Un-Bearable: Lions lose game, Sanders

November 26, 1993|By Frank Litsky | Frank Litsky,New York Times News Service

PONTIAC, MICH — PONTIAC, Mich. -- The Chicago Bears, playing tough, mean and inspired defense, upset the Detroit Lions yesterday, 10-6. As coach Wayne Fontes of the Lions put it, "Their defense strangled our offense."

As if their second straight loss was not bad enough, the Lions also lost Barry Sanders, the NFL's leading rusher, for three to five weeks. In the third quarter, the tailback sprained the medial collateral ligament of his left knee.

Dr. David Collon, the Lions' physician, said Sanders' ligament was partially torn and called it "a medium sprain." He said surgery was not needed.

Actually, the Lions played well on defense. But the Bears did, too, especially their defensive line of two old-timers (Richard Dent and Steve McMichael) and two comparative newcomers (Trace Armstrong and Chris Zorich).

Among them, they made five sacks. Armstrong also recovered a fumble that led to the Bears' field goal, and he forced and recovered another fumble that led to the only touchdown of the game. In all, the Lions gained 230 yards, the Bears 225.

"It wasn't a very good football game," Fontes said. "It's probably the worst loss since I've been here. They beat us every way possible on their defensive line."

The loss dented the Lions' drive for a division title. Their record dropped to 7-4, and if Green Bay beats Tampa Bay on Sunday, it will move into a first-place tie.

"It's embarrassing," said Brett Perriman, a Lions wide receiver. "But we deserved it."

The Bears climbed to 6-5 and are also in the playoff picture. This was their third upset victory on the road in three weeks, the others coming over the San Diego Chargers and the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Lions could not hurt the Bears' defense and scored only on Jason Hanson's field goals of 39 and 27 yards. The Bears mixed up their pass rush, sending four rushers on some plays, sometimes three, sometimes five. The Lions' offensive line, rebuilt this year with three unrestricted free agents, was outmanned.

The Lions had their chances, but Armstrong or Zorich or someone else would foil them. On the Bears' touchdown, the Lions foiled themselves. The score was 3-3 late in the second quarter when quarterback Rodney Peete dropped back to pass. Armstrong swiped at the ball, knocked it loose and recovered on the Lions' 42-yard line.

On the next play, the Lions double-teamed Bears receiver Tom Waddle. They left cornerback Ray Crockett in single coverage on Terry Obee, a rookie. Obee, running a post pattern, got two steps behind Crockett and made a diving catch of Jim Harbaugh's pass in the end zone.

"I didn't feel the cornerback at all," said Obee, still surprised.

Crockett said only, "It was a good play they made and we didn't."

Midway through the last quarter, Vernon Turner of the Lions muffed a fair catch, and Robert Green of the Bears recovered on the Lions' 30. But the officials gave the ball to the Lions, ruling that one of them had blown an "erroneous" whistle. Bears coach Dave Wannstedt was livid, as he argued with an official.

Before being hurt, Sanders had 16 carries for 63 yards. "Now," Crockett said, "we have to see how we can play without The Franchise."

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