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Updated: September 30, 2013 7:28PM
DETROIT — One cosmetic touchdown begat a two-point conversion, which led to another score and another conversion.
When the Bears lined up for an onside kick down eight with 47 seconds left Sunday, it would have been easy to wonder: Did the magic from an undefeated season follow them to Ford Field after all?
Then the Lions recovered the kick to hang onto a 40-32 victory and first place in the NFC North.
Sunday’s loss was not as close as the score showed, anyway.
“That game could have gotten real ugly — it could have gotten real, real ugly,” left tackle Jermon Bushrod said. “And it was ugly enough.
“But we fought back. We did all that we could do.”
Ugly? Quarterback Jay Cutler threw three interceptions and fumbled once, when he was sacked by Ndamukong Suh. Nick Fairley picked the ball up and ran it in for a four-yard touchdown, giving the Lions (3-1) a 21-point lead at the end of the third quarter.
“I mean, three picks — it’s hard to come back from that,” said Cutler, who completed 27 of 47 attempts for 317 yards.
The Lions’ fourth-quarter lead swelled to 24 before the Bears scored 16 in the final four minutes.
“That backbone is going to help us,” coach Marc Trestman said.
It would be a rare positive after the Bears allowed 24 consecutive second-quarter points and, for the first time since 2009, 40 or more points.
“We have to start fast with them — match our momentum with theirs,” safety Major Wright said. “And we definitely didn’t do that.”
Even with an active Charles Tillman — who rotated with Zack Bowman after being limited by a groin injury — the Bears made Reggie Bush look like his old collegiate self.
He finished with 139 rushing yards on 18 carries, including a 37-yard gallop with about three minutes left in the first half. Bush jumped over Wright and sprinted to the end zone untouched.
With defensive tackle Henry Melton out, the Lions running back said, “We just felt like we could definitely dominate the line of scrimmage.”
The Bears (3-1) stopped the Lions on the first and last drives of the first half and not once in between, allowing three consecutive field goals and then three touchdowns in a row.
Matthew Stafford’s one-yard sneak, in which he recovered his own fumble, was set up by Micheal Spurlock’s 57-yard punt return and gave the Lions a 16-10 lead.
Twenty-one seconds later, Calvin Johnson caught a two-yard jump-ball touchdown, set up by Glover Quin’s interception.
Safety Louis Delmas picked off Cutler twice to offset the loss of Rashean Mathis to a concussion.
The Bears’ lone first-half touchdown came when Matt Forte took a second-quarter pitch right for 53 yards, untouched behind masterful blocks by Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery.
They wouldn’t see the end zone again until Jeffery caught a 14-yard pass — and then a two-point conversion — with four minutes to play.
With 43 seconds left, Earl Bennett grabbed a 10-yard pass, and Marshall caught the conversion.
“We had a little life in the second half,” Bushrod said, “but it was too late.”