On the first play of the second quarter Thursday, Lions receiver Corey Fuller had a 21-yard reception, and after the play, his younger brother Kyle, a Bears cornerback, knocked the ball out of his hands.
The Fuller brothers have been competing their whole lives, and on Thanksgiving, they played against each other for the first time, though they didn’t line up across from each other much. Corey, who’s two years older, earned bragging rights as the Lions beat the Bears, 34-17.
The Fuller parents watched the game at Ford Field wearing custom jerseys that for both of their sons. And after the game, the Fullers planned on having Thanksgiving dinner together, and Corey had to wait for Kyle.
“So he needs to hurry up,” Corey said.
As much as the brotherly love was apparent, Corey didn’t hide the fact he wanted his fellow receivers to torch his brother. Calvin Johnson obliged, finishing with 11 catches for 146 yards and two touchdowns.
“Corey told me to pour it on,” Johnson said.
Still, Kyle was a first-round pick this year and looks to have a promising career ahead of him in Chicago.
“For Kyle to travel and cover Calvin, that’s big. That says a lot for a rookie,” Corey said.
Even though Kyle Fuller drew the matchup against Calvin Johnson, Johnson made sure to greet the cornerback he typically faces when he plays the Bears. Charles Tillman, the turnover-forcing machine, is on injured reserve, but Johnson gave him his jersey after the game.
“Much respect to that guy,” Johnson said. “I’ve been playing him since I’ve been here. He’s a good corner, he’s tough competition. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to be out there for his team today, but definitely have a lot of respect for him.”
The 33-year-old Tillman has been with the Bears since the Lions drafted Johnson in 2007, and he’s one of the few cornerbacks whose had success against the league’s top receiver, in part because he’s 6-foot-2.
Even though Fuller tried to punch the ball out as Tillman has done throughout his career, the Bears defense isn’t the same without him.
“His loss has definitely impacted the team,” Johnson said.
The Lions cornerbacks had one of their best games of the year. Darius Slay primarily matched up with Alshon Jeffery, and even though Jeffery had eight catches for 71 yards and two early touchdowns, Slay won more than his share of the battles. He had three pass breakups and eight tackles.
On the other side, Rashean Mathis did a great job holding Brandon Marshall to six catches for 42 yards.
Mathis and Slay have limited most receivers they’ve faced this year, and the play of safeties James Ihedigbo and Glover Quin, who each had an interception, has helped.
And even though those two Jeffery touchdowns in the first quarter set the Lions back, they didn’t give up much after those two drives.
After four years in Detroit, end Willie Young has become one of Chicago’s best players this year, and he nearly had a huge impact Thursday. Instead, a penalty eliminated a sack and gave the Lions a chance to score a touchdown early in the fourth quarter.
Young finished the game with one pass breakup and did create some pressure, but his roughing-the-passer penalty was the beginning of the end for Chicago.
On a second-and-10 at the Chicago 18, Young sacked Stafford, but hit him high to draw the penalty, though Young and Bears coach Marc Trestman didn’t agree with the call.
“The explanation was that he grabbed his facemask, and I took exception to that,” Trestman said.
The penalty gave the Lions first-and-goal at the 9, and they scored on a Joique Bell rushing touchdown three plays later.
No one play makes a difference, but that certainly was an important play,” Trestman said.