October 5, 2009 at 1:12 pm

John Niyo

Lions take another step -- back

The early diagnosis on Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford's injured right knee is a patellar subfluxation, or temporary dislocation. He dislocated the same kneecap in high school and will have an MRI today. (M. Spencer Green/Associated Press)

Chicago

In the first quarter, Matthew Stafford was high-stepping off the field in celebration. In the third quarter, he was backpedaling on the field under siege. In the fourth, he was limping on the sideline, with his parka on and an ice pack on his injured right knee.

As progressions go, that's not exactly a positive sign for the Lions and their rookie quarterback.

And it provided a painful backdrop in Sunday's 48-24 loss at Soldier Field, where the Lions, who'd taken one step forward with last week's streak-busting victory, made a hasty retreat to their old form.

Tied at halftime with their would-be division rivals, they somehow managed to duplicate their season-opening pratfall at New Orleans. The defense only allowed 276 yards in the loss, but the Bears added 277 in the return game, making it look as if the Lions thought they were playing two-hand touch on punts and kickoffs.

And just when Stafford seemed to be making his rallying cry, marching the team down the field on a 14-play drive with the Lions trailing by 14 to start the fourth quarter, he yelped. Or yelled. Or something.

"I don't remember yelling," Stafford said after the game, standing solidly -- if not defiantly -- on two legs in the visitors' locker room.

Down and out

He laughed when told the TV replays showed what looked to be an anguished scream from Stafford after the Bears' Adewale Ogunleye dragged him down awkwardly on a third-down sack that forced the Lions to settle for a field goal.

"Oh, it was a silent yell," laughed Stafford, who'd danced off the field like a drum major after his 14-yard touchdown pass to Will Heller put the Lions up 14-7 early. "No, I don't know. It's just a reaction, I guess."

One can only guess the reaction was similar from Lions management as they watched their $72 million man curled up in the fetal position clutching his knee. The early diagnosis, according to a team source, is a patellar subfluxation, or temporary dislocation. But he dislocated that same kneecap as a high school senior -- the last time he missed a game to injury -- and he'll go for an MRI today before its decided how much time, if any, he'll miss.

"He twisted his knee a little bit," coach Jim Schwartz said. "Obviously, we'll have to do a lot of tests. But he wasn't able to really get it warmed back up again, and we didn't want to put him back in the game."

After initial reports from the sideline suggested Stafford was going to return on the Lions' next offensive series, he did stay seated, and Daunte Culpepper trotted out to finish the game.

Maybe that had something to do with the Bears quickly scoring on Matt Forte's 37-yard touchdown run to put the game out of reach, 41-24. Or maybe not, as Schwartz grew visibly irritated when asked about that possibility after the game.

"If he was healthy enough to go back in the game, he would've gone back in the game," Schwartz said. "I wasn't conceding the game."

Asked again, Schwartz raised his voice and answered, "If he was healthy enough, he would have gone back in the game."

Or what was left of it, at that point.

No need for seconds

I'm not sure what the Lions' halftime routine is this season, but whatever they're doing, they'd better change it. They've given up a combined 37 points on opponents' first two third-quarter possessions this season, and the Lions have been outscored 61-12 after halftime the last three weeks.

Sunday, it was a 102-yard kickoff return from Johnny Knox that was the beginning of the end in what Schwartz described as "one of the worst second halves of football I've ever been associated with."

But four consecutive three-and-outs from the Lions offense -- four drives produced three punts, three sacks, one fumble and minus-12 yards -- sealed their fate.

For the game, the Bears' average starting field possession was the Detroit 46. For the visitors, it was their own 18. And for a team that hasn't won on the road since October 2007 -- yes, some losing streaks still linger with this franchise -- that's no way to get ahead.

john.niyo@detnews.com">john.niyo@detnews.com (313) 982-3810

Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford finished 24-of-36 for 296 yards, a ... (Daniel Mears/The Detroit News)
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