Despite a valiant effort by their improving defense, the Lions failed to win a game they desperately needed for their playoff hopes Monday night.
The Chicago Bears shut down the Lions' once-powerful offense, winning 13-7 at Soldier Field. The Lions finally ended the shutout on a touchdown with 30 seconds remaining.
What makes the loss even worse is that receiver Nate Burleson suffered a broken leg in the third quarter and will miss the remainder of the season.
Even though it's still early, this one was an extremely costly defeat for the Lions, who fell to 2-4. There are now 12 teams ahead of them in the NFC playoff race, including the other three in their division.
Chicago leads the NFC North with a 5-1 record, followed by Minnesota (5-2), Green Bay (4-3) and then the last-place Lions.
"We're not frustrated," Lions coach Jim Schwartz insisted during his postgame radio interview. "We're determined and we're mad and we're going to do something about it.
"We have enough talent, we have enough character to pull ourselves out of that."
The Lions, who have a quick turnaround before Sunday's home game against Seattle, simply aren't making big plays on offense like they did last season, when they won 10 games and went to the playoffs.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford will inexplicably misfire when he has a wide-open receiver. Or a receiver will drop a crucial pass when Stafford makes the perfect throw.
Whatever can go wrong is going wrong.
Part of that, of course, was because of the Bears' top-ranked, ball-hawking defense. They now have 21 takeaways in six games.
The Lions turned it over on their first three trips in the red zone, which ultimately cost them the game.
Running back Mikel Leshoure fumbled near the 15-yard line late in the first half, reserve running back Joique Bell coughed it up inside the 1-yard line in the third quarter and Stafford threw an interception late in the fourth quarter.
The lasting memory came after the interception when Stafford got knocked down and walked away with a facemask full of turf.
The Lions' other turnover was on a muffed punt by Stefan Logan at the 27-yard line, leading to a Bears' field goal.
It was sloppy, sloppier and sloppiest.
Chicago, meanwhile, committed no turnovers.
"You're not going to win with four turnovers," Schwartz said.
The night couldn't have started much worse for the Lions. Calvin "Megatron" Johnson dropped a pass when he was shockingly open across the middle. The Bears immediately shredded the Detroit defense with a quick touchdown.
But the perplexing Lions' offense, one of the most prolific in the league last season, continued to scuffle.
Stafford overthrew Titus Young, who was open over the middle, on a third-down opportunity. Burleson stopped a drive with a drop.
It's been one thing after another for this offense all season. They've scored a total of one touchdown in the first half of their six games.
You can blame that for the team's struggles. You can blame the special teams, too.
But you can't blame the defense, which has played surprisingly well, especially considering the secondary has been depleted by injuries.
Rookie Jonte Green, a sixth-round draft pick, started at cornerback because of injuries to Bill Bentley (shoulder) and Jacob Lacey (concussion).
Alphonso Smith, who was re-signed last week after getting cut before the season opener, played the nickel when the defense went to five defensive backs in passing situations.
The secondary took another hit in the third quarter when safety Amari Spievey suffered a possible concussion. He also had a concussion in the playoffs last season and continued to experience headaches during the offseason.
Other than the opening drive, the much-maligned Detroit D was solid. One of the top plays was by defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who threw Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler to the ground late in the first half. Cutler landed on his right elbow and shoulder. The 307-pound Suh then fell on top of Cutler.
Cutler returned after missing one play, but he then went to the locker room early and missed the Bears' final possession of the half. He was diagnosed with bruised ribs and came back to play the rest of the game.
As it turned out, Cutler did all he had to do in the first quarter when he threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Marshall and then scrambled 24 yards to set up a field goal.
That right there was enough to beat the Detroit offense these days.
Rookie Ryan Broyles scored his first NFL touchdown when he caught a 12-yard pass in the final minute. Broyles' role will expand now because of the injury to Burleson.
… The Lions announced Monday afternoon that they had signed cornerback Justin Miller and released linebacker Doug Hogue.
Miller returns after getting released during the final round of cuts before the opener. He played on special teams and also will provide some depth at a depleted position.
Hogue, a fifth-round pick in 2011, became expendable because the club drafted two linebackers (Tahir Whitehead and Travis Lewis) in April.