Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) walks off the field after defeating the Chicago Bears in an NFL football game in Detroit, Sunday, Dec. 11, 2016. (AP Photo/Rick Osentoski)
Rick Osentoski
December 11, 2016

DETROIT (AP) The Detroit Lions have won this season with clutch kicks, timely takeaways and last-ditch drives.

Now, add a couple game-changing penalty flags to the long list of things that have gone Detroit's way.

Two holding calls in the final minute kept Chicago out of reasonable field goal range, and the Lions beat the Bears 20-17 on Sunday for their eighth victory in nine games. Almost every Detroit game this season has come down to the wire, and this one might very well have gone to overtime if not for the two crucial flags on Chicago.

''It may not be pretty, but this is the way it is in this game,'' Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. ''I just know one thing: You don't do it that many times and consider it luck, so there is some skill in there. I think our guys do a tremendous job of being able to handle tough situations very, very well and they keep doing it week after week.''

The Lions, who have not won a division title since 1993, lead the NFC North by two games.

Down by three, the Bears had the ball at the Detroit 43-yard line with 58 seconds left. Cameron Meredith caught a pass and outran the defense before going out of bounds at the 16, but the play was called back because of a holding penalty on lineman Charles Leno.

On the next snap, Matt Barkley completed a pass to Daniel Braverman that would have put the ball at the 30, but there was a flag on that play too - holding on lineman Ted Larsen.

''When I was playing it didn't feel like it, a grab, a hold or a restriction,'' Larsen said. ''They called it, so there's nothing you can do about that, but you can't really recover from two holding penalties back to back. They called it. I really don't have much to say about that.''

The Bears finished with 11 penalties for 139 yards, with 74 of those yards coming on three pass interference flags. A pass interference call on Tracy Porter helped the Lions drive for their first touchdown of the day in the second quarter, and Bryce Callahan was flagged for the same infraction shortly before Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford scored the winning touchdown on a 7-yard run late in the fourth.

Detroit (9-4) has had only one game this season decided by more than seven points. The Lions have gotten consistently good kicking from Matt Prater, who made a 54-yarder Sunday, and Stafford has made fourth-quarter comebacks seem almost routine. Chicago took a 17-13 lead with 7:07 remaining when Cre'Von LeBlanc intercepted a pass and returned it 24 yards for a touchdown. Stafford then led a seven-play, 76-yard drive and scored the winning TD with 3:17 remaining.

The Bears (3-10) were driving back the other way before the two holding calls left them facing first-and-30 from their own 37. They made it back across midfield to set up fourth-and-11 from the Detroit 44, but Barkley's pass over the middle was incomplete.

''When you keep getting pushed back like that, you really want to just get chunks at a time - you're not going to gain it all back in one play,'' Barkley said. ''Gave ourselves a chance on fourth down. We've just got to make a play.''


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