaining my trust. I love throwing it to him."
Jeffery showed his new found strength Sunday afternoon by using his body to overpower the Detroit cornerbacks, and Cutler showed he has built trust in him and is willing to throw to him in crucial situations.
His strong showing on Sunday proves that when teams try to shut down Marshall, Jeffery can be a legitimate target for Cutler.
Offense Struggles with Third-Down Conversions
After converting nearly 43 percent of their third downs in the previous three games, the Bears offense converted just one of 13 chances on Sunday afternoon.
Jay Cutler never seemed to get into much of a rhythm against the Lions defense and did not become very efficient until late into the fourth quarter.
Many throws on third down were thrown to receivers running routes short of the first-down marker; Cutler over/underthrew them or the receiver was not able to reel in the catch.
If the Bears are ineffective on third downs in the future like they were on Sunday, they will struggle to be competitive against any team in the league.
Charles Tillman's Health Is a Concern Moving Forward
Heading into Sunday's game against the Lions, Charles Tillman was listed on the injury report as questionable, still dealing with knee and groin injuries. He missed practices Wednesday and Thursday and was involved only in a limited capacity Friday.
He started Sunday's game but rotated at times with backup cornerback Zackary Bowman. I speculated last week whether Tillman's injury could be a concern moving forward, and a week later it is still unknown on where he stands in regards to his health.
Despite Tillman rotating in and out, the Bears were still able to slow down Calvin Johnson who finished with just four catches for 44 yards, but with a pass-happy New Orleans Saints team coming to town this Sunday, Tillman's health will once again be a question.