The Detroit Lions jumped out to a big lead and held on, finally beating the Chicago Bears 40-32 at Ford Field. It was 40-16 early in the fourth quarter before Chicago rallied against a prevent defense.
This is a victory to savor for Lions fans. Chicago had won nine of the last 10 meetings with Detroit, and Jay Cutler had been outstanding in many of those efforts. Detroit forced four turnovers, including three interceptions of Cutler.
Here are my quick takeaways from the game.
Sure, I am a little biased because I get to watch every Lions play at least three times, but there is no way any defensive player around the league has been better than Ndamukong Suh so far this year.
This game was an excellent example and was Suh's most prolific to date. The defensive tackle racked up two sacks and three other quarterback hits. He drew an illegal hands to the face penalty on rookie guard Kyle Long which negated a conversion. Suh also had at least one tackle for loss in the run game.
He made a living in the Chicago backfield and prevented the Bears offense from getting any sort of rhythm or comfort level until the game was well decided. Chicago had no answer for the big No. 90 today.
This is precisely what Martin Mayhew envisioned when the Lions general manager signed Reggie Bush to a free-agent deal this offseason.
Bush sashayed his way around, over, between and past Bears defenders all day. He finished with 139 yards rushing on just 18 carries, including the sweet touchdown pictured above.
He also caught four passes for another 34 yards. The electricity of his moves brings back warm, fuzzy memories of Barry Sanders.
The best part is that Bush appears fully healthy, which is very important as the Lions head to Green Bay still short at the wide receiver position.
Left guard Rob Sims, center Dominic Raiola and right guard Larry Warford were a huge reason why Reggie Bush had such a big day. Their run-blocking was consistently outstanding all game long.
Chicago featured the more prominent rookie right guard in Kyle Long, but the first-round pick was badly outclassed by his third-round counterpart in this game. Warford routinely punished Bears defenders, blasting holes for Bush to exploit.
The pass protection up the gut was also strong. Chicago clearly missed injured defensive tackle Henry Melton, but the Lions' interior threesome played an excellent game.
Detroit turned the ball over three times in this game. The Lions had four fumbles, losing two and holding on to two as well.
Matthew Stafford had the ball stripped from his hand by Julius Peppers on a sack, while Joique Bell did a poor job securing the ball as Corey Wootton pawed at it. Stafford got very lucky when his first fumble popped up straight into his hands for the first touchdown.
This is a rare loss for Chicago when they force three or more turnovers. As I highlighted in this week's game-plan piece, Chicago entered this game 18-0 since the start of the 2011 season when forcing at least three takeaways.
Moving forward, Detroit must take better care of the ball if it hopes to keep winning.
The Lions forced four Chicago turnovers. Louis Delmas picked off Jay Cutler twice, while fellow safety Glover Quin secured another interception.
The biggest turnover on the day, however, was Ndamukong Suh stripping the ball from Cutler on a sack. Nick Fairley scooped it up and ambled four yards into the end zone for a touchdown.
Forcing turnovers was the recurrent drumbeat of the offseason from the Lions coaching staff. This game illustrates why they focused on it so heavily.
Some of the "credit" for the turnovers goes to Jay Cutler, who was clearly rattled by the pass rush and made a couple of truly awful throws which resulted in picks. But that goes back to the old axiom "pressure/pick, cover/sack."
The Lions brought the pressure, and it resulted in takeaways. This is a pleasant and eminently sustainable development as long as the Lions stay aggressive on defense.
Lots of this week's pregame chatter focused on how the Lions would replace injured wideout Nate Burleson.
Kris Durham answered the bell this week.
In his best game as a professional, Durham caught three balls for a team-leading 58 yards. Forty-eight of those came on consecutive 24-yard receptions early in the fourth quarter, setting up an Akers field goal.
His first catch set up Detroit's first touchdown. Durham pulled in a hard throw in heavy traffic, then lunged towards the end zone after getting hit. While he wound up being down at the 1, Stafford quickly cashed it in for the touchdown.
I also noted Durham's strong blocking several times, notably on a long Bush run in the third quarter. It was quite an effort from an unexpected source, the kind of thing which good teams always seem to get. Here's hoping Durham turns in another outing like this next week.
The Lions punt and kick return units have been nothing short of abysmal thus far this season. The Chicago game was little different, with one notable exception.
Micheal Spurlock finally made the first tackler miss on a punt return. He made the next man miss too and broke it back across the field for a 57-yard return which set up a Lions touchdown.
Prior to that impressive return, his longest effort on the season was just 11 yards. Spurlock had just 11 yards on five returns over the last two games.
While it was great to finally see a big return, it doesn't hide the fact that the Lions' return units are not very good. Spurlock has not made enough tacklers miss, while the blocking in front of him has been completely unsatisfactory so far.
It's odd, because the Lions' own coverage units are very strong. Perhaps the team will glean something from the big return, and it can help fix the endemic issues going forward.
Every week this season, I've used one of these postgame slides to bemoan the lack of disciplined play by the Lions.
I used this exact table last week to illustrate the penalty woes
The Chicago game was a different, happier story. Detroit was flagged three times for a total of 25 yards. One of those was a horse-collar tackle by Rocky McIntosh on a punt return.
The starting defense committed just one penalty, an illegal contact call on DeAndre Levy in coverage. No personal fouls, no offsides, no unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. That is significant progress. Let's hope this is an emerging trend moving forward and not a fluke.
That number got better against the Bears. Chicago failed to convert on its first 11 third downs.
A late conversion broke the ice, but it was the only successful third down on the day. Chicago finished 1-for-13 on third down in this game.
This is a testament to the strong play by the defensive line, but it also underscores how well the defense is playing on first down. According to a Fox graphic during the game, Chicago faced 3rd-and-8 or longer on eight of those 13 efforts. That helps the conversion percentage quite a bit.