Lions hold off Bears to finish season 7-9

Posted at 3:48 PM, Jan 03, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-03 18:34:11-05
CHICAGO (AP) -- Jim Caldwell was in no mood to discuss his future. He'll find out soon enough if he will coach the Detroit Lions for a third season.
For now, he is taking a business-as-usual approach. And that meant a win to close out a losing season on Sunday.
Matthew Stafford threw for 298 yards and three touchdowns and Calvin Johnson had 137 yards receiving in a 24-20 win over the Chicago Bears.
Detroit (7-9) avoided a last-place finish in the NFC North with its sixth win in eight games. Whether the Lions bring back Caldwell for a third season is uncertain.
"I'm not going to discuss anything that's out of my control," said Caldwell, 18-14 in two seasons with the Lions. "We're just going about business the way we've been doing."
He led them to a rare playoff appearance last year, but a 1-7 start put his future in doubt. Caldwell survived a midseason purge that saw offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi get fired and ownership drop the ax on president Tom Lewand and general manager Martin Mayhew the following week.
"You don't go 1-7 and come back and go 6-2 if your team doesn't believe in your coach," Stafford said. "We definitely do."
President Rod Wood said the Lions will start requesting interviews for general manager candidates on Monday and whoever they hire will determine if Caldwell stays.
"We're very pleased how the season ended and we can continue that momentum into the offseason with a general manager in place and build on it for next year," Wood said.
The Lions intercepted Jay Cutler three times, and held on after the teams started trading scores in the second half. They took a 24-17 lead on Eric Ebron's 1-yard catch in the fourth quarter.
It was a four-point game when Detroit's Glover Quin intercepted Cutler with just under two minutes remaining, and the Lions hung on.
Chicago (6-10) lost for the fourth time in five games and finished last in the division despite showing progress in its first season under coach John Fox and general manager Ryan Pace.
Stafford, who got into a groove late in the year with Jim Bob Cooter as offensive coordinator, completed 28 of 39 passes without getting picked off. He threw 19 touchdowns and two interceptions over the final eight games.
Johnson had 10 catches, including a lunging 36-yard touchdown grab, in what could also be his final game for Detroit. He has a big contract that runs through 2019, and when the Lions struggled the first half of the season, it looked like he and Stafford could be on their way out. But now that the passing game is clicking again ...
"Whatever decisions they make, that's up to them," Johnson said. "You know what I'm saying? I'm going to enjoy this down time and go from there."
Detroit's Matt Prater kicked a 59-yard field goal, the longest ever at Soldier Field, according to STATS.
Cutler was 17 of 23 for 245 yards and two touchdowns with top receiver Alshon Jeffery on injured reserve and Eddie Royal out with an illness.
Matt Forte had 76 yards rushing and 34 receiving in what could be his final game for Chicago, given his age (30) and expiring contract. And he reiterated his desire to stay afterward.
The Bears, meanwhile, went 1-7 at home. But they also hinted that better days are coming.
"We fought there until the very end," Cutler said. "It wasn't pretty at times throughout the year and guys, we're aware of that. We watch the film.  We knew what we're doing well, what we're not doing well."
Trailing 10-0 at halftime, the Bears tied it midway through the third period when Cutler hit a leaping Josh Bellamy down the middle for a 34-yard touchdown. That started a run in which the teams combine to score on five possessions.
The Lions briefly regained the lead when Johnson got behind Tracy Porter along the left sideline and lunged to snag a 36-yard touchdown from Stafford, making it 17-10 with just over a minute left in the quarter.
But the teams kept scoring. The Lions finally went ahead for good on Ebron's TD, before Chicago's Robbie Gould kicked a 34-yard field goal to make it 24-20 with 5:39 left.
"Just hang with us, we're going to get there," Fox said.
NOTES: The Bears reached double digits in losses in consecutive years for the first time since they did it from 1997 through 2000. ... Gould finished with 33 field goals, breaking his previous club record of 32 in 2006. ... Detroit's Theo Riddick caught two passes to set a club record for running backs with 78. James Jones had the previous mark with 77 in 1984.