At least when things were going bad for most of the season’s first three weeks, the Detroit Lions had one of the best offenses in the NFL to hang their hat on.
But Sunday at Soldier Field, even that high-scoring unit was nowhere to be found.
The Lions failed to score an offensive touchdown in a lifeless performance at Soldier Field, losing to the Chicago Bears and backup quarterback Brian Hoyer, 17-14.
The Lions (1-3) have lost three straight since opening the season with a 39-35 victory over the Indianapolis Colts and head into a three-game home stand that starts next Sunday against the undefeated Philadelphia Eagles (3-0) with plenty of questions on both sides of the ball.
Defensive end Ziggy Ansah missed his second straight game with a high ankle injury and the Lions couldn’t generate any meaningful pass rush in his absence.
Linebacker DeAndre Levy missed his third straight game with a quadriceps injury, and the Lions allowed a tight end to catch a touchdown pass for the fourth straight game.
And on offense, Golden Tate was benched for much of the second half, drops were an issue for the second time in three weeks, and Matthew Stafford threw two interceptions.
Stafford completed 23-for-36 passes with 213 yards and passed Dan Marino for most passing yards ever in a player’s first 100 games. But he and the rest of the offense looked out of sync against a Bears team that was playing without its best pass rusher, defensive tackle, linebacker and one of its starting cornerbacks.
The Bears, who were winless entering Sunday, opened the scoring with a 10-play, 83-yard drive that ended with Hoyer’s 4-yard touchdown pass to Eddie Royal.
Linebacker Tahir Whitehead was called for a questionable pass interference penalty on rookie running back Jordan Howard one play before the touchdown.
The Lions trailed 7-3 at halftime but squandered a golden scoring opportunity late in the second quarter when they took possession at their own 39-yard line following a missed Connor Barth field goal and drove to the Chicago 22 with 16 seconds to play.
On third-and-1, with no timeouts left, Stafford threw a quick out to his left on a pass intended for Tate, but Tate never stopped running downfield and Jacoby Glenn made an easy interception.
Tate was benched for most of the second half, appearing only briefly late in the Lions’ opening drive of the third quarter – when they failed to convert two running plays from the 1 and had to settle for a field goal – and to catch a late two-point conversion.
Hoyer threw his second touchdown pass of the game one series after Matt Prater’s 21-yard field goal, hitting a wide-open Zach Miller for a 6-yard score.
The Lions scored their only touchdown on an Andre Roberts 85-yard punt return with 1:52 to play, but failed to recover the onside kick.
Hoyer, making his second start in place of the injured Jay Cutler, completed 28-for-36 passes for 302 yards, and Howard, making his first career start in place of the injured Jeremy Langford, ran for 111 yards on 23 carries.
Marvin Jones had five catches for 74 yards for the Lions, who lost backup running back Dwayne Washington to an ankle injury in the first half.