Stafford leads Lions to 24-20 victory over Bears in finale
CHICAGO (AP) Next up for Detroit is a new general manager. Then coach Jim Caldwell will learn if he gets to stick around a little while longer with the Lions.
Caldwell and Detroit finished a turbulent season with a 24-20 victory over the Chicago Bears in the finale on Sunday. The Lions closed with three straight wins and six in eight games overall, making a strong argument for at least a third season for their head coach.
''I think he is a great coach and a really good man,'' said Matthew Stafford, who passed for 298 yards and three touchdowns. ''You don't go 1-7 and come back and go 6-2 if your team doesn't believe in your coach.''
The Lions (7-9) fired team president Tom Lewand and general manager Martin Mayhew in November after they dropped seven of their first eight games. Rod Wood, who took over as team president after the shake-up in the front office, said the Lions will begin requesting interviews for general manager candidates on Monday.
''I'm not sure when we will get them scheduled and nothing has changed with the process of the GM still selecting and deciding with what's going to happen with the head coach,'' he said.
The last-place Bears (6-10) lost for the fourth time in five games despite showing progress in their first season under coach John Fox and general manager Ryan Pace. Five of Chicago's 10 losses were by four points or less.
''We had a lot of close games, a lot of very tight contests,'' offensive tackle Kyle Long said. ''I think with this regime they'll be able to add more pieces into place that are more beneficial to this team and be able to close that gap and flip those (losses) into wins.''
Here are a couple more things to watch after Detroit's sixth straight win against Chicago:
FORTE'S FUTURE: Bears running back Matt Forte had 17 carries for 76 yards and three receptions for 34 more yards in possibly his final game with the only NFL team he has ever known. He turned a swing pass into a 23-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.
''I'd like to stay here,'' he said, ''but I don't have any control over that right now. When free agency hits, we'll obviously cross that bridge when it gets here.''
Forte was drafted by Chicago in the second round in 2008 and signed a four-year contract extension in July 2012. He rushed for 898 yards and four touchdowns, and caught 44 balls for 389 yards and three more scores in 13 games this season, but he also turned 30 last month. The Bears could decide to go in a different direction.
''I just know that I appreciate him and have great respect for him and everything he gave us this season,'' Fox said. ''You know, who knows where we will all be tomorrow?''
JOHNSON'S FUTURE: Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson had 10 receptions for 137 yards, including a lunging 36-yarder for a TD with 1:07 left in the third quarter. The 30-year-old Johnson also heads into an uncertain offseason, with a big cap hit next year that could force the Lions to cut him loose.
''It's not in my control,'' Johnson said. ''Only things that I do are in my control. Whatever decisions they make is up to them. I'm just going to enjoy this down time and go from there.''
WHAT A KICK: Detroit's Matt Prater kicked a 59-yard field goal on the final play of the first half - the longest ever at Soldier Field, according to STATS. He was wide right on a 54-yard attempt earlier in the second quarter.
''I just hoped it went straight,'' Prater said of his season-long field goal. ''I wish I would've had the other one back that I missed before. This is a tough place to kick. Hats off to Robbie Gould.''
STAFFORD'S DAY: Stafford had 17 touchdown passes against only one interception in the final six games. After Forte's touchdown tied it at 17, Stafford marched the Lions to a 1-yard touchdown catch by Eric Ebron with 8:46 left.
GASE WATCH: It also might have been the last game with Chicago for offensive coordinator Adam Gase, who could be one of the top candidates for several head coaching jobs. Gase is widely credited for his work with Cutler, who threw 21 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions after he had 18 picks a year ago.
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Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap