Charles Tillman and Major Wright returned interceptions for touchdowns early in the third quarter, and Chicago picked off Stafford four times to beat Detroit 37-13 in a heated game on Sunday.
The four interceptions by Stafford matched his season total entering the game and helped knock the Lions (6-3) into a second-place tie with the Bears in the NFC North. Stafford was also involved in a skirmish that led to an ejection of Chicago’s D.J. Moore early in the fourth quarter.
By then, the Bears (6-3) had locked up their fourth straight win thanks to a dominant defense and another punt return for a touchdown by Devin Hester, who ran one back 82 yards. That extended his NFL record to 12.
Julius Peppers and Tim Jennings forced turnovers on Detroit’s first two possessions, leading to a touchdown and field goal by Chicago. Wright and Tillman returned interceptions for touchdowns on the Lions’ first two possessions of the second half to put game out of reach.
In between turnover binges, Hester caused his usual havoc before leaving with an undisclosed illness.
For a guy who was listed as questionable with a sprained left ankle, Hester sure looked good at least while he was in the game. He had already set up a field goal by Robbie Gould in the opening seconds of the second quarter with a 29-yard punt return before his long TD return along the left sideline, giving the Bears (6-3) a 20-0 lead.
The idea that the Bears would be tied with the Lions seemed far-fetched after their 24-13 Monday night loss at Ford Field last month, but the teams have gone in different directions since.
Detroit has dropped three of four after winning its first five, and this one was brutal — particularly for Stafford and Calvin Johnson.
Johnson had 81 yards on seven catches with Tillman locking him down.
Stafford completed 33 of 63 passes for 329 yards, and any shot the Lions had at a comeback ended when Wright and Tillman picked him off early in the third.
Wright returned his interception 24 yards and Tillman ran his back 44 yards for TDs that made it 34-6, sending the Lions to their first road loss after they won their first four away from Ford Field.
Things really got chippy early in the fourth quarter after Stafford threw his third interception. Jennings picked him off and got shoved hard out of bounds by Nate Burleson. While that unfolded, Stafford grabbed D.J. Moore by the helmet and threw him to the ground, setting off a confrontation that led to Moore’s ejection.
There was also some tension earlier in the game.
Jay Cutler had his helmet ripped off by Ndamukong Suh after a run, and he got slammed to the ground by Nick Fairley on a late hit in the third quarter.
And a few plays before Jennings’ interception, Chicago’s Lance Briggs had a hard hit on Johnson.
Those incidents aside, there was little drama in this one.
The Bears pulled out an easy win even though Matt Forte and Cutler were rather quiet.
Forte scored the game’s first touchdown on a 6-yard run but finished with 64 yards — 40 of them on one run.
Cutler was consistently under pressure while throwing for just 123 yards, but for one game, anyway, it didn’t matter.