(Reuters) - Chicago’s swarming, suffocating defense squeezed the life out of the Detroit Lions in a 13-7 victory on Monday that kept the Bears at the top of the NFC North.
The Bears stifled the visiting Lions’ offense for the entire game until Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Broyles with just 36 seconds remaining.
The Lions then tried an onside kick to get the ball back but the Bears (5-1) recovered it, sealing their fourth straight win and maintaining their slender division lead over the Minnesota Vikings (5-2).
“We were close to getting (a shutout), when we let them in it was kind of a disappointment,” Chicago defensive lineman Julius Peppers told reporters.
“We’re coached really well. We knock you down, we help you up, then we knock you down again.”
Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler threw a first-quarter touchdown pass to Brandon Marshall and kicker Robbie Gould added field goals in either half to give the home team a 13-0 lead.
Detroit (2-4), losers of four of their last five games, squandered several scoring chances and Monday’s defeat leaves them anchored at the foot of the division.
Lions running backs Mikel Leshoure and Joique Bell lost fumbles deep in Chicago territory, with Bell’s third-quarter giveaway coming at the Bears’ one-yard line, and Stafford threw an interception three yards from goal with under three minutes remaining.
The Lions, who also fumbled a punt in the third quarter, committed four turnovers in the game while Chicago padded their league-leading takeaway total to 21.
Stafford finished with 261 passing yards, many of them in the closing minutes, but Pro Bowl receiver Calvin Johnson was limited to just three catches for 34 yards.
Cutler showed his toughness for the Bears when he was hit hard on a sack by Detroit’s Ndamukong Suh in the second quarter and sustained bruised ribs. Cutler was briefly replaced by Jason Campbell at quarterback but returned to lead his team.
“It was a rough hit, those things happen,” added Cutler, who threw for 150 yards without turning the ball over. “I couldn’t really follow through the ball (after that) and it had an impact on play-calling but our defense played so well.”
Receiver Marshall finished with six catches for 81 yards and a touchdown while running back Matt Forte had 96 yards rushing.
Reporting by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by Peter Rutherford; firstname.lastname@example.org