DETROIT -- Quarterback Jay Cutler wasted perhaps his best performance of the season Monday night, when the once-vaunted Chicago Bears defense proved porous against an explosive Detroit Lions offense in a 24-13 loss at Ford Field.
Cutler passed for 249 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions and a passer rating of 99.6, but the effort went for naught.
Let’s take a deeper look at what took place:
What it means: The Bears significantly impacted their chances for repeating as divisional champions because the club now has one loss to each of the teams -- the Green Bay Packers, and now Lions -- it's chasing in the NFC North. It’s important to stress however that the season isn’t over for the Bears by any stretch. But the team just continues to chew up its margin for error.
Cutler shook off recent struggles and played well, and it appears the Bears have found a way to use schematics to protect him behind their shaky offensive line. Offensive coordinator Mike Martz also seems to have found balance in play-calling.
The problem now seems to be the defense, which in the past had been Chicago’s strength.
Bears coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jerry Angelo said that the fifth game of a season usually reveals what a team is going to be for the duration. So what does this outing say about the Bears?
It’s obvious the team still needs plenty of work, and what this contest said was the Bears -- at best -- are the third-best team in the division behind the Packers and Lions.
Devin’s drops: A wide-open Devin Hester dropped a perfectly-thrown ball from Cutler in the second quarter that likely would have gone for a touchdown. The drop raised Hester’s total to three for the season, and once again brings up the question of whether he can ever be a legitimate No. 1 receiver.
One of the most dangerous players in the game with the ball in his hands, Hester hasn’t consistently made plays when called upon in the receiving game. The dropped ball in the first half appeared to be very catchable, and Hester’s inability to make that play contributes to the general lack of trust on the offense.
More Hester miscues: Hester compounded the drop with an uncharacteristic mistake in the return game. Hester attempted to field a kickoff that looked to be floating toward out of bounds. In Hester’s attempt to field the kick, his momentum carried him out of bounds at the Chicago 7, resulting in a 4-yard return.
Forte performs: Running back Matt Forte entered Monday night’s game as the only player in the NFL with 300-plus yards rushing (324) and 300-plus yards receiving (310). Forte followed his career-high 205 yards rushing against the Panthers by gaining 134 yards from scrimmage (116 rushing, 18 receiving) against the Lions.
Prior to the game, Angelo said there hadn’t been any movement between the sides regarding a new contract for the running back. Angelo also insisted again that the team is now focused on the season and not the contract of Forte. The situation is unfortunate for the Bears considering Forte has been the most consistent player on the team’s struggling offense.
Bears gashed: Chicago’s defense entered Monday’s game giving up 5.1 yards per attempt, and watched that number swell dramatically after Lions running back Jahvid Best ran roughshod.
Best rushed for 163 yards against the Bears, and averaged 13.6-yards per carry. As a team, the Lions averaged 9.1 yards per carry, and the average ranks as the largest allowed by the Bears since Sept. 25, 1994, when they gave up 164 rushing yards on 18 attempts against the New York Jets (9.11 yards per attempt).
What’s next: The Bears take Tuesday off and host the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday night at Soldier Field.