Chicago, IL (Sports Network) – Jay Cutler threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to Matt Forte with 1:32 remaining in the fourth quarter, and the Chicago Bears withstood a controversial ruling to squeak by the Detroit Lions, 19-14, in the season opener from Soldier Field.
After the Bears failed on the two-point conversion, the Lions got the ball back at their own 17-yard line. Detroit backup quarterback Shaun Hill, replacing the injured Matthew Stafford, led the Lions down the field, hitting Bryant Johnson for a 24-yard gain, rookie running back Jahvid Best for eight yards and Tony Scheffler for 10. A 16-yard strike to Calvin Johnson placed the ball at the Chicago 25 and, after Hill spiked the ball to stop the clock, Calvin Johnson made a leaping grab over a Chicago defender in the end zone for a potential go-ahead score.
However, the officials ruled it was an incompletion because Johnson failed to maintain possession through the completion of the play. The fourth-year wide receiver lost control of the ball as he made his way to his feet after hitting the ground.
The play was upheld following a video review. Chicago then held on for the win after Hill threw two more incompletions.
Forte added an 89-yard TD reception in the second quarter for the Bears (1-0), who went 7-9 last season. Cutler was 23-of-35 for 372 yards with one interception and a fumble.
Stafford completed 11-of-15 passes for 83 yards before exiting with a right shoulder injury after a sack by Chicago newcomer Julius Peppers late in the first half. Stafford’s arm was in a sling as he stood on the sideline in the second half.
Best scored both touchdowns for Detroit (0-1), which has now lost 21 straight road games. The Lions finished 2-14 in head coach Jim Schwartz’s first season a year ago following an 0-16 2008 campaign.
After a scoreless third quarter, the Bears had an excellent opportunity to take the lead after linebacker Lance Briggs forced a fumble on Hill’s exchange to Best and recovered the ball at the Detroit one. But the Lions defense came through with a goal-line stand to keep Chicago out of the end zone and preserve a one-point lead. The Bears opted against the go-ahead field goal.
Following a series of punts, the Bears started a drive with roughly 3 1/2 minutes remaining from their own 44, and Chicago seized the lead on Forte’s second TD reception.
Forte caught seven passes for 151 yards and had 50 yards on 17 carries.
Cutler led Chicago down the field on the game’s opening series, but the Bears had to settle for a Robbie Gould 20-yard field goal after Forte was bottled up for a loss on third down at the Detroit two-yard line.
Cutler, who was picked off an NFL-high 26 times last season, his first in the Windy City following a trade from Denver, threw an interception on Chicago’s next drive.
Facing a 3rd-and-20 from his own 44, Cutler threw into triple-coverage deep down the middle and Detroit cornerback Aaron Berry hauled in a tipped ball.
The Lions took over at the Chicago 42 following a 23-yard return. A roughing the passer penalty assessed to Peppers on third down extended the drive for Detroit, which also converted a 3rd-and-8 from the 17 when Stafford hit Scheffler for a 10-yard gain. Best found the end zone on the next play to give Detroit a 7-3 lead with 2:15 remaining in the first quarter.
The teams combined for 17 points in the final 90 seconds of the half.
Earlier in the second stanza, the Bears committed a pair of fumbles to derail promising drives. The third Chicago turnover of the game gave Detroit the ball at its own 40, and Best capped the 10-play march with a four-yard TD run.
However, Chicago quickly answered on the first play of the ensuing series as Cutler hit Forte on a screen pass and he rumbled down the right sideline for the score with 1:03 left.
Rather than run out the time remaining in the quarter, Detroit looked to move the ball and the decision proved to be costly with the injury Stafford.
After consecutive five-yard completions to Scheffler set up a first down at the Lions’ 45, Stafford was hurt after being sacked by Peppers. The No. 1 overall draft pick last year fumbled as he landed on his throwing shoulder. Chicago’s Tommie Harris recovered, and the Bears trailed 14-13 after Gould ended the half by drilling a 31-yard field goal.
Detroit defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, the second overall pick in April’s draft, recorded a sack…Hill was 9-of-19 for 88 yards and one interception…The Lions haven’t won on the road since October 28, 2007 at Soldier Field…Chicago has won five straight meetings with Detroit.