DETROIT — It started innocently enough. The defense forced the Detroit Lions to punt on their first possession of the game.
The Lions then scored on six straight possessions, 27 points in the second quarter alone, 24 unanswered, and did not punt again until they had a 30-13 lead in the third quarter.
“It all starts with us,” said linebacker Lance Briggs. “That second quarter was when it got away from us.”
The worry extends beyond the second quarter of Sunday’s 40-32 loss to the Lions.
Dating back to the Seattle game last season, the Bears have held only one (Arizona) of their last nine opponents below 21 points. For a defense that has 17 as its target, the situation qualifies as a problem.
The defense that produced a league-best 11 takeaways through the first three games did manage three against the Lions. But against the three Jay Cutler interceptions and his lost fumble, it was not enough.
The Bears missed tackles, sometimes two and three on one play. The Lions effectively used some Bears stunts against the front, allowing running back Reggie Bush to get into the second level with speed, and he repeatedly added yards after first hits.
“We just missed a lot of tackles,” said Charles Tillman, who started despite knee and groin injuries that kept him out of practice much of last week. He was, however, replaced in the second half by Zackary Bowman.
“And Bush did a good job of making his moves.”
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The defense wasn’t solely at fault, obviously. The offense gave up seven points on a sack/strip and fumble recovery. After allowing none as long as 20 yards through three games, special teams allowed a 57-yard punt return in the second quarter, to the Chicago 22. Four plays later Matthew Stafford sneaked from the 1 and recovered his own fumble in the end zone.
But Bush had 112 rushing yards, including 37 on his one touchdown run, in just the first half. Stafford threw for 242 yards and was only sacked once (Julius Peppers) in 25 dropbacks.
All-Pro wide receiver Calvin Johnson caught just four passes for 44 yards, one touchdown, and the Bears were still shredded.