CHICAGO — There was a big gasp going through the stadium as Jay Cutler writhed in pain on the field.
He got up and the defense provided a big lift.
Cutler returned after bruising his ribs, and Brian Urlacher made a key fumble recovery to help the Chicago Bears beat the Detroit Lions, 13-7, on Monday night for their fourth consecutive win.
It was certainly not an easy night for the NFC North leaders, particularly their quarterback, but they came away with the win after a week off and possibly buried Detroit (2-4) in the process despite getting a major scare along the way.
That happened in the second quarter when Cutler was sacked by Ndamukong Suh and ultimately wound up going to the locker room to have his ribs examined.
Cutler came up kneeling and holding his head as trainers tended to him, then ran to the sideline.
“He’s a tough guy,” Bears coach Lovie Smith said. “Most people thought Jay would get up. Unless it’s a broken leg or something like that, he’s going to get up. ... He was in some pain, but he fought through it.”
Cutler came back to start the second half and was 16-for-31 with 150 yards and a touchdown, but with the defense locking down the Lions, the Bears (5-1) prevailed.
It was a huge blow for last-place Detroit, a team many expected to contend for the division title after making the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade.
The Lions never got in gear, and when they had chances, they blew them. The biggest came early in the third quarter, when Joique Bell fumbled at the goal line with the Bears leading 13-0.
Urlacher recovered and Chicago hung on from there, sending Detroit to its fourth loss in five games.
Brandon Marshall caught six passes for 81 yards and scored a touchdown on Chicago’s first possession. Matt Forte ran for 96 yards, and with the NFL’s stingiest defense doing its part again, Chicago never really was threatened in this one.
It was a rough night for the Lions, with Matthew Stafford going 28-for-46 for 261 yards after leading a late charge in last week’s win over Philadelphia.
Calvin Johnson had trouble shaking the Bears’ Charles Tillman and finished with three catches for 34 yards. He dropped a deep pass over the middle on the game’s first possession even though he was wide open.
“Charles Tillman, that’s tough to do playing against one of the best players in the league, matching up with him all night,” Smith said.
The Lions lost receiver Nate Burleson – a former Seattle Seahawk and a graduate of O’Dea High School – to a knee injury in the third quarter on a hit by Tim Jennings after a catch.